Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Finish Line Games
Release Date: Aug. 4, 2020


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Skully'

by Cody Medellin on July 28, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The action/adventure platformer sees Skully, a reanimated skull's second chance at life, on a quest to stop a simmering war between feuding siblings.

For some reason, we have seen a number of skeleton-related games in the past year. There's the side-scrolling roguelike, Skul: The Hero Slayer. Konami released an action platformer starring a skeleton named Skelattack, there's a top-down RPG named Skull Rogue and another action RPG called Skellboy. Another game is coming soon that stars living bones, but Skully looks unique and interesting.

The premise may start off distinctly, but it quickly veers in a traditional direction. You play the role of a skull that washed ashore on an island. Once discovered, you're picked up by a mysterious man and dipped into a pool of mud that possesses magical properties to bring you back to life. Your resurrection has a purpose: to broker peace between the four siblings that reside on the island.

With the promise of freedom as your reward, you set off on your adventure.

The preview build is about two levels long, but it does a great job in showing off what makes Skully tick. For the first level, that means playing it completely in skull form. Thanks to the magical mud that has filled in your noggin, you're a completely spherical object, so you can roll anywhere you want — within reason. You also have leaping abilities, so you can run over mud pools to regenerate health and create checkpoints, but you can't attack anyone in this form. You are also susceptible to water damage, so enemies made of water will kill you in one shot, and landing in water pools won't be an instant kill, but it's excruciatingly difficult to escape from the pools. The most you can do in this form is collect trinkets and roll away from danger.

As expected, the controls in this form are squirrelly but nice. Since you aren't bound to a realistic physics system, you can stop on a dime, and your jumps are more controlled, except for a little wobble when landing. You can also take off at top speed rather quickly, and since that speed is quite fast, players get the feeling that they need to slow down or brake early if they want to avoid drowning or encounter other hazards. It takes some practice to get used to, but it isn't imprecise.

The second level introduces a golem-style gimmick. Once you reach a mud pool, you can press a button to dive in and emerge as a rock creature. As a rock creature, you move briskly, and although you're slower than the ball form, you're still nimble enough to jump. In this form, you gain a punch ability to break down walls or knock down platforms, while a ground pound is more useful for taking out enemies with a wave. As such, the golem form makes the game into a more traditional 3D platformer, with long levels broken up by generous checkpoints and constant reminders that collectibles unlock bonus material for later viewing.

If you can ignore the static cut scenes, the presentation is great. The music is calming and fits the island setting. So far, there's only one voice in the game, but his acting is done well, and his lines feel natural. Graphically, the game looks quite stunning, and the water and vegetation both look appropriate for something so late in this console generation. Enemy movements also sport smooth animations and cute appearances. The camera can get into some issues with walls at times, but overall, Skully is a looker of a game.

Based on our brief time with it, Skully looks intriguing. The ability to take on different physical forms opens up some compelling gameplay possibilities, but the game seems most exciting when you're in your default form. The controls can feel a bit squirrelly at times, but the high speed and maneuverability make it feel like Super Monkey Ball or Marble Madness in an adventure-platform format. Skully is coming out soon, so it won't be long before we'll see whether the final product remains just as pleasing as the preview build.

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