Release Date: March 2017
Publisher: Grip Digital
Developers: Right Nice Games, Grip Digital
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC [Reviewed]
Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island came as a nice surprise. The title hasn’t had all that much buzz, especially with a release near the overly hyped Yooka-Laylee. And while both games are more traditional 3D platformers, Skylar & Plux falls more into the later generation of PS2 platformers and not the N64 era. It really looks and feels like a Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter game, which isn’t that bad a thing, but as is always the case, if you look to clone a classic title in the modern age, you should at least offer more than the original. Skylar & Plux never really rises above its initial intent, but that doesn’t stop it from being a really fun experience.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island has players going on an action packed adventure on the titular Clover Island. You spend time as a cyborg cat that was created by the main antagonist for reasons never really explained. You explore a beautiful paradise world with your bird friend Plux to save it from all sorts of techno evil. The story is mostly a throwaway concept, but it works well enough to keep you going. The main villain will constantly fill you in on what’s going on via his constant chats with your sidekick Plux as main character Skylar can’t seem to talk. The writing isn’t anything special with more jokes that miss rather than hit, but it keeps you going and keeps things interesting at the very least.
Gameplay is a basic as you might expect. You can run around and attack enemies with your robot arm and jump about the games three distinct worlds. As you progress through the game you will earn upgrades for said arm that allow you to perform special attacks. You’ll be able to earn a number of abilities that allow you to activate time pillars, activate magnetic platforms, hook onto special swing-points, a jetpack and so on. Nothing altogether new, but each ability/power is spaced out well so you’ll come across something new at just the right time. This also means that you can travel back to previous worlds to access new areas.
You’ll want to backtrack as you’ll need to save the citizens of the island that have been trapped in cages hidden throughout each stage. But simply finding them isn’t enough as you’ll need a few hundred shards to unlock their cages. This gives you reason to break boxes and fight more enemies as nearly everything int he game drops these shards that serve as money. Playing through the game I never once was short on these shards, but I’m the sort of player that will kill and break everything I see in a 3D platformer. The more cages you unlock the more heart container upgrades the queen lady will give you in the hub world.
Everything works fine, but one thing that surprised me was that your sidekick does nothing but talk. Unlike other 3D platformers that feature a duo that make the sidekick do something, Skylar & Plux just has one for decoration. He does nothing of value, even though I felt the developers really wanted to do something with him. He just floats near you and serves as your only voice to the main villain. I would have loved to see him integrated better to scout new areas, do flight challenges, or even be used as a projectile weapon in some fashion. It doesn’t kill the experience but when you see a duo in a 3D platformer you expect them to do something together.
Graphically Skylar & Plux looks pretty good. As with so many Unreal Engine games the game suffers from the occasional pop-in when entering new areas, but it’s not all that big a deal. There are some minor issues with your characters never really touching the ground on uneven surfaces and angled planks, but again this seems to be a common problem. And while the game is bright and colorful, the main characters feel a little out of focus and washed out texture wise. It’s hard to explain, but both Skylar & Plux don’t quite feel to blend into the world as well as they should. This is a problem I’ve seen with the Unreal Engine when not making something brown and gritty. And the game on PC suffers from some strange graphical stuttering when loading up a game save for a few seconds, but that could just be me.
Controls are very responsive and playing with an Xbox One controller was a smooth experience. The options menu also has support for some sort of eye-tracking option if you are one of the twelve people that own one of those deceives. But one thing that doesn’t really work is the camera and how wild it is. It’s overly sensitive so you are going to be spinning it around like crazy far too much. It’s such a problem that it actually made me sick with headaches on more than one occasion because of the speed. There doesn’t seem to be a way to lower the camera sensitivity and if I would recommend one thing for a future patch, camera control sensitivity would be it.
On the audio front things are just tops. The music fits the overall aesthetic and fits each world very well. It’s not something you are going to be singing or snag the soundtrack for, but it works well in building the larger game world. Sound effects also have impact and add to the cartoon nature of the experience. But one thing that doesn’t come off as well as I would have liked is the voice acting. It ranges from excellent to merely passable. A lot of this comes from a fairly weak script that tries a bit too hard to be funny for its own good. Plux is a neat character, but he will begin to get on your nerves what all his childish chatter.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island will run you $15 on Steam which seems like a steal, but the game only offers up a few hours of play within the games three worlds. In this regard the island really does feel like an island. It took me around 4 hours to complete the game and that’s with going back to try and track everything down. If you just played through the game without any extra exploration you can probably beat the whole thing in around 2 hours depedning on your skill level. In a way this isn’t an entirely bad thing as it keeps the game nice and tight. Since each world revolves around a certain ability you earn within it, the pace feels just right. Still, I can’t help but feeling like another few worlds with a few more arm powers would have done the game wonders.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island isn’t a perfect game as it comes with a number of issues, but those problems never really take away from the overall fun of the experience. This is a fantastic first effort in what I hope develops into a full-fledged series that breaks away from the types of 3D platformers it’s trying to emulate. I have no issues recommending Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island to anyone who wants to relieve the past in between another utterly broken AAA release.
// Promoted Stories