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Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Grip Digital
Developer: Right Nice Games
Release Date: May 19, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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Xbox One Review - 'Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island'

by Brian Dumlao on June 29, 2017 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Following the best traditions of the third-person platformer/action genre, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island sets two unlikely heroes on an adventure to prevent the villainous CRT from conquering their home and turning it into a wasteland.

Buy Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island

It shouldn't be a surprise that some indie developers are trying to recapture the feel of PS2-era platformers. A number of platforming fans believe that was the genre's last big era, with some of the most notable titles published on Sony's platform. Those would include the beginning of three series: Sly Cooper, Ratchet & Clank, and Jak & Daxter. The latter is the obvious inspiration for Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island, the first game from indie developer Right Nice Games.

You are Skylar, an anthropomorphic cat who is the silent amnesiac of the tale. At the start of the game, she wakes up to find herself strapped to an operating slab and facing a sentient TV screen named CRT. To punish her for sneaking into his spaceship, he has removed her right arm and attach a mechanical one instead. The mechanical arm is also sentient and helps Skylar escape and land on the planet surface below. Meanwhile, a young bird named Plux sees the escape pod land and goes to investigate, thinking his father may have finally returned. Once the duo meets up, they find the village elder and decide to help get rid of CRT's influence before he destroys the planet.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the story. Similar tales have served as the basis for many platformers over the years, but the humor and delivery of lines by Plux and CRT often fall flat. Plux seems to flip back and forth between wisecracking and earnest without any real reason for it. CRT tries to come off as a clone of Borderlands 2's Handsome Jack but without the misplaced charm. The jokes often elicit groans instead of chuckles. Even if you take away the drawbacks of those two characters, the story fails to establish much on Skylar, and the game's various twists toward the end bring about no impact, since there wasn't any buildup for it in the first place. Ultimately, the story commits the cardinal sin of making you not care at all.

From a gameplay perspective, it follows the blueprint of an early 2000's platformer pretty well. Skylar can double-jump and attack using either a spin attack or a simple punch that and be comboed up to three times. She can collect crystals that refill her health and can be used to unlock cages that free the inhabitants. Her arm already has the power to let her swing via a tether that attaches to floating attachment orbs, but she also gains a few other tricks along the way, such as the ability to grab and throw metallic objects (including enemies), a jetpack that lets her float down from a jump and use a rocket-boosted leap, and the ability to slow down time.

If you're expecting some innovation, forget about it. Aside from rendering Plux useless since he does nothing but add quips here and there, the gameplay is rather solid. The combat system is decent but only sparingly used, with the emphasis on platforming and light puzzles. Jumping feels precise, and it has just the right amount of weight so it doesn't feel floaty. The various powers you acquire are easy to activate, and there are a number of places where you'll need to juggle the powers to get through, so there's some challenge without getting too complicated.

Despite these positives, Skylar & Plux seems to do a number of things wrong. Even though it's a short game, you expect some enemy variety. In total, you'll only ever see three enemy types and one boss, so the only difficulty you'll face is being overwhelmed by the quantity of foes. Though the game wants you to find all of the caged inhabitants of the planet, your only reward for doing so is an extra unit of health. That's not bad, but there are so many opportunities to refill your health that gaining any extra units seems superfluous, removing any incentive to explore each stage more than once unless you're a true completionist.

Aside from dying being a normal punishment in games, this title seems to increase the penalties for losing a life. Since the checkpoints are a good distance apart, you're forced to repeat everything if you die. Collecting shards all over again isn't so bad, but it can be annoying that you have to locate and save the imprisoned natives once more. Equally as annoying are the long load times when you die. It can take 30 seconds or more to come back from death, and it doesn't help that the loading bar can look stuck at times, making you fear that the game has crashed even though the title is overall pretty stable.

Graphically, parts of Skylar & Plux look fine. The character models are done well, there are some good animations to their attacks, and some of the environments look good in terms of draw distance and lack of texture pop-in. What affects the graphical quality is the look of some of the more fluid items in the game. Any water splashes look like light blue blotches being splattered on the screen, and the fire effect looks similarly bad. Lava has a light enough texture that it's difficult to see the definition there. The bad particle effects also do a number on the frame rate, which can get into single-digit territory at times.

Much like the graphics, the audio is good in certain parts. The score evokes feelings of a grand adventure, and it does so while near-seamlessly transitioning between pieces in the same world. Where it falters is in the voicework. The delivery is fine, even if the material is groan-worthy, but the voices all seem miscast. The village elder sounds much younger than expected, while CRT can't pull off menace and angst very well.

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is not that bad. The game mechanics are good, and the platforming is fun, especially on a short game where things don't feel like they drag on for the sake of matching game length with monetary cost. At the same time, it is far from being good. The story feels like an afterthought, and the bad characters, dialogue, and technical and design issues sap away at the game's fun. If you're a young platforming fan, you may dig it, but veterans of the genre may come away feeling disappointed that the game doesn't realize its full potential.

Score: 6.0/10

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