[Review] Skelattack – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: Ukuza
  • Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
  • Release Date: 02/06/2020
  • Price: $19.99 / £15.99
  • Review code provided by Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.
  • Reviewed on Version 1.0.0

Introducing: Skelattack Switch Review

Growing up in the ’90s, I was no stranger to the Konami name. Even though I never sought out games specifically by them, I had plenty: Contra, Castlevania, Zombies Ate My Neighbors and many more. When Konami slowly stopped making new experiences in the gaming market, a bit of my childhood was dying. Thankfully, they never fully stopped drip feeding us some nostalgia from time to time, especially with the wonderful Collection series last year. Now when a new Konami game drops, it feels like a special treat. Having Skelattack release out of nowhere caused some intrigue here at the Nintendad Manor. Does it satiate our need for new content? Read on, my lovely skeletons, to find out!

Into the Vale

Skelattack begins with two unlikely heroes, Skully and Imber, a scrappy skeleton and cute bat, respectively. Skully is recently deceased, living in Aftervale, the underworld and because of this, must go on his remembrance. This process involves coming to terms with one’s life prior to death. Before he can complete this, the humans attack. Sadly, this is a normal occurrence, until it’s not. The elder has been kidnapped and they want the Blue Flame, the source of all undead life. Our buddy duo set out to reclaim peace for the afterlife and learn just how far the dead can go.

The overall tone for Skelattack is lighthearted, but it can delve into more serious moments such as searching for meaning in one’s existence. Skully and Imber make these moments more enjoyable as their back and forth banter fleshes out our protagonists. The writing is quite funny, but there are moments when a joke seems to fall flat. One such instance involved a duo of boss characters making a back and forth about how they were going to overcome the monsters. Imber makes a snide remark towards one of the enemies and his pal agreed. If the joke stopped there, it would have been better, but the exchange continued for a few more lines, making it feel very forced.

Skeleton Boy in Human World

The developers at Ukuza have created an action-RPG with DNA from early titles like Wonderboy to modern hits such as Dark Souls. Sometimes, it shines beautifully, like a candle in the darkness. Other times, it feels like they missed their dodge roll and fell into a giant pit of spikes. The atmosphere and most of the levels are designed fairly well. The four main areas in which you travel feel unique from one another and they never feel like they overstay their welcome. The combat is a mixed bag. It is very simple and easy to understand, but when you hit an enemy, it never feels good. What I mean is that it feels like you aren’t doing any damage to the enemies until they die. Maybe a better way of describing it is that there is a lack of weight to the hits.

Boss fights feel balanced but can swing towards the easy side. I only died once during a boss fight and it wasn’t even the final boss, which was a letdown. I enjoy a challenging boss fight and don’t mind having to experience it a few times to get the pattern down. I felt this was never the case, as I was able to just wail on the bosses and they were done. This was a major contrast to the platforming, which provided the most challenge I have experienced in an action-RPG. This was not due to expertly crafted platforming that required pinpoint accuracy, rather of spikes that had hitboxes the size of Texas. There were times I would land next to a spike and die. This caused many frustrating encounters because your currency is lost upon dying and just like in the Souls games, if you do not reclaim it before dying again, it is gone forever.

I am normally a fan of the risk-reward dynamic found in these types of games, yet this seemed a bit unfair. My crystals would be unreachable as they were not just near the spikes, they would be IN the spikes. Meaning I would have to die to reclaim them, and if you die while getting them back, you lose the old crystals plus more. Upgrading your abilities requires crystals, so if you want to have better use of them, you will need to be a platforming expert, or grind a lot.

Cuphead, is that You?

One of the best aspects of Skelattack is its design. Skully and Imber look delightfully cartoony. It’s very similar to Cuphead in style, but not as rooted in the ’20s and ’30s aesthetic. The stars of the show are all the denizens of Aftervale. Each character animates with great care, but the same cannot be said for the humans – with one exception being the final boss. Most of their designs just seem very basic, which is sad considering the rest of the characters.

The music was quite whimsical. Many of the songs called to mind the likes of Danny Elfman and his work with Corpse Bride and Nightmare Before Christmas. If you are a fan of his work, then the pieces that Jamal Green put together will bring joy to your ears. My favorite piece is Aftervale’s main theme, which is like a mix of Cuphead & Nightmare. This juxtaposition is memorable, and even when not playing, the tune gets stuck in my head.

Easy Transition

Skelattack ran pretty well on all accounts. Whether I was playing in docked or handheld mode, there was not a drastic change in framerate or graphics. I did notice moments during the game that would cause a weird stutter, though. This usually occurred during, or after, an interaction between two characters. It was never something that damaged the game, but it was still noticeable.

Final Thoughts

My initial response to Skelattack being announced and published, by Konami no less, gave me a mix of excitement and confusion. After spending a few hours with the title, I am a bit frustrated. I enjoyed the storytelling, design and music, but found myself beyond exasperated with the gameplay. The combat felt muddy and too easy while the platforming felt overly difficult and just not fun. That is not to say there were no good moments, just that they were sometimes few and far between. While some of the mechanics were not great, it had character. I’m hopeful that a patch can fix some of these issues in the future or that Ukuza will get it right on their next title.

Pros

  • Great buddy duo
  • Lovely cartoony design
  • Danny Elfman-inspired tracks

Cons

  • Overly difficult platforming
  • Combat doesn’t have weight
  • Human enemies were bland

Verdict

Skelattack was a modest start for Ukuza’s venture into the action-RPG genre. While not all the mechanics worked perfectly well, the writing and characters make it somewhat enjoyable.

2.5/5

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