Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island Review – Garden Variety (PS4)
You know what we don’t see enough of anymore? 3D platformers. Sure, there have been plenty of Ratchet and Clank iterations and Disney Infinity could also scratch that itch from time to time, but the genre is a shadow of what it was during the first two iterations of the PlayStation lifecycle. Thankfully, now that independently developed games like Yooka-Laylee have resuscitated the 3D platformer, it only seems fitting that others are beginning to follow suit. Another such release is Right Nice Games’ freshman outing, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island. But can a pidgin and mechanically augmented feline match the appeal of everyone’s favorite lombax and robot duo?
Searching for Answers
Skylar, who just so happens to be one of the titular characters, is a mysterious mouser with virtually no backstory to speak of. All she knows is that one day she woke up with a weird bionic appendage and no recollection of her past. Convenient, huh? She somehow finds herself jettisoned from a space station that she escaped from, crash landing on the equally unexplained Clover Island. Soon after exiting her crash-landed vessel, she randomly crosses paths with a bird named Plux, who ever-so-conveniently happens to know everything about the landmass. Apparently, an evil disembodied monitor named CRT, who just so happens to be the same creature that was holding Skylar captive on the space station, has also invaded the same island. Seeing no other alternatives, Skylar and Plux team up, in hopes of purging this maniacal presence from the planet.
For what it tries to accomplish, Skylar & Plux is the definition of a competent action platformer. It features plenty of running, jumping, smashing and bashing. And did I mention there are collectibles? Boy, are there collectibles! Clover Island is littered with these odd gem-like objects (think the gears in Ratchet and Clank) that are used to free the inhabitants of the island that have apparently been locked away in cages. Why are they locked away? That isn’t really clearly defined, but when you’re already playing a game as an anthropomorphized cat with a robot arm, it’s suffice to say that this is the furthest question from your mind.
As Skylar and Plux navigate the island, it becomes apparent that the kitty’s android limb is far more than merely a steampunk decoration. The arm itself has the ability to be imbued with a series of different abilities, most of which are primarily used to help solve in-game puzzles. Skills such as the ability to use your arm as a grappling swing, Bionic Commando style, are just a taste of things to come. Eventually powers such as slowing time, jumping between dimensions and even the ability to stop projectiles in mid-flight, all make an appearance.
Another key element of the game’s design is its open level structure. While there’s one rather clearly defined path that needs to be followed in order to progress, there are plenty of forks in the road that are in the player’s best interest to explore. After all, why else would the developers go to all of the trouble of adding additional paths, if there wasn’t a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? In most cases, at the end of these detours there are caged birds awaiting your rescue. Freeing these birds will eventually pay dividends, in the form of increases to the length of the health bar. It’s key to leave no stones unturned. Thankfully, there is plenty of variety in each of the four primary environments, so exploration will never grow too stale.
The Voice of Concern
Aside from checking all of the key mechanical boxes that you would associate with a game in the genre, the narrative also follows the standard formula of a lighthearted storyline, complete with goofy banter in droves. While at some points the dialog borders on insultingly saccharine, it does tend to develop a bit more of an edge later on in the campaign.
At least initially I found any conversations to be borderline intolerable, in an, “is this an episode of the Andy Griffith show?” kind of way. There were just too many “gosh-darn” and “golly-gee” types of groan-worthy lines for my liking. It also didn’t help matters much that the actual voice performances seemed rather wooden and at some points borderline amateur. At the risk of sounding too nit picky, I should also mention that there were even a handful of cases were words in the script were clearly mispronounced. Pro-Tip: The word “plumage” does not have a “b” in it. It’s not pronounced, “plumbage.” However, at around the half-way point a combativeness really starts to bubble up between Plux and CRT. This is when the back-and-forth exchanges become far more bearable and at some points even enjoyable.
In addition to the dialog, there’s an additional area of concern that immediately pulled me out of the experience: the camera controls. To call them troublesome would be probably be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was still a genuine issue that result in plenty of frustration. Though the camera controls were mapped exclusively to the right stick, there were times where the camera seemed to take on a life of its own. Regardless of whether the developers were trying to pull focus towards something going on in the world or just simply to avoid clipping through an environmental object, taking away camera controls when not in a cinematic is inexcusable for a 3D platformer. I lost count of how many times these always poorly timed incidences resulted in poor Skylar plummeting to her demise. Additionally, there were still plenty of cases where I was able to clip either character models or the actual camera itself right through walls, bouncing mushrooms, mesh fences or even enemies.
It’s hard to talk about a game like Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island without the phrase, “garden-variety” coming to mind. To put it rather bluntly, it’s a garden-variety platformer, featuring garden-variety combat mechanics and a garden-variety narrative. There is nothing especially wrong with the game in any respect. It just doesn’t necessarily do anything overly special in any specific areas either. It’s a perfectly fine way to spend three hours of your life, as long as you go in with tempered expectations. Remember: sometimes simply being good enough is more than enough.
Review code for Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.