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A fun, quirky concept is often derailed by flimsy, erratic controls and clunky camera angles.

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Skully, developed by Finish Line Games, is an over-the-shoulder platform game where you play at the titular and appropriately named Skully, a skull that has been reanimated from the mud and sludge to help Terry, a god-like figure that plans to use Skully to convince his siblings to change their mind about… something. This means primarily rolling through the wilderness, jump around rocks and other traps, and run into environmental enemies, including water (though I’m not sure why).

Along the way Terry provides color commentary as you move forward, explaining why he brought you back to life and what you will be able to do once he has liberated you. If only the actual gameplay experience matched the fun setup we might’ve had a real contender here.

In addition to rolling about, Skully must also take the persona of several monsters each with their unique abilities. The first is a large golem that pushes large rocks, breaks barriers, and knocks out the water monsters that destroy Skully with water attacks. You can switch between Skully and one of his special personas that he inhabits, which breaks up the action and makes for different gameplay choices depending on the scenario.

There are things I really liked. Cutscenes are rendered in a stop-motion style, which I found quirky and fun. Background environments are lush, and golden flowers assisted in navigation. However, the game fails in two critical areas: gameplay control and camera angles. Skully moves fast, SO fast that he quickly goes out of control frequently. Any movement remains very sensitive, so moving even just a bit in any direction becomes perilous, especially since waterways and water attacks prove near fatal. Any time I ended up in a waterway meant having to jerk Skully around for even a chance at escaping onto a platform.

In addition, the camera would move into weird angles behind rock formations, frustrating the flow of the gameplay. There were several times where I would get caught trying to overcome jumps across lily pads, and I would always overshoot one of the pads with just a simple motion.

But if you think that staying still would help, there are several places where Skully would slowly move down a shallow incline, which kept me pushing Skully forward gingerly while trying to figure out my next move. In one set piece, the game changes camera angles, presumably to make the scene more harrowing; however, the change in angle, combined with the slippery controls, made it difficult to get through the levels, much less enjoy the experience.

Skully gave me some of the same feeling of the 3-D Sonic the Hedgehog games, where they want to capture the motion of a fast, rolling main character, but the erratic gameplay clashes with the otherwise fun concept. Which is a shame as the quirky style and visuals showed a lot of potential, and it would’ve been fun to explore these environments without the constant frustration of poor controls. Perhaps the developers will refine these rocky edges in future updates, but for now this skull probably should’ve stayed buried.

About the Author: Besu Tadesse