It may not be my favorite genre but I have always been a fan of action adventure games. Killing all of the enemies in your path may not be the deepest gameplay experience but it is quite enjoyable. When I first saw the trailer for Skellboy I was intrigued. The game looked a lot like other action adventure games like the old Zelda games and it looked fun. I also found the mixture of 2D and 3D elements to create a really interesting atmosphere that reminded me a lot of the Paper Mario franchise. Skellboy is a fun little action adventure game with an interesting atmosphere that has some issues preventing it from being as good as it could have been.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Umaiki Games for the review copy of Skellboy used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
The world of Cubold Kingdom has been peaceful for many years. When the kingdom’s court magician, Squaruman, get dumped by the princess he decides to get his revenge on the entire kingdom. He conjures a spell which raises the dead along with other evil forces that once plagued the land. Along with the evil forces though an ancient hero named Skippy was also resurrected. As Skippy you must traverse the kingdom destroying the evil that stands in your way as you try to put an end to Squaruman’s evil plan.
I would probably classify Skellboy as a third person action adventure game. As Skippy you will journey through the kingdom completing various tasks in order to hopefully bring peace to the kingdom. Most of the gameplay revolves around third person combat. In the game you will acquire various weapons which belong to one of five different types of weapons. Pretty much all of these weapons are various types of melee weapons with different strengths and ranges. The game’s combat mostly revolves around pressing the attack button to swing your sword/axe/etc and destroy the enemies before you lose your last cube/heart. Most of the game revolves around killing groups of different enemy types as you explore to find your next objective. The game also includes a jump button and the ability to interact with the environment which leads to some light platforming and puzzle solving.
If I were to explain what it was like playing Skellboy I would say that it reminds me a lot of the older 2D Zelda games and other similar action adventure games. For the most part the game doesn’t drastically stray from the formula as fans of the genre should be quite familiar with Skellboy’s gameplay. The game relies mostly on the combat as you spend most of your time fighting various enemy forces. The combat is simple for the most part as it mostly relies on button mashing and avoiding enemy attacks. Other than the combat there is some light platforming which basically involves jumping short gaps between platforms. There is some light puzzle solving as well but it mostly boils down to finding the right switch or item/action to open up the next area. Skellboy may not be highly original but I had fun playing it. The combat is satisfying and the exploration is fun (except when you get lost). Fans of these type of games should enjoy their time with Skellboy.
The one area where Skellboy differentiates itself is due to the fact that you are playing as a skeleton. Skelly is made up of three body parts including a head, body and feet. In your adventures you will encounter various body parts as well as being able to take some parts from the enemies you defeat. With the press of a button you can equip them to Skelly replacing the previous body part of the same type. These different body parts have different effects on Skelly. Some will increase your health while others give you other benefits. This allows you to create the Skelly that works best for you. In addition you will encounter various weapons and miscellaneous items that you can equip. These have different ranges, speeds and power. As you can only equip one weapon of each type you have to choose which weapon of each type works best for you. I found this mechanic to be interesting but it doesn’t play as big of role in the game as I would have liked. Most of the time there are parts that are considerably better than others or provide some sort of benefit that you need where there really is no reason to regularly switch parts. The mechanic doesn’t hurt the game but it kind of feels like a wasted opportunity.
One of the things that initially drew me to Skellboy was the graphical style. Skellboy utilizes a mixture of 2D and 3D for its graphical style. All of the characters and many of the items are 2D while the environments are 3D. This creates a really interesting contrast as it looks like characters are made of paper and are moving through a normal 3D environment. The game’s style reminds me a lot of the Paper Mario franchise. I have always found the idea of mixing 2D and 3D elements to be a really interesting style that brings character to a game. I really liked Skellboy’s style as it looks cool and works well for the game. It even plays into the story some as well. I found the story to be interesting even if it isn’t drastically different than other fantasy stories. At times it can be pretty funny but there are times where it tries to be funny and fails.
I enjoyed my time with Skellboy but it has two major issues that prevented me from enjoying it as much as I could have.
