Created by those at SouthPAW Games is Skul: The Hero Slayer – a retro-styled, pixel-art, roguelite action platformer. Now, there’s not a noticeable lack of this type of games on the old Xbox, so anything that has a unique hook will stand out. Whether this is Hades, with the humour of the main character, or Dead Cells with beautiful animation and tough combat, the stand out games have a certain something about them. Does Skul fare well in this regard, or is it another also-ran?

skul the hero slayer review 1

First of all, some story for your narrative satisfaction. Skul, the character we play as, is a little skeleton, too little to be a guard or anything else. This, as it turns out, is pretty fortunate as one day, the humans decide to attack the Demon King’s castle. This is nothing new, but what makes a difference this time is that human adventurers have joined forces with the Imperial Army and the Hero of Carleon in order to wipe out the demons once and for all. Everyone except Skul has been captured, and armed only with Little Bone – literally the leg bone of one of his friends – Skul must set off on an epic journey to free the rest of the demons. So far, so usual, right?

What makes this game different is a simple mechanic, that of allowing Skul to have access to different attacks based on which skull he is currently wearing. He can don a werewolf skull, which dramatically increases the speed of his attacks; he can be an Ent, a mobile tree that hits slowly but hard; he can be a ninja, a biker, a clown and many more. And, without risking too many spoilers, a certain character you meet can increase the effectiveness of each skull, in return for a number of bone fragments. If you do power up a skull in this way, every time you receive it you will be at the same stage, which is a nice touch. So if you spend 10 bone fragments to power up the werewolf skull to level 2, the next time you find it it will be at level 2 straight off the bat.

Now, RNG does have a very strong role to play in the skulls that you receive, with the start of each run seeing you issued with a skull by a character you have to rescue first, and also being given an item to increase your character from yet another character. One thing you need to learn: not every run is going to end in victory, as the skulls and items you find on your trip may be rubbish, and so learning to fail, but to use the resources you gather to make yourself stronger at the start of each run, is a vital part of the gameplay loop. 

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Combat is very good indeed, with different skulls able to be swapped between on the fly, even in the middle of the same combo to maximise your offensive capabilities. Skul has a very handy dodge move that can be used to avoid enemy attacks with the proper timing, alongside a double jump. Each skull comes with different special abilities that can be used to poison or set enemies on fire. Learning to use a variety of skulls is very important, as with no way to choose which skull you start with, it can be very hard if you get a skull that you aren’t familiar with or dislike. 

After making your way through the levels (which change every time, so no two runs have the same layout), you meet a mini boss, before then meeting an end of level boss. The mid-level folk are usually pretty easy once you get to grips with their attack patterns, and it’s just as well, as when you go up through the levels, they start to appear in multiples. The end of level bosses are pretty impressive as well, ranging from a possessed giant tree to two female soldiers with a dandy line in screen-filling attacks. Taking these enemies down is an achievement in itself, but with actual achievements tied to defeating them without being hit, this will take some practice. 

Graphically and it must be said that Skul: The Hero Slayer is beautiful, with personality bursting out of all the demons you meet along the way. The enemies and allies are very well designed, but it’s Skul himself that is the star of the show, with beautiful animation and such wildly different attack styles depending on which head he has. The way he has been designed is just fantastic. Sound is equally impressive, with some lovely tunes to go along with the clanging of armour and the clash of swords. All in all, the game is easily on a par with Dead Cells; an experience that scored a perfect five on this very website. 

skul the hero slayer review 3

Downsides? Well, unless you count the strong RNG flavour as a downside, there are not really too many. Skul keeps you coming back for just one more go, and before you know it the clock has struck midnight and the whole evening has disappeared. The hook to keep playing is very strong, and it’s rewarding to see enemies you initially struggled with start to become easier as you get stronger and learn more about them. 

In fact, Skul: The Hero Slayer is a very good example of a roguelite done right, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who has the slightest interest in this genre – and even those who don’t.  

Skul: The Hero Slayer is available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store

Created by those at SouthPAW Games is Skul: The Hero Slayer - a retro-styled, pixel-art, roguelite action platformer. Now, there’s not a noticeable lack of this type of games on the old Xbox, so anything that has a unique hook will stand out. Whether this is Hades, with the humour of the main character, or Dead Cells with beautiful animation and tough combat, the stand out games have a certain something about them. Does Skul fare well in this regard, or is it another also-ran? First of all, some story for your narrative satisfaction. Skul, the character we play as,…

Pros:

  • Great skull swapping mechanic can change the game completely
  • Getting stronger allows you to get better - the gameplay loop is compelling
  • Graphics are gorgeous to behold

Cons:

  • RNG does play a massive part in your success or failure

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - NEOWIZ
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 21 Oct 2021
  • Launch price from - £16.74
TXH Score

4.5/5

Pros:

  • Great skull swapping mechanic can change the game completely
  • Getting stronger allows you to get better - the gameplay loop is compelling
  • Graphics are gorgeous to behold

Cons:

  • RNG does play a massive part in your success or failure

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - NEOWIZ
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 21 Oct 2021
  • Launch price from - £16.74

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Ryan
Ryan
8 months ago

The part about leveling up skulls, and them staying the same level on subsequent runs is false. This does not occur. This progress is reset every run.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ryan