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September 2018

Skeleton Boomerang

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Anim-Ace
Developer: Artisano
Release Date: July 31, 2017


PC Review - 'Skeleton Boomerang'

by Cody Medellin on March 8, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

In Skeleton Boomerang, Hunter must use an enchanted boomerang to defeat an army of bony soldiers.

Much like it was during the 8- and 16-bit eras, the side-scrolling platformer genre is quite prevalent on the indie gaming scene. The number of quality titles seems to have followed a similar trajectory. While the modern scene has a number of classics, most of what we see can be considered B-tier material. They aren't terrible and aren't extraordinary, but they're good enough to be enjoyable for genre fans. Skeleton Boomerang falls in that category, as it won't be considered to be the pinnacle of side-scrolling platformers, but those who play it will remember it with some fondness.

You play the role of Hunter, a man who's skilled with a boomerang and has cursed blood running through his veins. To end his curse, he has to destroy Mr. Saturday, who's responsible for hexing his family through the generations. Mr. Saturday has also been trying to raise up an undead army to repopulate the world with living skeletons. Your job is to stop this from happening or become one of the skeletal minions.

For the most part, Skeleton Boomerang adheres to some expected platforming basics, like the ability to jump down platforms or take multiple hits before being killed. You can roll to avoid enemies and their projectiles, and although you can't double-jump, you can use the roll in conjunction with your jump. Those don't seem like much, but they're good enough for the platforming, which features moving platforms, tricky enemy placement, and a few vehicle segments. Thankfully, nothing feels cheap, so deaths are usually your fault and not due to the game being cruel.

As the title suggests, your main weapon is the boomerang, which has decent range and automatically returns to your hand. It can be thrown at almost any angle, so it's a versatile weapon. Throughout your journey, you'll get some boomerangs with special properties, like ones that freeze or provide more of a striking surface. With some practice, you can even achieve combo hits on the boomerang's return trip if you kite it among a group of enemies just right. More fascinating are some of the abilities that can be applied to any boomerang. For example, one ability has you calling the boomerang back at a faster rate, which is great if you're suddenly facing a foe. Another ability rotates the boomerang in place, so it acts like a trap or an offensive shield for enemies that happen upon it.

Speaking of enemies, Skeleton Boomerang does quite a bit with the skeleton theme. There are normal human skeletons that throw snowballs at you or leap off the ground in unexpected places. There are skeleton monkeys and snakes that leap in place, acting more as obstacles than threats. Skeleton fish covered in lava jump from their depths, and skeleton spiders crawl all over the platforms. There aren't any non-skeleton foes, so the game stays on theme. A slight exception might be the mummies, but hit them enough or burn them, and they're skeletons underneath anyway.

As in any good platformer, the boss fights are interesting. Almost every fight features a large skeletal creature, and each follows a pattern. For example, the skeleton gunslinger sometimes goes off-screen, forcing you to dodge his targeted fire before you can try to hit him again. They're not that difficult to deal with, and they're fun to fight. You'll wish that there would be more boss variety. For example, the boss fights against the skeletal T-Rex and the large human skeleton feel too similar, even though the former throws fire and the latter wields poison.

Despite its mostly old-school sensibilities, Skeleton Boomerang manages to find a balance among modern gaming conventions. Each stage may only contain one checkpoint, but you have infinite lives, so dying isn't too bad. There's some freedom in stage selection, since you can wander in the overworld map to anything that's available. The game isn't so long that it overstays its welcome. However, the game features enough secrets — and a few collectibles — to help you unlock more stages. The game can be quite lengthy if you want to check out everything it has to offer.

For the most part, the presentation is quite nice. On the audio side, the music stands out, as the chiptune tracks fall more in line with what you'd expect from a Turbo-Grafx 16 or Sega Genesis. It doesn't feel like it cheats this audio aesthetic, and it's good enough to make you want the soundtrack. Graphically, the game looks like it could've come from those two aforementioned systems. You're going to see a decent color palette with some well-animated bosses and normal-looking enemies, but nothing looks impossible for machines of that era. It would've been nice if the environments had some character instead of looking rather bland.

Some graphics issues also stand out. For starters, the graphical options that PC games are looking for are completely absent. Granted, many people don't expect to tweak too many settings for a simple sprite-based title like this, but it can be off-putting when you have no resolution selection, a default screen size that's way too small, and a full screen setting that makes the game feel narrower than the expected 4:3 ratio. The game also features a little bit of judder when you stop moving, and there are instances where black lines flicker almost randomly, albeit infrequently.

As a whole, Skeleton Boomerang is good. The game strikes a nice balance between being short enough for casual players to finish while also hiding lots of different things for completionists. Though the lack of checkpoints can be frustrating for those who aren't used to it, the game feels fair, since most of the enemies and obstacles can be easily overcome if you put some thought into it. There's nothing remarkable about the title, but for $10, it's a solid purchase.

Score: 7.0/10

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