Review – Skellboy (Switch)

Skellboy is a game that has piqued my interest for a while now. It has clear Zelda adventure roots with a visual style like that of the Paper Mario games. Add to that the delightful humor and nostalgic charm, and you should have a game that’s destined to be a new standout favorite, right?

The story behind Skellboy is one you’ve seen a thousand times over: the power hungry antagonist is stopped from taking his coveted prize in one way or another. This sets him on the villainous path that will eventually lead to the ruin of all in his wake. Skellboy takes this commonly used trope and acknowledges it blatantly in meta-styled humor and pop culture references. It’s a refreshing change from the myriad of titles out there that use that same tired theme to try to evoke the same emotional response as the numerous titles that came before them.

Skellboy

Are you asking me for a roll in the hay?

In Skellboy you play as Skippy, a resurrected hero who is on an epic quest to save the Cubold Kingdom from the clutches of the evil wizard, Squaruman. Squrauman was unable to marry his crush, the Princess of the Cubold Kingdom, and this is what finally sets him on his path of destruction and malice. If you’ve played any adventure games dating all the way back to the original Mario Bros., then you’re familiar with this premise. Skellboy at least has the decency to poke fun of itself and make jokes like the “the princess is in another castle”, paying homage to its source of inspiration.

The humor isn’t the only way that Skellboy honors its predecessors. It has a chiptune soundtrack that fits well and is sure to summon a feeling of nostalgia for players of classic games. It’s graphics are somewhere between a 2D and 3D isometric look, much like many of the earlier Zelda games. It also has the same paper cut-out look like Paper Mario. It’s adorable, vibrant, and simplistic, while still looking clean all around. I will say that there were times when I found myself stuck in a part of the environment and it took some effort to get myself free, but I never encountered anything game-breaking or even anything that made me need to restart from my previous save. I have been informed by the publisher, Fabraz, that there will be a patch coming out for the Switch version about a week after launch that will fix those issues, along with some other new features.

Skellboy

Even the great artists have their masterpieces rendered in pixelated form.

The gameplay is where Skellboy both sets itself apart from the rest and yet struggles. The idea behind its main gameplay gimmick is wonderful. As a resurrected corpse, you can trade body parts with that of your foes and things found along your journey, with a variety of outcomes. Some body parts and armor will grant you certain bonuses like additional health and the ability to launch projectiles at enemies. Others will give debuffs like slowing you down or slowly draining your life. This definitely adds to a more diverse experience and I loved playing around with the different combinations of body parts.

Skellboy

Am I worthy enough to wield Axecalibur? I’m a skeleton wearing a princess gown, of course I am!

The combat is another story though. While you’ll have a variety of weapons to discover and choose from, most of them either feel the same or are only good for one quick move with their special trait. You’ll come across a wide range of swords along your journey, but they each feel the same when you swing them. The only difference is the amount of damage you’ll deal when striking down an enemy. The clubs deal massive amounts of damage when your blow is fully charged, but swinging it feels almost no different than your sword. You’ll also find a wand that stuns weaker foes, but that’s all it’s good for. You can’t attack with it, so you’ll have to quickly switch to one of your other weapons to deliver the killing blow. Needless to say, as cool as that power is, it really kills the main flow of combat.

Nearly all of the enemies you’ll face along your travels will be dealt with in a mindless hack ‘n slash manner. It’s fun, but there’s no real strategy to be had for the most part. The only exceptions are when dealing with the bosses. The boss fights are by far the most fun part of the game. I’ll admit that even the bosses are pretty easy, but they at least have different attacks, movements, and weaknesses than the majority of other foes you’ll face along the way. They usually have more interesting set pieces too.

Skellboy

Even my adversary knows the importance of having an epic fight song.

I have to say that overall, Skellboy is a really fun time, even if I was slightly disappointed by it. It had the potential to be a hit franchise if the combat was more engaging or there were any sort of puzzles to solve along the way. I feel like it does a good job at replicating the feel of a few different classic games, but doesn’t commit itself enough in any one particular area to make itself exceptional. It’s an enjoyable game and definitely worth the money. I’d love to see them make a sequel that builds upon this solid foundation and hones in these few weaker areas. They’ll be poised to be the next great franchise if they can pull that off.

 

Graphics: 8.0

The art style is wonderful with a pixelated, paper cut-out look. There are some bugs with getting stuck in the terrain though, as well as some massive framerate dips.

Gameplay: 7.0

Skellboy is your typical adventure hack ‘n slash type of game, without the puzzles that make the Zelda series so intriguing. While there are weapon varieties to play around with, they most feel the same as one another.

Sound: 7.0

The chiptune soundtrack fits this game perfectly. However, since you’ll have to backtrack through many of the same areas over and over again, some of these melodies will seem repetitive.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Skellboy is a delightful action/adventure game packed with charm and self-aware humor. The only thing keeping it from being an instant classic is its underwhelming combat and lack of puzzles.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Skellboy is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Skellboy was provided by the publisher.