Classic 3D platformers are making a comeback with Ratchet & Clank, Yooka-Laylee, and now Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island,but does this latest effort bring anything new to the table?
Well, one thing that is completely different, particularly for a game that seemingly looks fit for children, are the colourful words flying at you, such as “friggin’”, “butthole”, and “turd.” For a PEGI 7+ rating I’m surprised this wasn’t picked up by the ratings board. Throughout the game there is a lot of needless words used to fill in gaps that aren’t required – it’s like envisioning the film Snatch with children’s words and replacing the slang and swearing with suggestive overtones.
The entire story’s dialogue is like this throughout the game. The story itself is quite bizarre but has that Austin Powers Goldmember vibe going for it. You play as Skylar, a mute cat, who has had her memories removed, and the only way to regain them is to retrieve the fuses from the three different realms of Clover Island. These realms are the snowy mountains, the desert, and CRT’s (the main villain’s) factory.
As you regain your memories you start to reveal CRT’s plot and why you had your memories removed and why you’re given a glove. Throughout the game you unlock different abilities to help you progress through each level. CRT (the antagonist) has imprisoned the populace of Clover Island, the Lo’a, and you need to rescue them from CRT and foil his plan.
Starting the game, you’re presented with a cinematic cutscene that leaves you eventually taking control of Skylar and leaving CRT’s space station, landing on Clover Island. You meet up with a pigeon called Plux, and you set on your way to save the world. Traversing the world is rather simple, and the levels will make you go “wow, that draw distance is vast, and look at the colours!” The levels really do look colourful and vibrant, but this is also where the game starts to really go downhill.
Due to the significant draw distance, not only does it make the levels look truly enormous, but it heavily impacts performance. It’s so inherent that every move you make has a sudden dip in performance that practically hits single digit frame rates. This jarring effect makes it difficult to time some jumps or attack some enemies, which can lead to frequent deaths if you’re not careful.
Thankfully, you have a Zelda “heart” system where you can gain extra hearts for rescuing the Lo’a. Each time you gain a heart, you get that infamous Link moment where he holds his hand up high with the item floating above. It doesn’t happen often, but when you receive the fuses at the end of a level, not only do you get that Link moment, but also Plux puts on his sunglasses and tries to act and look cool; it’s quite the opposite.
If you do lose hearts,then you can gain them back by picking up collectibles, which are these yellow crystals floating everywhere. Not only are they used for propping up your hearts, but also for freeing the Lo’a. Another use of the yellow crystals is to point the player in the correct direction of where to go next, not that they really need to do that as the levels are too linear. With such large levels, it would have been nice to open them up a bit more than they are now.
The platforming is very weak too, with a double jump or a rocket jump (rarely – if ever used) being about the extent of the complexity. There are rings That let you swing further distances (like Ratchet and Clank’s overhead bars), magnetic floor panels that require a magnetic glove to be used, or a time-based glove to stop the panels from rotating swiftly. Butt that’s it, everything is either negligible or too basic. There’s no climbing, holding onto ledges, no ladders, and no real any puzzles, except for that tree sliding puzzle where you need to push the time orb into position.
When it comes to enemies, there are only three throughout the whole game. Small CRTs that act like a swarm of suicidal rabbits that jump in your direction, a rocket robot that fires so fast that it becomes way too frustrating to play the game until you get the time orb weapon, and a machine gun robot that fires bullets in streams. The only other enemy to fight against is the boss at the end of the game, which is also a walkover, which at least has an interesting and nice dynamic. Based on the environment, having a boss at the end of each level would have given more variety to the game.
The characters are also rather bizarre. You have a cat that runs like it’s sat down on a bicycle seat too long, a pigeon that flies with almost cardboard-like straight wings, and these ice cream-like looking people, called Lo’a, that don’t really have any animations at all other than their little legs moving them around. The only decently animated character in the game was CRT – the boss at the end.
What’s rather unfitting is that you have a sidekick that does all of the talking for you, and after playing right through to the end, it feels that Plux is a character that was not needed at all, more of an annoying tack-on than a helpful guide. If you hated Jar-Jar Binks, then you will probably hate Plux even more. His script and constant chat with CRT is cringeworthy at best,and the voice acting doesn’t help things either. Skylar might be mute, but it would have been much better for the game if she was the one talking and communicating with CRT.
Once you get through the game, what is there to do? After completing the game, I found that I had more than 80% of the captured Lo’a and completed all of the trophies up to that point. The only two remaining are to find all of the Lo’a and amass 10,000 collectibles (the yellow crystals). All of this done in a casual 168 minutes. A very short game that taking one’s time will net you all the trophies in no time and leave one with a bit of a headache due to all the technical issues it has.