Recent interest in games like Yooka Laylee and the upcoming Crash Bandicoot remastered has proven that gamers are itching to get their hands on some good 3D action adventure platformers. Skylar and Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is one of the latest that attempts to bring back some of the magic that gamers have come to expect from games within this genre. But does Skylar and Plux jump, dodge, and climb its way to victory? Or does it miss the mark, fall off the cliff, and plummet to its doom?
The premise of Skylar and Plux is very simple. You play as a mute feline heroine named Skylar who has been captured by an evil super computer named CRT. Think of CRT as a less powerful, far less threatening version of Skynet. CRT erases Skylar’s memories and attaches a talking mechanical arm to her (conveniently named “ARM”) in the hopes of using her as a weapon.
Of course, things don’t go as planned and Skylar escapes to Clover Island where she meets a “wise-cracking” bird by the name of Plux. Plux and the inhabitants of the island inform Skylar of how CRT has been terrorizing their island in an attempt to extract its resources. They come up with a plan to not only stop CRT but restore Skylar’s memories as well. Thus the team of Skylar, Plux, and ARM set off on a whimsical adventure.
The plot is very lighthearted and does not have any depth whatsoever. I have no problem with this in the slightest. My problem is with the dialogue from the characters, namely the sidekick and villain. Plux offered up some of the driest, most cringe-worthy lines I have ever heard in a video game. A typical sidekick in this genre offers up some amusing and creative punch lines that provide balance to the seriousness of the hero. However, the dynamic between Skylar and Plux felt forced and completely fell flat. Their relationship does not develop at all during the adventure. Since Skylar does not talk, you are forced to listen to Plux ramble on the whole time which was a missed opportunity indeed.
CRT is supposed to be the villain but never came off as threatening. In fact, I never took him seriously. These characters were extremely stale and it was like the writers just didn’t know what to say. It’s like they played great games like Jak and Daxter, tried to come up with their own lines based on what they heard and got lost in translation of what it means to deliver dialogue that is charming and rewarding to the ears.
In typical 3D platforming fashion, you can expect to do a lot of jumping, solve a few puzzles, and pummel a few enemies. Not much more to it than that. Skylar’s arm gets a few power-ups along the way such as Time Manipulation and a Magnetic ability that do break up the monotony and increase the fun factor a bit. The time altering mechanics were pretty cool, having you slow down time to traverse certain platforms and solve puzzles. The magnetic ability allows you to put together broken platforms that can save you from falling to your doom. You can also use it to pick up robots and hurl them out of your way or into other enemies.
My problem with the gameplay is the fact that there are only about 3 enemy types. That’s it. Granted, the game is only 3 to 4 hours in length, so it could be argued that there doesn’t need to be more variety. Well, if that is the case, they could have at least made the enemies more challenging. Most just jump at you or stand in one place and shoot, making the “firefights” extremely boring.
From a technical standpoint, the game ran very poorly in several sections of the game. Do you remember how sluggish frame rates would get back in the Sega Genesis and NES days? Well, I experienced this again first-hand. The game slows down to a crawl when too much is happening on the screen at once which is unacceptable this day and age in gaming. Hopefully, there is a patch coming in the near future, because a platformer needs to be fluid to be truly enjoyable, and Skylar and Plux is not.
The art style is cartoony and colorful, which is to be expected. The game does a good job of switching environments which keeps things interesting. You start off in a lush green environment which isn’t anything spectacular but pleasing to the eyes nonetheless. Then you move on to desert and ice-ridden areas which are beautifully crafted. You will notice texture pop-ins as you traverse the environment, which can throw you off a bit, but nothing that will totally take you out of the experience. The character models themselves are not overly detailed, but they are well done and believable, and that’s all that matters in a game like this.
The musical score is downright joyful. This is the kind of music that puts you in a state of sheer delight. The only issue I had with the music is that I found that it would often drown out the character’s dialogue. Sure, you could simply turn down the music a bit in the settings, but who wants to do that? There should be an equal balance between music and dialogue audio. True, as I stated previously, the dialogue isn’t anything worth hearing, but you may want to know what is going on all the same.
Despite all of my gripes, I don’t think Skylar and Plux is a horrible game. It does a few things right such as the platforming mechanics and the interesting ideas on display during the time manipulation and magnetic sequences. However, the dull characters and terrible frame rate issues left a bad taste in my mouth. Granted, the game is cheap. With its low price, I can get past the cringe-worthy characters. However, I can not excuse the game’s poor optimization as this hurts the gameplay experience. That is unacceptable at any price.
With 3 to 4 hours of play time, limited fun factor, and a less than appealing cast of characters, you won’t get much out of Skylar and Plux Adventure on Clover Island. Enter at your own risk.