Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Developer: Boston Animation
Release Date: 10/28/2002
It’s not very often that you’ll come across a game whose story revolves around small multi-colored-shell candy, and even less frequent that a game of that nature actually turns out to be worth playing. But the developers of Darkened Skye didn’t seem to get the memo, as this game is not only a clever marketing ploy to promote Skittles candy but also surprisingly entertaining.
You play the part of Skye, a sarcastic heroine-in-waiting who has grown weary of day-to-day life in her homeland of Lynlora and longs to discover her true destiny. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to wait long. The evil Lord Necroth has destroyed the Skittles-bearing rainbow and stockpiled all the Skittles for himself in order to further his dastardly plans. What’s more is that under his dominion all forms of bright colors have been banned, along with practicing any form of magic, which the population depends on. As Skye it will be up to you to collect the five ancient prisms and restore the rainbow.
Being that the game is based on something as blithe as colorful candy it comes as no surprise that the game is constantly making an effort to be humorous. Whether it succeeds or not in this regard is a matter of personal preference, but for me, clichéd one-liners and straightforward plays on words are tolerable at best, though there were more than a few instances that genuinely made me laugh. Skye is at once very denigrate and sarcastic in nearly every instance of dialogue, and the numerous supporting characters that you’ll come across are equally derisive, but always in a lighthearted way that should appeal to the younger gaming crowd and, perhaps, older gamers who are easily amused.
In terms of gameplay, Darkened Skye misses the mark but a substantial amount. While it can be aptly described as functional, it does little outside of basic spell casting to liven up the general conventions of third person gameplay. Basically you’ll just run around solving puzzles, talking to people, picking up items, and jumping over the occasional obstacle. Sky can move forward, backwards, and strafe with the control stick, look around with the C stick, attack with the L trigger and jump with the R trigger. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Dealing with enemies usually entails a few swipes of your staff in order to defeat them, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. The magic system is slightly more interesting, requiring that you select a particular spell with the D pad and cast it with the Z trigger.
Solving the puzzles throughout the four unique lands you’ll traverse is where the majority of Darkened Skye’s appeal is derived. These include doing such things as figuring out how to use items in a level, like a catapult, in order to trigger a reactionary event that leads you to figure out the next step. Most of the time you won’t have much trouble figuring out how to progress since talking to people and just exploring and examining the world around you will give you a good idea of the direction you should take. But sometimes what you need to do can be needlessly confusing and illogical, forcing you to run around in circles for great durations of time before you finally realize that you’ll need to think in an illogical manner to proceed.
The environments that you’ll find yourself in are all quite unique in shape and scope, though the trails which connect the different areas can easily blend into each other, and the fact that there is no map function makes matters worse. The way Skye moves around feels unrealistic and floaty, but after a few hours you won’t give it a second thought. But the one thing that does sometimes drag down the pace of the game is how jumping can be imprecise and difficult to control. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that you’ll often be required to perform annoying platform acrobatics to progress. But after a few aggravating deaths you’ll just become used to being presented with tedious platforming obstacles.
Tricky platforming nonsense aside, though, the exploration facet and colorful characters you’ll come across is Darkened Skye’s saving grace. You never know what to expect next, and that is ultimately what makes this game worth playing. There seemed to be a lot of attention to detail in regards to your surroundings, the developers included quite a bit of interesting locations to scope out like fertile forests with towering trees, squalid quagmire, and half-sunken cities. The visuals aren’t cutting-edge or anything, but they do do a good job of purporting a believably mystical world. The character models are all very unique, the creatures you’ll come across are unlike anything you’ll see in other fantasy-based game environs.
The audio presentation isn’t out of the ordinary by any means but, like the visuals, it does a good job of complimenting the game’s fantasy theme, not so invasive that it overshadows the on-screen action or so distant that they are extraneous. The music merrily chirps along, suitably accompanying you in your adventure. Sound effects are dull and inconsequential though, for the most part. There is a lot of dialogue in Darkened Skye, so unrehearsed voice-acting or under budget talent would have majorly taken away from the game’s appeal. Luckily, the developer opted to go with professionals and the end result is largely beneficial, especially the role of Skye who is voiced by Linda Larkin, who some people will recognize as the famous voice of Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin.
To off-handedly dismiss this title as just another marketing gimmick would be a mistake. While it is true that the recurring theme of Skittles is touched upon, the development team had the insight to work the product tie-in in a respectable (if that is possible) way that actually fits quite snugly into the overall theme of the game. The sometimes-awkward gameplay dynamics and annoying platforming requirements can harsh your buzz at times but on the whole you’ll find this game to be 1part annoying and 3parts entertaining, so, you do the math. At the very least snuggle up with a bag of Skittles and give this game a rental.