The 3D platformer genre isn't what it used to be. These days, it's all about shooters and open-world adventures. A few gaming generations ago, however, platformers reigned supreme with games like Jax and Daxter and Kya: Dark Lineage topping sales charts. Not to leave the genre any further unappreciated, publisher Grip Digital and developers Right Nice Games have released Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island.
The game is an homage of sorts to those platformers of yesteryear and has players take on the role of a courageous heroine named Skylar Lynxe. She's a snow cat with a mysterious past (and strangely no tail) -- partially because as the game begins she's already a captive of the game's main antagonst, an over-zealous industrialist known simply as CRT. After escaping from CRT's space station of an office, she crash lands onto Clover Island. That's where she meets the avian Plux Owlsley and goes on to try to stop CRT from conquering and destroying the land. If this seems familiar, that's probably because it is. Many games have themes along these lines (most notably Ratchet & Clank). While unoriginal to a point, it does set a relatable premace of sorts.
Much of the game's story is told through cut-scenes. Instead of relying on CG sequences like most games, Skylar & Plux instead tells the story through narrated segments that look like they were taken right out of a comic book. Strangely, this works -- possibly because there are no bad CG sequences to suffer through. Now, that doesn't mean that there aren't storytelling parts of the game that use game graphics, because there are. The thing is, they're not separate movie-like sequences but rather done directly in-game with the standard in-game graphics and such. Being that Skylar & Plux is out of an indie studio, this is probably for the best.
As for those in-game graphics, however, things could be better. While the game looks good at a glance, it lacks some of the polish that would have brought it up to the next level. The graphics, overall, look a generation behind. That's something that could be overlooked were it well executed, but it's not. When walking, for example, Skylar falls victim to the foot glide in some animations. There are also times when either Skylar herself or the camera clips through objects. This isn't much of a problem for the silent protagonist herself, but when the in-game camera ventures directly into a wall or something and obstructs the view of the game it can be a problem. Oh, and as for load times, feel free to take a run to the restroom or grab yourself an RC Cola from the fridge because they're not exactly brief.
You may have noticed that the cut-scenes are narrated. Yes, that means there are voice-overs in this game. Some of it's good and some bad. Some of it is downright campy (spoiler: there's a rather obvious Anchorman reference fairly early on in the game). What's kind of a turn-off, however, is the Plux character. He's quite the chatterbox. While that would be all fine and dandy, pairing him up with the voiceless Skylar just doesn't make sense. Characters like Plux really work well when there's equal banter between characters. With this game's protagnoistic pair, however, there is none. For better or for worse, that's kind of a shame.
Gameplay in Skylar & Plux is pretty genre-standard for a circa 2000-ish platformer. Really, that's fine. The game checks all of the right boxes, but doesn't really stand out in any way. Skylar begins the game with a swiss-army-knife of a metallic arm that pulls double-duty as both a weapon and a grappling hook (oh, and the arm talks, too). Later on she gets a useful jet pack (maybe that's why she doesn't have a luxurious snow leopard tail) that lets her jump quite high and hover for short periods of time. While controls and gameplay may be generic, these little variations do well enough to make it feel like Right Nice Games is at least trying to mix things up a little.
As Skylar & Plux venture around Clover Island, they'll meet CRT's minions and constructs. Using her metallic arm and a few different types of attacks, Skylar can typically send them packing with only a slight bit of effort. Still, it's rather satisfying to throw a right jab at an incoming missile and send it back from where it came. Every time a baddie is felled, gems spawn. These gems are also scattered generously around the island. The gems are for a side goal of freeing the imprisoned natives of the island. If you free enough of them, your health meter will grow larger. This comes in handy later in the game.
It's too bad that "later in the game" comes so soon. As its download size of less than 5GB might suggest, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is not a lengthy game. Aside from the short tutorial level, the game only consists of three zones. Players can expect to spend only two hours or so to beat the game. The story and gameplay are fun enough for it to be an enjoyable two hours, but it feels like there could have been so much more done with the game. As for replay value, unless you want to play the same game over again (and there's nothing wrong with that) there really isn't any.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is a debut title for Right Nice Games and it's a good first effort. It does a lot of things just fine as a 3D platformer on paper, but it stumbles in parts of its execution. The jokes are either only mildly humorous or straight-up bad and the lack of synergy and dialogue between the game's two titular characters feels like a major missed opportunity. Still, it's a good starting point for the developer and it will be interesting to see where they go from here.
But, seriously. Where's Skylar's tail?
Final Score: 6 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided to us for the purpose of review.