In this day and age when dozens of new video games are churned out every week, it’s understandable that originally can be difficult to find. Some games are, or at least considered, to be ‘replicas’ or ‘cheap knock-offs’, and unfortunately when players notice these startling similarities they no longer care, albeit notice, that what they’re playing is still a pretty good game. The reason I’ve begun my article in this manner is because this game I’m reviewing has suffered from this unfair scrutiny on social media, and admittedly by me when I first loaded it up, however underneath the oddly familiar scent is a rather strong copy, nay homage, to classic 3D platformers, and what’s wrong with that?
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is an old-school 3D platformer/adventure game developed by the very small band of Swedes at Right Nice Games, out now for PS4, XboxOne and Steam. The game sees you play as Skylar Lynxe, a kick-ass female space thief, who after being captured by the evil CRT has a powerful talking glove attached to her, ultimately leading to her escape and crash landing on Clover Island where she meets Island resident Plux Owley. Together Skylar and Plux must remove the evil presence on the island and rescue the locals, a task easier said than done by all means. Taking an obvious inspiration from Ratchet & Clank, you’ll whack enemies with your arm and stumble across powerful tools to aid you in your quest, from a Jet-Pack to a time defying orb, you’ll need everything at your disposal to defeat CRT and his robotic minions. Everything about this game screams Ratchet & Clank, and on their website Right, Nice Games have said they’ve made “a passionate homage to 3D platformers of our youth”, but is it just that? A tribute? Or does Skylar & Plux stand tall and step away from the elephant-in-the-room-shaped shadow casting over it?
Skylar & Plux’s story is a rather familiar one, however, unlike the story that seems to have inspired it, this one falls flat. After escaping from a maniacal space villain, our protagonist escapes into a capsule and crash lands on to an exotic planet, where she meets her soon to be bezzie and the world that needs saving. Aside from a slight bit of role reversal, this should ring a few bells. Where Skylar & Plux wilts in terms of its narrative is its lack of excitement and pace on a grand scale that make it pretty unremarkable in comparison to the big dogs on the shelves. Of course, it’s understandable that for a very small team they don’t have mega bucks to splash out on glitz and glamour, but an exciting, meaningful, driving story can come for nothing and it’s quintessential for a platformer, in my opinion anyway. Skylar & Plux may be billed as an homage to 3D platformers of our youth, however in my youth, I remember zany heroes, outrageous villains, and a diabolically daft storyline, and unfortunately, these are nowhere to be seen on Clover Island.
In each of the platforming titles this game takes inspiration from, sidekicks take a pivotal role in the success and likeability of the team, however here the only thing Plux provides to the team is dialogue, bland, tedious and uncharismatic dialogue at that. With Skylar being the silent protagonist too, having a talking sidekick seemed like a crucial and important factor to get right, however, what Plux brings to the table is the same level of encouraging, witty conversation as a fly landing on your ear. This rocky dialogue, unfortunately, stretches throughout the entire adventure, whether it be coming from Plux or the goofy unthreatening villain CRT, all communication between everyone is a little awkward and unconvincing, to say the least. This is a tremendous shame and poor match up as with Skylar not talking and Plux ultimately talking to himself, I simply didn’t, or to be more precise couldn’t care for this mighty duo.
Right, Nice Games may have missed the mark when it came to writing their story, however they absolutely nailed the gameplay. Nothing you do in Skylar & Plux will surprise you, jump on this, swing on that, but because it’s done so well it’s a wonderful throwback and a very enjoyable experience. You’ll be tasked with your typical objectives from the off, kill these enemies, jump on this floating platform, rescue the marshmallowy locals, but because each level is riddled with perilous obstacles and baddies it’s just as challenging as you’d hope it to be. From the slightly out of reach ledge to the devilish gatling-gun wielding robot, there’s a lot to both enjoy and become viciously frustrated with, classic platformer feels you’ll all agree. Combat, though not bad, is just a little too simple considering all Skylar can do is punch, spin, and slam, however, because you’ll be challenged by both the enemies and the landscape you’ll be too distracted to notice how boring your actions are. As you progress through Clover Island you’ll become stronger and better equipped with immense technology to help you overthrow the evil CRT, and once you find these upgrades the game gets a little more challenging, meaning no matter how far you’re through the game you’ll be pushed to the limit, like those good ole platformers you love as a youth; Clover Island to is filled with vibrant, lush environments that will also instantly feel and look like those platformers you loved as a youth.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island was supposed to be a tribute to some of the world’s most beloved 3D platformers, and in some ways, it soars, but in some ways, it plummets. In regards to the gameplay, what’s on offer is what you’d expect from those platformers of old, the challenging enemies, the treacherous landscapes and the radiant backdrops, all here and all executed to high satisfaction. On the flip side, it’s a grave disappointment that the same level of creativity and imagination, unfortunately, hasn’t followed through in front of the camera, what with the lack of banter or even character between the cast and the dull story they’re trying to tell. For a game that is so obviously inspired by Ratchet & Clank (a franchise which holds a very special place in my heart), surely what I should be suggesting is to simply play that instead, but that wouldn’t be fair. Sure it may be trying to replicate everything that makes those games so great, but Right Nice Games have admitted that, so don’t think of this as “a poor man’s Ratchet & Clank”, think of this as “a passionate team’s proud achievement”, and you should reward them for their effort.