Developed By : Umaiki Games
Published By : Fabraz
Category : Action RPG
Release Date : Jan 30, 2020
It’s not uncommon for graphically impressive games to fail when it comes to how they play. Having the fanciest visuals out there means nothing if there are fundamental flaws when it comes to gameplay mechanics. Skellboy is a game that really embodies the phrase “style over substance”, as it attempts to hide a boring adventure behind a striking art style.
Skellboy’s story is incredibly basic, starring the recently reanimated Skippy as its unlikely skeletal protagonist. Squaruman, the same magician that unwittingly brought Skippy back to life, has set out to conquer the world using his undead army, so our hero must use his new bony form to stop him. Outside of a couple of story scenes, there isn’t a whole lot more to this game’s plot. Most characters serve little purpose other than to deliver various puns or light-hearted dialogue. Nothing awful, but nothing great either.
For the most part, Skellboy is a standard action RPG with one main gimmick. Skippy has a fairly standard moveset, including a pitiful jump and basic weapon swings. You roam around the world cutting down enemies in your quest to stop the Squaruman, which for the first part of the game consists of slowly walking from one area to the next, defeating bosses along the way. From the start, Skippy’s speed is unbearably slow, something that never gets much better and really kills Skellboy’s pacing.
You can improve movement speed and other stats by borrowing body parts dropped by enemies. This is the aforementioned gimmick that is used throughout the game to give Skippy new abilities or solve puzzles. A new armoured body can improve your health, and the head of a seed spitting plant will give you a useful ranged attack. It’s an initially charming idea, as you mix and match different parts from each enemy you encounter.
Unfortunately, the way this mechanic is used during the game leaves a lot to be desired. Most parts serve little purpose other than a cosmetic change, and other have obvious downsides that make them useless. There are set bonuses if you equip multiple parts of the same type, but these aren’t particularly impactful. Outside of some puzzles that require specific body parts, most of the time you’ll just stick to ones that give you more health.
Without any interesting uses of this mechanic, all that’s left is a tedious adventure. You can collect different weapons in a similar fashion to the body parts, though they don’t change up combat much. A new sword might have an extra attack in its combo or do slightly more damage, but at the end of the day you can still button mash through most encounters. In fact, there’s little reason to fight most enemies at all, since they rarely drop anything useful to justify the time spent defeating them.
This lack of excitement is something that makes Skellboy an absolute slog to play through. You slowly meander between areas toward your next objective, avoid fighting enemies, and read some dialogue that, while occasionally funny, isn’t memorable. As a final strike against the game, boss fights, the one saving grace in regard to gameplay, are few and far between. Skellboy doesn’t give you a reason to interact with its world or mechanics at all, and it fails to understand what makes series like The Legend of Zelda and Ys enjoyable.
We mentioned at the beginning of this review that Skellboy was a case of style over substance, and while this wasn’t a lie, even the game’s visuals have their own issues. Skellboy’s art style is similar to Heroland’s, making use of 2D sprites mashed together with 3D panels. The sprite work is absolutely this games strongpoint, each enemy having a cute and blocky design. This extends to environments and objects as well; each being lovingly crafted in this 2D/3D hybrid.
The number of objects on screen and a high resolution come at a cost though. Skellboy runs poorly most of the time, being capped at 30fps but often dipping lower. Even in the early areas with less enemies, there’s an inherent sluggishness that only makes the slow movement speed feel worse. In larger areas and ones densely packed with objects, the framerate noticeably drops. Furthermore, the game will often stutter or even freeze for a few seconds. This is after Skellboy was already patched to improve performance, so there’s definitely more work to be done in that department.
Each of Skellboy’s parts are flawed in some way, and they come together to form a gameplay experience that is not very fun. Exploration is slow and unrewarding, combat is simplistic and generally pointless, even the distinctive visuals cause their own problems. The Switch has plenty of better action RPGs that are more fleshed out than what Skellboy has to offer.
*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*