When you look at a 2D action game that features mini-Metroidvania stages, it definitely seems promising. However, is SkyKeepers a worthwhile experience after persevering through its glitches and inherent frustration?
You play as Tangi who's a village chief. The story involves him having to protect his home from evil spirits and many tragic events unfold throughout. That being said, the story definitely seems tacked-on as it's told through simple dialogue sequences in between stages. Anyway, you control Tangi as you would in most 2D action games where you run, jump, and attack enemies. A few complexities include being able to cling to and jump off walls (as if you're Mega Man X), parrying and dodging, and unleashing special moves that deplete your power. Probably the most interesting is the Spirit Walk ability which allows you to warp to certain floating points and into staggered enemies mid-air. This creates an additional layer of strategy as beating on an enemy only to watch them fly away then warp to them to perform a few more attacks and end their life is actually pretty cool.
All of that being said, SkyKeepers quickly devolves into a mindless button-masher. After mastering its couple of unique qualities which takes about a few minutes, the gameplay becomes unvaried as you mostly just battle hordes of enemies in closed-off arenas. SkyKeepers' visuals suffer from a similar sense of mediocrity. Characters are animated as if they're ripped from a browser game while the environments (of which there are only three) are mostly dark and lifeless. The music consists of tribal drums that sound neat at first but the tracks repeat far too frequently. Also, the sound effects are as generic as the visuals.
When it comes to stage design, SkyKeepers leaves a lot to be desired. Many stages use repeated rooms from previous stages which comes across as lazy. On the other hand, the Metroidvania setup of each area provides a sense of exploration. Probably the most enjoyable part of the stages is finding a tricky challenge room that has you traverse it as quickly as possible in order to unlock a new item but many of these turn into tests of patience instead of rewarding distractions. The most frustrating aspect is the platforming because jumping is stiff at best so trying to land on thin columns or weave through spiky hazards is nothing short of irritating.
As if mediocre and often annoying gameplay isn't enough, SkyKeepers is full of glitches. As you can see in a couple of the screenshots, I got completely stuck and unable to progress multiple times. Not only that, I had the game completely crash. I even found a way to make it crash without fail simply by going to the shop in the village, selecting an item to buy, then pushing left on the quantity screen. I seriously don't understand how a game with this many glitches was released. It ends up feeling like it's still in the pre-alpha phase.
I should mention that there are three stores in the village that you can upgrade and buy items, craft accessories, and learn skills from. However, I found all of this to be completely unnecessary. All you need to do to succeed is buy tons of potions from the shop which are very cheap then use them liberally in tough situations. There you have it; now anyone can finish the campaign with no skill required.
SkyKeepers is one of those games that gets on your nerves for all the wrong reasons. The amount of glitches hampers the mediocre and irritating gameplay to the point where I can't imagine anyone getting enjoyment out of what SkyKeepers has to offer.
- + Some challenges are enjoyable to master
- + The Spirit Walk ability adds an interesting dynamic to combat
- - Gameplay is generic and repetitive
- - Stages are tedious with repeated rooms and frustrating platforming
- - Way too many severe glitches