Modus games and Finish Line Games team up for a platformer where you play the role of a skull called Skully who rolls around an island bopping between rocks and lilies, zigzagging through waves of sand and pinballing gleefully over funnelled pathways. The momentum of Skully yields reminders of the graceful platforming of Yoku’s Island Express, though there’s plenty more going on in Skully that makes it a sumptuous little adventure title.
A magical bearded deity fella named Terry needs Skully’s help to bring peace to the island he calls home – you do this by attempting to quash the quarrels Terry’s siblings are having so that harmony and tranquillity can be maintained and unimpeded. Terry himself looks like a wise wizard-type but his name and his voice are absurdly disconnected from his appearance, robbing Skully of fantastical immersion that the game is seemingly going for. Nevertheless, Terry acts as a guide throughout the story, verbally chiming in to guide you through the adventure, though his absence during gameplay means it’s up to you to make progress. Thankfully Skully is simple and accommodating enough that it never feels overwhelming or difficult, although there are a few frustrations and temporary annoyances with how traversal is put into practice.
Rolling Skully around the environment boasts a pleasing sense of momentum at times when you witness him leap onto platforms and skeet across environments, as well as rolling about collecting flowers as though you were participating in a homage to classic Sonic games. You are given a sufficient enough amount of control over where Skully lands, but you will find yourself jostling to keep him in place and – seeing as the game likes to surround Skully with bodies of water – you’re consistently challenged to keep Skully clung to solid surfaces and away from the wet stuff, because your life will swiftly drain to naught if you stay submerged in water for longer than ten seconds. At times trying to attach Skully to platforms such as wooden logs can become a headache, so trial and error is a necessity you will have to grow used to if you want to refrain from crushing this skull in frustration.
Thankfully Skully ably shakes up its foundations enough to keep you interested and motivated to press forward. One of the ways Skully does this is by allowing you to morph into a hulking golem-like creature who can blast away and burst the water based, bubble-like enemies you encounter on your journey with a massive wind-swept fire blast attack. This behemoth can also obliterate rocks and bash them down to create bespoke bridges. Another creature variation you will find as you make your way through the story can position moveable platforms so you can jump across safely and has the ability to use a fully-charged sprint that can access areas that are otherwise too far out of reach. There are times using the latter creature in particular where you’ll find yourself trying to ramp up and leap to far-out places, but invisible walls will dunk you straight into the water – prompting a checkpoint reload. On the bright side though, the flourishes to Skully bring a welcome diversity to the gameplay and offset the frustration often found in the skull-hopping gameplay, although admittedly these creatures could’ve done with some personality.
Maybe the biggest star of the show is how naturalistic Skully’s environments are. There’s an untapped tranquillity to the undisrupted beauty of the island and its layers. Human architecture is absent here and in its place are a host of elementally preserved levels like ones set in the innards of volcanoes, at calm beaches, in rivers and valleys. You truly get the sense the island is corrupted when tentacles shoot up from the water and attempt to lash you as you travers across delicate lilies. The peaceful serenity is gleaned at here, but you will bear witness to its dark side too.
Skully is a pleasant platforming experience that gives players a delightful slice of platforming and light puzzle-solving that makes for a soothing and worthwhile time. Playing as the skull does tend to feel sloppy at times due to sensitivity of the stick-control and how prone the naked-noggin is to water, but when you’re introduced to Skully’s other forms the game opens up nicely and offers you a scenic tour around an ancient naturalistic landscape that’s hard to peel your eyes away from. Skully is not breaking any ground or pushing any envelopes, but it’s not stationary either. It’s just a pleasing and simple platformer to be enjoyed, and a modest worthwhile curio that certainly deserves a look.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.