As the PS4 enters its twilight years, we have pretty much seen and played as a lot of odd and cheery characters. From a long-eared Lombax to a mythical demigod, a web-swinging wonder to katana-wielding samurai, we have pretty much had a full gambit of colourful and charismatic leads. Now, rolling on to that list we can add a reanimated skull, imaginatively given the moniker of Skully.
Skully (the game), takes place on a lush island paradise, untouched by mankind – that is of course until Skully (the skull) washes ashore. Reanimated with the help of some magic clay at the behest of an island Deity named Terry, you are tasked with reclaiming the island back from his warring siblings.
With me so far? Skully wastes no time in getting going and after a brief intro, you’re off to the races. The intro itself is all told in claymation, which adds to the whole aesthetic that Skully has going for it and it works in giving Skully a sense of style all of its own.
Playing as the titular Skully is a simple affair, as all he can pretty much do is roll along and jump. Having been reanimated with magic clay, water is a bit of a no go, and the game quickly ramps up in platforming difficulty as you roll your way across the island. The main gameplay mechanic is that as Skully rolls along momentum plays a part, with platforms set at angles and simple jumps becoming lessons in control and accurately using your speed to pull them off.
During these sections, I was reminded of the old Marble Madness games as you battle to keep Skully on track and stop him rolling into the water or bumping into the game’s enemies as you make your way across the island. Skully takes place over 18 levels and 7 ecosystems, but the platforming backbone as you play as Skully remains pretty constant, even if the scenery does change.
As you make your way through the game, you unlock 3 different forms that change the abilities at your command. This is how Skully introduces different elements and obstacles to each level; obstacles that Skully alone would not be able to overcome. Whether this is barriers that can be smashed or platforms that can be shifted, each form can be accessed via bubbling clay pools that can be found scattered across each level. Not only do these serve as a means to activate the clay forms you unlock, but they also have a secondary purpose as checkpoints which make navigating each level slightly easier.
The clay forms themselves, once unlocked, can be activated at any one of these clay pools. Holding L2 and pressing the associated button allows Skully to emerge as the required form, allowing access to its abilities. Once these forms have been activated, Skully can enter each one at will, allowing for some intricate puzzles during the later levels when you need to use more than one form to progress. It’s a simple enough idea but it is effective and works well to allow Skully to mix up from simply rolling through each level.
Controlling Skully is surprisingly responsive – which is good, considering you need finesse and quick reactions. It is in controlling some of the clay forms that I felt a little let down, particularly the larger Strong form that just felt a little clunky. Some of this is in part due to the odd angles the camera has a knack of getting itself into, particularly during some of the chase themed levels that require you to quickly navigate areas as you escape a tidal wave of water or lava. The camera can be swivelled via the right thumbstick, but at certain points, it does become a hindrance more than help which only adds to the frustration.
Although the island itself looks bright and colourful at a glance, certain textures pop in and I did feel each area lacked a little depth of detail which although a minor annoyance, did distract me at times. I felt that designers Finish Line Games knew this, which is why they opted for the quirky claymation effect for use in cutscenes.
The gameplay is challenging, but not punishingly so, and I felt that the platforming within Skully is maybe best suited to younger gamers who will take to the amiable Skully and the clay forms he controls. There are the usual collectables to find that in turn unlock concept art, but as a reward, I didn’t find this appealing enough to want me to revisit the levels I had cleared.
Overall there is fun to be had playing Skully but for me, it didn’t hold my attention long enough – I would dip into a level, navigate my way to the end, then find myself in a slightly different locale with it all to do again. On paper the same as every other platformer I give you that, but wIth a paper-thin storyline that is there solely to get you navigating from one part of the island to the other, it didn’t do enough to keep me asking for more.
Skully PS4 Review
Overall - Good - 6/10
Skully is a lovingly crafted platformer that doesn’t do anything new with the genre but is a fun entry point none the less. Responsive controls and a budget price make up for an annoying camera and forgettable story.
- Responsive controls
- Fun for younger gamers
- Cheap price
- Annoying camera
- Repetitive gameplay does frustrate after a while
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4.
We sometimes link to online retail stores. If you buy something from our links, we may make a small commission which goes towards keeping the lights on and coffee in the pot.
Stuart has had a long and lengthy love affair with video games, since he first woke up to find Santa had left him a Sega Master System complete with Alex the Kidd built in no less. Since then, his thumbs have become calloused and he has missed many a nights sleep in the pursuit of those elusive “5 more minutes…” but his love has never wavered.