The first major problem with the game is that it relies on a lot of backtracking and doesn’t give players a lot of direction. I have never been a big fan of backtracking. In some situations it makes sense as when used well it can extend the length of the game while also working within the story. When the backtracking is straightforward I don’t mind it. The problem with the backtracking in Skellboy is that it doesn’t offer you much guidance. The game will regularly have you return to areas that you have already visited as you progress through the story. The problem is figuring out how to get back to the location that you need to head to next. The game does not have a map so you better remember where locations are located in relation to one another or you will have to spend quite a bit of time just wandering around hoping to figure out how to get back to the previous location. The game doesn’t give you a lot of reminders of what you are supposed to do next either so you better pay attention to what the characters say and remember. Maybe I just missed some subtle clues but there were a couple times where I spent significant amounts of time just trying to figure out what I had to do next.
To illustrate how the game doesn’t always give you a lot of direction I want to point out what ended up happening to me. At one point in the game you are told that you need to go to a certain location. I looked and looked trying to find the location and it turns out that you had to complete quite a few other objectives before you can reach the location that the game told you to go to next. I ended up completing some of these objectives looking for the other location but I ended up wasting a lot of time looking for a location that I couldn’t actually get to. As far as the backtracking it turns out that the game actually has a fast travel mechanic. This opens up around half way through the game but the game never really tells you about it. The game only gives you a slight hint towards it when you acquire a specific item which you need to unlock it. You then have to figure out on your own how you use the item to unlock the fast travel mechanic. Once you unlock the fast travel mechanic it significantly improves the backtracking problem but many players may not even know that it exists. I only found it because I consulted a guide written by the developers. Even with the fast travel mechanic though you need to have a good sense of direction as you will otherwise get lost from time to time.
The other problem has to deal with the framerates. I will preface this by saying that I played Skellboy with a pre-release version of the game. Therefore there may have already been an update that has fixed some of these issues or there may be a fix on its way soon. For this review I ended up playing Skellboy on Nintendo Switch. Most of the time the game plays pretty smoothly where the framerate is pretty good. There are occasional times though when the framerate drops significantly. This seems to usually occur when the game is loading a new part of the map but it also seems to occur when there are a lot of enemies or projectiles on the screen at the same time. In these moments the framerate seems to drop to the single digits where the game plays in slow motion. It usually only lasts a couple seconds but there were a couple times where it lasted around 30 seconds to a minute. This was more of a nuisance than anything else but it did occasionally lead to taking some damage.
Due to getting lost a couple times I haven’t finished the game yet so I can’t give you a definitive length. From what I have played so far though I would say that the game will take most players around 6-8 hours plus the time you spent being lost. The game has quite a few different locations to explore and it also relies on quite a bit of backtracking. The game also includes various side quests that you can choose to complete which should add some more time to the game. For completionists there is also the ability to try and acquire all of the different weapons and body parts.
I would say that I had some mixed feelings about Skellboy. I was initially attracted to the game due to the game’s premise/visual style and the fact that I generally enjoy action adventure games. For the most part Skellboy lives up to these expectations. I wouldn’t say the gameplay is highly original but it is fun. If you like games where you swing your sword and destroy all of the enemies in your way you should have fun with game. I also really liked the game’s art style. The game does a good job mixing the 2D and 3D elements to make a cool environment that you want to explore. I enjoyed my time with Skellboy but there are some significant issues that do bring down the overall experience. The biggest problem with the game is that it relies on quite a bit of backtracking and gives you very little direction. As there is no map you will likely get lost from time to time unless you have a great memory of the game world. The game also has some framerate issues as it will occasionally drop to the point where it feels like you are playing in slow motion.
My recommendation for Skellboy comes down to your opinion of this genre of video games. If you aren’t a big fan of these type of games or you don’t really care for the theme Skellboy probably won’t be for you as there are better games in the genre. Fans of the genre that think the game’s premise sounds interesting though should enjoy the game and should consider picking it up.