All that is old is new again, it seems. The kids that grew up playing video games in the nineties are now of an age where many have set out to make
games, and in that endeavor many have taken to revisiting genres they loved 20 years ago. Recent retro-bit Metroidvanias and mascot-driven 3D platformers are storming the indie scene. Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island
is the latest to attempt to fit in among the latter. It gets the basics right, but it's best fitted as a game for a new generation of child gamers, not their nostalgic parents.Skylar & Plux
(S&P) is a 3D platformer that takes place on the titular Clover Island. A villainous AI named CRT has plans to destroy the island for reasons that essentially boil down to "because he's the bad guy". Players take the role of a thieving bipedal cat Skylar, who is tasked with saving the indigenous creatures from a hostile takeover and certain annihilation. Early into the journey she meets Plux, a bird donning pilot attire, who acts the sole voice between the two characters, although the Siri-like AI companion in Skylar's weaponized arm speaks sometimes, too.
The story is one of cliches, corny jokes, dated references, and simple arcs. This isn't a bad thing, exactly, as the genre to which S&P so closely adheres never needed much story anyway, if any. In fact, by the end of it all its story can be seen as a benefit to the game. In its simplicity, it can be attractive to what is perhaps inadvertently the game's demographic — children.
The game takes only three to four hours to complete, which may be a letdown to some. Along the way new gadgets are dished out and the enemies get a bit tougher, although only really due to their increasing numbers, as there's a lack of variety among the baddies. The gadgets allow Skylar to slow time, grapple to new areas, and magnetize any loose metal objects, like enemies or puzzle components. Almost never will a seasoned gamer be challenged by Skylar & Plux
. The puzzles are familiar, like mirror manipulation and sliding blocks around tiles. The combat is only initially any problem before you're bestowed with new gadgets and increase your health bar. The level design is intuitive so that even when you're given a big new open portion of the island to explore, you can follow the orange crystalline pick-ups around the map like a GPS to your next checkpoint.
Skylar & Plux features three major island sections, and they're quite varied from one another.
This sort of design, including the platforming in particular, is all at once nostalgic, reliable, and fun. Because it's all so easy, it feels like an introductory course into 3D platformers. To my knowledge the game was not billed as a children's game, but rather an homage to a bygone era. It does succeed in looking the part, but playing it out will be much too easy for anyone who isn't new to video games.
If it being too easy doesn't detract you from S&P, what remains is a brief but respectable love letter to the genre that is one of the few family-friendly narrative games to come out in quite some time. In the absence of movie tie-ins and games marketed strictly for them, the little kids who are just getting into gaming or may soon try have been left with few options. Skylar & Plux
fills that void, albeit somewhat unintentionally, making it a likely hit for any parents looking to play "pass the controller" with their children.
Yes, the jokes are lame, and yes, the story is riddled with generic motivations and tropes. But playing it with my four year old son showed me the game has tremendous value for a particular type of gamer, that being one who is much younger than most people reading this. The throwaway story became an emotional investment for him. He rooted for the heroic duo to come out victorious. He laughed out loud when Plux trolled the villain with words like "dingus" and "butt". Playing alone may have been an invitation for eyerolling, but infused with the energy and awe that my young gaming son brought to the experience, Skylar & Plux
reminded me what it was like when I first started playing games 20-something years ago.
There's nothing new to see in Skylar & Plux, unless you're new to and fascinated by the medium.
Even if you don't have any kids of your own and don't want a game to be so challenge-free, you may still want to invest in Skylar & Plux
because the achievement list is very easy. It offers 18 achievements in total and even most of the missable ones ask only simple tasks of the player. The ones you may want to look out for specifically, because they require you do them at one-off story moments that can't be returned to, are Hammertime
. They're both completed in the third of three hub worlds and, if missed, will require a nearly full game playthrough. Other than those, a few collectible achievements are the only ones you might have to grind after the brief story comes to an end, and even then they'll only take you another hour or so. In total, you can complete S&P in under five hours.
Having the right expectations with Skylar & Plux
is the key to enjoying it. Although its desire to replicate and resurrect the 3D platformer is handled well with reliable mechanics and familiar design, it seems to have forgotten to age the difficulty level in stride with its nostalgic but now adult demographic. In that fault also lies its greatest attribute, paradoxically. Because the game is well produced but just too easy, it ultimately serves as a great family game to experience with the next generation of 3D platforming fans. The puerile jokes, the hand-holding level design, and the forgiving difficulty won't keep a veteran video game enthusiast busy for long, but it may be the eye-opening, family-friendly experience a child in your life will remember for years to come.
- A simple but worthy introduction to the genre
- A great game to play with your kids
- Fun, reliable, nostalgic mechanics
- Too easy for seasoned gamers
- Lack of enemy variety
- Playing as a solo adult will be forgettable
The reviewer spent just under four hours on Clover Island, punching robots, traversing all sorts of platforms, and remaining straight-faced at the jokes. His four year old liked them, though. 16 of 18 achievements were collected for 850 gamerscore. An Xbox One copy was provided by ID@Xbox for this review.