There’s something to be said about the fluidity of the movement between areas and the satisfying combo attacks of a good 2D action platformer. The best examples of this are games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Odin Sphere, games whose graphics and gameplay are works of art. But there are a lot of choices in the genre, and indie developers can bring something new to the table. It was with great hope, then, that I tried out SkyKeepers, a game released by Sword Twin Studios. With a unique 2D art style and compelling characters, it does a decent job of standing out amongst the crowd.
As far as gameplay goes, SkyKeepers mostly follows a tried and true formula similar to that of the games I mentioned above. Using wall jumps and teleportation between certain items in the environment, you travel between screens of a level, fighting off enemies as they appear. One button allows for normal attacks that build up your Spirit, while the other button uses Spirit for stronger attacks that let you dash or launch your opponent.
One interesting mechanic allows you to teleport to hit enemies, continuing your combo of hits on them after you launch them. This isn’t the first game I’ve seen that lets you do this, but it does add something to the otherwise straightforward gameplay. The game is fun, and the mix of platforming and combat keeps things from getting too monotonous. Still, it isn’t exactly unique, and there is a somewhat sharp difficulty curve involved. Once the game is completed it will be interesting to see how much variety is added.
The story and art style are inspired by Austronesian culture, which certainly shows. For most of the game you play as Tangi, the chief of the SkyKeepers, in his attempts to rebuild his village and recover from a great tragedy. Speaking of which, be prepared for some mood whiplash. Most of the game is at least someone comedic, although the jokes don’t always land as well as I’d like them to. But even with the somewhat robotic-sounding writing, there’s a moment early in the game where things suddenly get really dark and serious.
It’s a great set up for Tangi’s journey and the rest of the game’s plot, but it seems a bit out of place. At the very least, you do feel for the characters in what they’re going through, so that’s a good place to start. This is also helped by a mechanic wherein you must rebuild the village to power up the character. And the graphical style, while it may not win any awards, is at least pleasing to the eye. The enemy designs in particular work well, as does the design of Tangi himself. Above all, I applaud the developers for using their own style instead of relying on retro graphics.
It’s too early for me to really say whether this game is worth buying, especially as I don’t know what it will ultimately cost, but SkyKeepers is definitely worth keeping an eye on if you’re interested in 2D action platformers. While it doesn’t have the grab that some more well known indie games do, it’s fun to play, and sometimes that’s rare enough. SkyKeepers will be released on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One, though no release date has been announced yet.
This review is based on an Early Access build provided by the publisher.