Skyhill is a self-described “point’n survive” style horror game created by Mandragora and put out there by Daedalic Entertainment. The premise is simple: survive and escape. The premise isn’t difficult to grasp and about as family friendly as survival horror can get, despite some bad language and questionable imagery. I’m probably dating myself with this reference, but the game often feels like an updated, post-apocalyptic version of Elevator Action, only with mutants and lots of resource management.
Here’s the story: World War III happened and it’s finally over. Only it wasn’t fought with nukes but chemical and other nasty bio-weapons, which (of course) caused humans to mutate which does not bode well for our hero – you. It turns out that you’re actually doing well, one of the top 1% and able to take posh vacations other can only dream of. While on a business trip you decide to treat yourself to a stay in the penthouse of the luxurious Skyhill Hotel, which should be luxury incarnate, but that would make for a pretty boring game. While relaxing a chemical bomb explodes and brings your cozy evening to an end. Now supplies are beginning to run low and you’ll need to get your pampered ass down 99 floors to the street.
The Skyhill Hotel is a very simplistic 2D model with 99 floors in total, each consisting of 2 rooms you can explore and the stairwell. Some doors are locked and elevator doors are broken, but you can find keys and repair fuse boxes in order to use elevators to skip entire floors. You can even arm yourself with a plethora of weapons, eat food to regain energy, and gather seemingly useless items.
Playing Skyhill couldn’t be easier; little skill is required to come away with a super easy win. On my third attempt I beat it in 20 minutes. As mentioned in my opening salvo here is the type of game where you’ll point, click, and that’s about it – nothing else. I even let my cat play for a few minutes.
You only have two stats to worry about: health and hunger. Every time you move, you lose hunger and every time you’re hit you lose health. Eating doesn’t replenish health; only using bandages, med kits, etc. will do that. Expect light resource management as you collect tools, weapons, food, and health supplies that you use throughout the game. As you win fights, you gain experience points and when you increase your level you get to distribute 4 points to your stats.
There’s an intriguing crafting element to Skyhill that lets you build weapons, create new recipes, and make tools out of random supplies. This is a nice touch, but often feels like a complete throw-away. With enough stats, even a simple stiletto can take down the biggest mutant. You also have unlimited storage so resource management is a joke with the biggest issue being sure you have enough health supplies. This is solved by hoarding supplies and crafting them on the fly without a penthouse pit stop.
The opening video, my favorite part of the game, is rendered in cool comic book panels and provides a good setup. It’s a shame the main story feels inconsistent, with the various side stories being far more interesting. Despite several levels of difficulty, it’s just too damn easy despite the floors, mutants, and items being randomly placed throughout. It just doesn’t add anything to the experience. There is very little incentive or reason once you finish playing through to replay as it’s so mind-numbingly repetitive.
Despite its intriguing premise Skyhill doesn’t offer anything new or different that makes it stand apart from the crowd. It’s like that kid you knew in school who did just enough to get by but not enough to register as more than a blip on the radar. Given the steep asking price I’d advise trying the demo first before making a full investment. Maybe it’s odd mix of post-apocalyptic, survival hotel resource management will be your thing. Personally, I’d rather play Elevator Action on my NES and fully enjoy the experience because, honestly, it’s harder than Skyhill, makes more sense, and is actually fun.