E3 2016 – Skylar & Plux Hands-On Preview – Return of the Mascot Platformer (PS4)
It’s kind of nice to see the mascot platformer making a return. Like so many gamers of my age, I count games like Banjo-Kazooie and Ratchet & Clank among my favorites of the previous generations — which is why it’s so nice to see them get a new shot at relevance with titles like Yooka-Laylee and the R&C reboot. And while I’ve never been a big fan of Crash Bandicoot, I certainly understand why his return is a huge deal. But while all of those games are direct descendants of platforming series from the ’90s and ’00s, there are also a handful of developers and publishers throwing their hats into the ring with new IP as well. I got a chance to try Grip Digital’s attempt at the genre, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island, and it seems like — with a little more time in the oven — this could be one of the best options for 3D platforming fans on PS4.
An “A” for Effort
The most interesting fact I gleaned from my conversation with Grip Digital is that it’s actually being built by a small team of five Swedish students, who have formed Right Nice Games as a means to finish their first-ever project. Now, that doesn’t mean the game will get a free pass when it comes to criticism, but it’s worth noting how impressive it’s looking for a product put together by a small team of students. Starting up the demo, I was particularly struck by the amount of detail that’s gone into the environments — where some developers have erred by placing platform after platform with little thought to the world around them, Right Nice have made sure to flesh out their levels with memorable set pieces and organic components that make the world feel more alive.
Off the Beaten Path
Not every player will stop to smell the roses, but Grip promised that the game will reward the players who do. Getting through each level’s a simple matter of moving from point A to point B, but the finished product will include plenty of collectibles and side paths for completionists to scour. And as for the main characters that will do all the platform-hopping and enemy-bopping, well, it was Skylar that handled all the action in my demo. Grip said that they were currently pushing Right Nice to find a meaningful gameplay mechanic for Plux; as it stands, he simply fills the Daxter/Kazooie role of “snide wisecracker.” For his part, though, Skylar controls very well and seems to have been outfitted with plenty of options to keep things from getting stale, including a super high jump and a hover ability.
Comfort in Familiarity
Of course, all of this might sound a little bit too familiar — even completely derivative — but if my demo experience was anything to go by, I think players will be too distracted by fun level design to care about the game’s lack of originality (a problem that, to be fair, is faced by just about every new title in the genre). I smoothly jumped my way through two or three different locations, and I was happy to feel that intuitive “rhythm” that’s the sign of a well-built platformer. If players are looking for a little something to tide them over until the Crash remasters launch next year, they might want to put Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island on their watch lists.