Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is the newest 3D platformer game released for consoles riding the current nostalgia hype for games of the genre. While Yooka-Laylee, released last month, was a love letter to the N64-era platformers, Skylar & Plux is pretty its equivalent to the PS2-era platformers like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank.
The hints are scattered throughout the entire game: said Clover Island looks just like the island setting of the first Jak & Daxter game, while the game’s last level reminded me a lot of the mechanical facilities you can find in Ratchet & Clank. Skylar controls just like Jak. There’s even a race of ancient wise beings, just like the Precursors from Jak & Daxter, this time being called the Progenitors (creative much?). Those devs suuuuuuuuuuuure loved their PS2s back in the day!
Sorry birdbrain, you ain’t got no swag
Thankfully, not only the developers copied those the setting of those past games, but also their pretty good gameplay. Unlike Yooka-Laylee before it, Skylar & Plux has a much more fluid gameplay with much more control over your camera and excellent controller responsiveness, especially when it comes to jumping (something essential in a 3D platformer), even if your combat is a tad bit clunky. It also features very good graphics, with gorgeous levels, full of color and excellent lighting, a real treat for the eyes, even if they have framerate issues every now and then, a problem that’s sadly way too common in 3D indie games nowadays.
The game’s best aspect, however, was its soundtrack. I wasn’t expecting much from it, given the fact it’s a lower-budget game, but oh my, was I surprised with how good it is, featuring memorable tunes that quickly stick to your head, with excellent compositions and instrumentations. There are even bagpipes in some of the tunes, and believe it or not, they don’t sound irritating at all! If anything, Skylar & Plux nailed in its artistic department, with a very high level of dedication.
See those orange crystals? You need 10,000 for an achievement. No biggie…
A friend of mine once told me that a good chunk of what makes a 3D platformer memorable is the charisma coming from its characters. The developers sure knew that was a thing, so they tried to give characters charisma and fill the game with wacky dialogue and puns. And there lies one bit of a problem: while I appreciate the developers for trying (they really did, and you can see that), most of the characters in the game are pretty dull in charisma and dialogue.
While Skylar, just like Jak before her, is a mute, Plux is the game’s wise-cracking loudmouth, but not a single pun that little bird delivers lands decently. Same can be told about the game’s villain, the CRT, who keeps taunting you throughout the whole game, a-la Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie, sans the rhymes. The biggest problems in such lack of charisma come from the game’s bad voice acting (it felt cheap and amateurish) and the jokes, which were just bad. Sorry devs, I know you guys tried, but those jokes and puns were really dull. The game’s salvation in this department comes from two simple side characters, the villain’s sidekick Bob and your talking mechanical arm, which talks just like Clank from Ratchet & Clank.
The main problem with Skylar & Plux, however, isn’t the voice acting, it’s its length. I beat the story mode in less than three hours, without fully saving all Lo’a and collecting just around a third of the 10,000 orange crystals scattered throughout the game. If you decide to go for a 100% completion (an actually feasable achievement, to be honest), the game will indeed be quite longer, but you’ll still be done with it in about 5 hours. Backtracking through older levels with abilities found later on in the game helps improve replayability, but the game is still way too short.
While indeed a flawed game, Skylar & Plux delivered in what it was intended to mainly offer us: a taste of the old days of the PS2-era platformers. If only the game wasn’t so incredibly short. Then again, the game is going for less than ten bucks right now, so you won’t feel ripped off.
Nevertheless, it’s still pretty awesome to see more and more 3D platformers showing up these days. Skylar & Plux was a very short, but very sweet blast back to the early 2000s, this time without the need of having a dozen memory cards or having to deal with scratched DVDs. I just hope they don’t even decide to make a nostalgic 3D platformer based off the Xbox 360’s Rare games that soon!
Also available on: PS4, PC