Jump, double jump, attack, and jump. How many times have I pressed those buttons, in that order, over all these years? Well it’s…a lot I can tell you. So how do Sword Twin Studios impress me and keep my jumping skills fresh with their new 2D action platformer SkyKeepers?
The game is an old-fashioned platformer and Metroid-style game. The story follows the village of SkyKeeper, which is based on the oceanic Austronesian culture, but with a fantasy twist. You play the role of chief of the village, Tangi, who after a tragic accident that turns him to stone for a year, must rebuild the village and conquer the demons of the land. But how do you do this?
Well it’s a very tried and tested formula and the developers have stolen all the best bits of these types of games to make it their very own.
Jumping is as jumping does. You can jump up walls to get to higher levels, twisting in the air to land on that perfect spot. You can also teleport, to certain teleportation stones in a very tricky, but entertaining feature that’s all about nerves of steel and excellent timing. Then we have the combat, which combines a mixed bag of tactics, and just some damn good old fashioned luck. Attacking wise and you have a standard attack with your axe by pressing X; your special attack bar fills up by doing this and allows you unleash a special power by pressing Y. This is an energy bolt that can be thrown across at an enemy or combined with your attack and jump for devastating results. These battles can be fun and frantic, but the more you progress they start to become a bit tiresome and over familiar. When you have a horde of creatures flying at you, you need mad skills to progress. Something which immediately puts me on the backfoot as I have the skills of an old blind, incontinent gorilla.
The level design isn’t at all linear and you can explore different avenues in order to reach your ultimate goal. There are secret areas plus challenge areas to find and complete. When you kill a creature, or break a chest, or rescue a villager, you gain little orbs and certain objects to use back at the village. It is here where you need to try and rebuild the three main areas in the village; the shop, the council and the crafting area. Each of the village sections allow you to change your skills, craft new items or buy things to help your battles become a whole lot easier. It all works very well and the checkpoints are spaced well enough to make it interesting, whilst not annoying too much that when you die, you have to backtrack too much. But that said, you always have a number of areas in which you have to kill everything before you can progress, and after the umpteenth time of doing that, the joy gets sucked away from your soul.
On the visual front the artwork has a cartoony feel to it, with very vivid and brightly drawn characters that snap off the screen. The levels, even though basic in concept, have the effect of a sharp concise world that really works well within the context of the game. The comic book cut scenes are a nice touch and I really enjoy the way that these enhance the story. The writing itself, which is shown through subtitles from the characters, is very sharp and at times pretty damn funny. I especially enjoyed the tutorial sections, which give a knowing wink to how dull tutorials can be. When the story turns dark, it does so with relish and works a treat to keep the gamer interested throughout.
In the sounds department, SkyKeepers doesn’t do anything really spectacular, but it does do a solid job, delivering a soundtrack that gets stuck in your head as it repeats its drum like rhythms. The effects work well with the usual screams, grunts and noises, but there isn’t a voiceover to speak of. Thankfully though that doesn’t hurt the game and not having one works well within its tone.
Overall and SkyKeepers is a very solid, well put together 2D platform adventure title. The gameplay is nothing short of good and it can be great fun to play. That said, the constant battles and the increase in the difficulty arc became a real problem and dulled my interest quite considerably. But fans of this type of game will love the skill level required and for them death will only make them stronger. The look and feel of the world is very pleasing, and the development team at Sword Twin Studios have made a great effort with the storyline and the tone.
If you want a game with a solid platforming base and a lot of challenging gameplay, pick up an axe and enter the village of SkyKeeper.