Skully is a charming roll through the mud

Skully is a 3D puzzle platformer about a revived skull infused with magical clay on a quest from a higher being. Along the way, Skully will trek across 7 different environments spanning 18 levels. He has the power to transform into a larger form based on the area, and the main gimmick revolves around switching between rolling as a skull and dominating as a larger beast. 

The gameplay of Skully is a simple 3D platformer where the player has choices between two forms–strong form and swift form–to navigate through levels. In swift form, Skully can roll, climb, and jump across the terrain at high speeds, while strong form gives Skully more health and a way to fight against enemies blocking the paths. To swap between the two, the player must reach one of the many checkpoints placed throughout the levels. As the game continues, more forms are unlocked that widen the variety of platforming challenges, so be prepared to have a diverse set of levels later on.

Scattered across the maps are collectable plants, which serve no purpose other than to unlock concept art and for completion’s sake. I’ve found it shockingly easy to enter a sort of Zen state while rolling around the world, collecting plants, dodging enemies, and exploring terrain. The game’s main concept may be simple, but the level design makes it truly engaging and easy to retain attention. I found myself thoughtlessly navigating throughout levels all while hours passed on multiple occasions.

The game features various boss fights that ask the player to be a bit more fast-paced instead of methodical. These provide a fun shakeup to the formula and even introduce Crash Bandicoot-style escape sequences, front-facing camera and all, that are challenging yet immensely rewarding. I only felt lost on one occasion where a puzzle was surprisingly obtuse, but other than that, I can safely say that Skully balances challenge and difficulty perfectly, with no trace of an archaic life system.

To my surprise, the game is fully voiced, and incredibly well done. The voice actors did a great job of bringing the characters to life and frequently proved to be entertaining. The banter between characters and the script utilizes silent protagonist Skully’s lack of dialogue wonderfully. The story itself is solid, and even has a plot twist towards the end that legitimately took me aback. I wasn’t expecting such a well-executed turn, and I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick up Skully. 

The sound design in this game is incredibly high quality, with collectables and environmental noises feeling both satisfying and immersive. I frequently found myself gathering collectables for the sole sake of hearing the gentle chimes as they entered my inventory. And on the topic of immersion, the soundtrack of Skully matches the setting beautifully. The mystical European environment is perfectly mirrored by the game’s score.

While Skully’s visuals aren’t anything to write home about, the game shows an impressive and endearing attention to detail. There are quite a few nice visual touches that do a great job of immersing the player in the world, such as Skully’s mass of clay decreasing whenever he takes damage. Be warned, however, that there are a handful of instances of significant slowdown. Regardless, the art and settings in this game are remarkable and I found myself looking through the gallery quite often. 

The game has a few issues, such as the long initial load times and pop-in, and I ran into a handful of crashes as I completed the game. There are a few areas that let you go out of bounds or glitch through environments, but these aren’t exactly easy to do and there’s an option to simply respawn at a checkpoint if it becomes an issue. I never encountered a bug that worsened the game experience or hindered my gameplay. 

Skully took me by surprise with its charming cast and moving story alongside its fun, rewarding gameplay. I’m thoroughly impressed with the end result and I’d say that the game is more than worthy of an 8.6/10. I highly recommend this game to both fans of old-school platformers and those simply looking for a fun game to sink their teeth into. The game took me about 10 hours to complete, but I didn’t go for every collectable. Skully is out on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC via Steam. The game costs $30 and is available in both physical and digital formats.

Skully

$29.99
8.6

8.6/10

Pros

  • Addictive puzzle-platforming gameplay
  • Engaging story with surprisingly solid voicework
  • Tons of collectables to increase playtime

Cons

  • Some crashes
  • Frequent pop-in
  • Occasional slowdown

Joshua Garrison

Joshua Garrison is a long-time fan of games, and grew up surrounded by them, be it handhelds or arcade machines. This instilled a lifelong love for the medium. His favorites include No More Heroes, Kid Icarus Uprising, and Devil May Cry 3. He has a passion for flashy, stylish games with deceptive depth. Outside of games, Joshua enjoys reading, be it novels, comics, plays, or classics.

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