Fifteen attempts. Two separate platforms with bouncing mushrooms to increase the range of my jumping, a pit of deadly spikes below, and a few floating, moving obstacles in the way – each with its own one-hit-kill spikes to boot. A tough area to navigate, and an obvious challenge given it took me so long to finally, actually, fortunately, get past it.
Then Skelattack hits me with its most memorable feature: surprise! You’re dead. Turns out there was an oversized Venus flytrap hidden behind some foliage to the side there. Back to the beginning of this particular obstacle course with you, oh skeleton-faced one, for attempt number 16.
That’s the main problem with Skelattack – it wants so much to be talked about in the same breath as the Super Meat Boys of the world, but doesn’t seem to understand it wasn’t just the endless cycle of death and dying that made Team Meat’s fast-paced platformer so much fun.
It was the tightness of everything; the fact you rarely (if ever) felt like a death was unfair, and that the game was designed to challenge and punish you, yes, but it wasn’t designed to suddenly cry ‘Psych!’ and kill you with yet another surprise death you had very little chance of seeing coming.
Would you believe it, that’s where Skelattack goes wrong. A platformer with a bit of basic combat mixed in, this indie effort published by Konami (so not an indie, but you know what I mean) just doesn’t offer a level of balance and – dare I say it – fairness to make it anything other than a brief distraction before moving onto meatier ways to pass the time.
At its best, it’s alright. At its worst, it’s a pad-smasher. But most of the time it’s merely alright, and that may well be the game’s biggest issue.
There’s something to be taken from it, sure. It looks great – not quite Cuphead levels of stunning animation, but enough character about it to keep you staring at the screen well beyond your patience levels would otherwise allow. There’s a disarmingly cute air to things despite the difficulty, but all that does is make Skelattack a game that’s a lot more fun to watch someone play than it is to get stuck into yourself.
We’re absolutely spoilt for choice with brilliant indie titles these days. Were this a decade ago, Skelattack might have stood out more – decent in short bursts and bloody good to look at as it is. It’s the skip fire of a year that is 2020, though, and we have to look for more in our timesinks.
Games that don’t just look the part and offer up fun times in short bursts, but ones that can maintain that level of enjoyment and not resort to cheap, snarky tricks to (once again) kill the player. Death counters regularly appear through Skelattack, telling you how many times your bony protagonist has perished and offering a smarmy comment along the lines of ‘You know there’s an attack button, right?’.
Far from making me want to prove anyone wrong, it just made me raise an eyebrow and turn the game off. I do know there’s a power button, after all.
I find little outside the look of Skelattack to gush about, so casting the brain-net a bit wider: it’s lovely to see Konami back on the horse. This is the studio’s effort to push and publish indie titles under its label, and even if this game is a misstep, I do hope the trend continues.
These bones need more than a quick polish to get them into shape.
Genre: Punishing platformer
Format: PS4 (tested) / PC / XBO / Switch
Developer: Ukuza Inc
Release:__ Out now