I find it no exaggeration to say that Skelattack is the best game to come out of Konami since Metal Gear Solid V.
Konami have done a great job of rekindling a fire underneath Bomberman and done some solid re-releases for their classic IP, but as far as a brand new game goes, Skelattack offers the right balance of everything for entertainment and longevity.
Skelattack is a fantastic reminder of the classic Konami games of old like Castlevania – the tricky platforming sections, biting wit, and high production values – and a fantastic launchpad for the companies new independent focus.
Basically, Skelattack is very reminiscent of Cuphead, even down to its unique animation style. But especially the rough difficulty that will see you lose life after life, often in the most frustrating of ways.
Unlike Cuphead, though, there’s less of an emphasis on the big, grandiose boss battles, and more of a spotlight on storytelling.
Skully and his best friend familiar, Imber, just want to celebrate Remembrance Day, a time when the dead come to terms with their life and accept their passing, but when humans invade Aftervale, Skully and Imber find themselves fighting to preserve the Underworld.
Skelattack has you jumping between the slimmest of platform, leaping from wall to wall, and even flying between areas in an effort to ensure life remains after death.
It’s a neat premise that has some Pixar charm to it, and there’s even nods and winks to Lucasarts classic, Grim Fandango. I actually really enjoyed the relationship between Skully and Imber, but the game also takes some interesting turns, particularly as relates Skully’s past life.
Despite being able to speak to characters throughout the course of the game, this is far from an RPG. Most of the time you’re collecting keys to unlock doors or opening up pathways for shortcuts and plot development.
That said, your Bone Sword will gradually get new upgrades and in true Metroidvania style, you’ll gain new abilities throughout which enable you to traverse through previously unnavigable areas. This keeps the whole thing feeling fresh, and usually at the right time before you’re ready to throw your controller out the window.
As mentioned, the game is at its harshest and most brutal when traversing the levels themselves. The layout is purposefully designed to make you die and die again. Sometimes you’ll have to avoid spikes propping out of either side of a wall and carefully move between them. Other times you’ll have the smallest amount of space to land after a jump, otherwise you’re killed.
The game has lots of blue lanterns scattered around which work like checkpoints essentially. Pass through them and anytime you’re killed you’ll respawn in that spot. Skully has unlimited lives, so you can die as many times as you like and there’s often a tally to be found to rub in just how badly you’re doing. By about the first section, I’d already died way too much and far more than in the last few games I’ve played.
Once you get over the game’s cruel intentions, though, the experience can feel surprisingly relaxing. You’ll gradually cruise through each environment, collecting blue diamonds – and likely losing them – fighting humans of all types, and avoiding spinning wheels of doom.
All told, Skelattack is a great little platformer. It can feel imbalanced and frustrating at times, but the game’s dialogue, smart mechanical adjustments, level variety and style really win you over. It never feels like it’s a game you cannot win, unlike some others in the genre. You always feel like each step is achievable and location reachable, even if it takes you twenty times or more to get there.
If this is the kind of quality we can expect from Konami in the years ahead, there could well be a renaissance on the cards. Frankly, not a moment too soon. They have Ukuza Games to thank for crafting a compelling, stunning, and overall, very entertaining platformer that, surprisingly, you’ll be smiling through as opposed to grimacing.
Skelattack is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC
Played on PS4
Code provided by PR