Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Last Friday we took a look at one indie game that was a 2D platformer in the style of Zelda II, and that game was Elliot Quest. Today, we take a look at an indie game that's a 3D platformer in the style of many PS2 era games of that genre, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island. Here's my review.

A game neither a cat-astrophe or owl-ful (but these puns sure were)

Many (or at least some) of SuperPhillip Central's readers most likely grew up playing games like Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, and the like. And that's what Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island most reminds me of: the gameplay and style of PlayStation 2 era 3D platformers. This is where going from one destination to another through an assortment of graphically detailed obstacle courses was preferred over moving around a platforming playground collecting things like the generation of 3D platformers before it. The game ends up being a fun one, but one with some cat-veats. (Sorry.)

And the PS2 era 3D platformer most similar to Skylar & Plux is none other than Ratchet & Clank, which as a big fan of Insomniac Games' series, made me quite pleased. The similarities aren't the largest, but things like the humorous writing, gadgets that can be picked up like the jet pack to help make higher jumps or hover to cover more distance, and a fusion of sci-fi technology and earthly worlds that is heavily pronounced.

Skylar pounces and bounces on these green mushrooms.
The majority of Skylar & Plux occurs on Clover Island, as the subtitle of the game would lead you to believe. The first area of the game sees Skylar by herself, having broken free from her captivity thanks to a sentient arm that was forcibly attached to her. Skylar then goes off to find a way off the ship of the villainous and mysterious CRT. This section of the game is, of course, the tutorial, offering tips on the simplest of maneuvers, such as jumping, double jumping, attacking, and tethering to objects a la Ratchet & Clank's Swingshot (there's the mention of that game again!).

Tether to objects like hanging claws to swing from one side of a gap to the other with style.
When Skylar arrives on Clover Island, she meets a peppy owl named Plux who has been on Clover Island for a while, feverishly anticipating the return of his father for what seems like an eternity. The two pair up as CRT has turned his attention to taking over Clover Island and squeezing out every last resource of it before destroying the island and its inhabitants, the Lo'a. After a brief platforming sequence leading to the hub of Clover Island, the Lo'a village, Skylar meets the village elder and the real fun begins.

Remember, Skylar: It's sand at this beach, not kitty litter.
The three main areas of Clover Island are brilliantly varied, ranging from a bright and colorful beach leading to a frigid and high-up mountain pass to a derelict desert with quicksand and a temple with some puzzles to solve to get a giant tree to grow larger and larger, each growth allowing Skylar to access higher points of the temple by climbing up the tree's leaves. The areas of the game aren't just for getting through them and solving puzzles either. There is some collecting to be done in the form of orange crystals that not only serve as a smart means of waypoint-like devices to give players an idea of main paths to follow in areas, but also to heal lost hearts and spend money to unlock the cages that trapped Lo'a are locked inside of. When enough Lo'a have been freed from their imprisonments, the village elder will bestow unto Skylar an extra piece of health to work with.

Impressive lighting effects and expansive areas make for plenty of eye candy in Skylar & Plux.
Areas in Skylar & Plux are absolutely massive, but this unfortunately leads to some performance problems. An area can load, most notably during overviews of entered new locales, and show textures that don't appear quickly enough in sight of the camera. The frame-rate can also suffer and quite heavily so, particularly in encounters with an abundance of foes. Still, these performance problems only mildly affected my enjoyment of the game.

Well, if we have to reach the top of this mountain, we better start hiking!
While Skylar & Plux has a great amount of variety in its areas, platforming segments, uses of acquired gadgets (like using the magnetic glove to carry an iron ball to its necessary location or slowing down blazing fast flipping platforms to safely cross them), and puzzles, it lacks something key: longevity. Skylar & Plux can be fully completed in less than five hours. This includes getting all of the achievements as well. While it lasts, the ride is quite appealing, but seeing how fast you're making progress and then the game ending just feels disappointing. You're left with a desire to have more content, and even looking for and discovering the cleverly hidden caged Lo'a villagers in all parts of the game doesn't present as much content as I would have liked. Additionally, there are only three enemy types throughout the whole experience, though this isn't too bad. Unfortunately, the reason, however, is because the game's so short that it doesn't really matter.

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is pleasant and lovely a platformer. It gives me the feel of playing a PS2-era 3D platformer with even more graphical pizzazz (though regrettably, less polish). If more time could have been taken to beef up the amount of content in the game while keeping the gameplay, platforming, and level design quality as high as the game already is now, then both the publisher and developer would have a real gem on their collective hands. As it is, Skylar & Plux is enjoyable but could have been so much more, and this limits its appeal greatly. As a 3D platformer lover, however, the time I spent with Skylar & Plux was worthwhile.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by Grip Digital.

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