It’s a new year and time for a new set of previews, and the first of the year is SkyKeepers. This 2D action platformer, inspired by oceanic Austronesian culture, is the first game from Sword Twin Studios. While it is the first for the studio, the people behind it do have plenty of previous experience. Having played more than my share of 2D platformers, I begin the new year with one more. The unique setting has me intrigued, as I can’t recall another game inspired by oceanic Austronesian culture.
With the different setting one might imagine that the story would take precedent. That is a pretty safe assumption, as SkyKeepers is very story-heavy, which is a nice touch and something different for a 2D action platformer in the way it’s really at the forefront. The story revolves around chief Tangi and his village. After tragedy befalls him, he is turned to stone. One year later he awakens with his village in disrepair. His mission is to rebuild his village and himself.
The gameplay is that of a 2D action platformer but with RPG elements added in. Going through the levels, Tangi, of course, will run into enemies but also collect materials to craft recipes, crests and help in rebuilding the village. While Tangi has some basic attacks, there are also some special “power” attacks that can be performed and changed as you rebuild. So, the RPG elements aren’t just limited to improving the village. It will be interesting to see where they go from the early skills, as the preview build was limited to the first area of the game.
There is another interesting element to the attacks that also goes along with the platforming, and that is the teleportation-like ability. Any enemy that has been recently attacked can be teleported to, so Tangi can get right up in its face and bash away. This is especially handy for those enemies that can fly or if you have been knocked back out of the fight. It also has its use as a mechanic in the platforming, as large open areas are present and require you to teleport between different blocks to traverse the spaces or obstacles. Opening levels are usually much easier, and I can see it being relied on much more and to a greater effect as you advance further into the game.
Apart from the teleportation, the platforming available in the preview was pretty standard. Nothing overly hard, but again, it’s a limited preview, so things could indeed get much harder. The only other platforming ability I had encountered was the wall jump. The wall jump in SkyKeepers did take some getting used to, as each wall jump will launch you across, no creeping up the same wall with subsequent jumps. The level design worked well for it though, and I only encountered one small spot where it was a bit dodgy to get up.
The controls are good. No real sloppiness to be found. Everything was mapped to a place that made sense and was natural for the player. The music perfectly complements the feeling and tone of the game. The same can also be said for in-game sounds, everything seems to fit nicely in place.
The in-game art is also very well done. Everything is colorful, and like the music, really sets the tone of the game. The only thing that seemed a bit out of place was that the characters’ arms were rather long and legs relatively tiny. While the splines provide a smooth cycle in and of themselves, the proportions of leg to arm size do make it look slightly odd when running. This may be an intentional choice, of course, but it certainly made me give it a closer look to see what was going on.
Overall, SkyKeepers does look to be something to follow along with till its release. The story is very good and engaging in a way that most 2D platformer stories are not. The main story arc to start was brilliant, and I won’t spoil it, but immediately after Tangi wakes up, he’s tasked with helping one of the tribes people find “his kitten’s mother’s owner’s daughter”, and unless I transposed some of those words, that is what it said. After Tangi finds his daughter, he’s disgusted by the man. Why? Because he’s farming anise for Black Licorice, and Tangi hates that. Look, I hate Black Licorice too, but it seemed weird, especially given the events that had just transpired, although this might have just been a temporary mission to fill in for the preview. Other than that oddity, I was playing to see what happened next in the story rather than mostly ignoring the story to get to the playing parts like I would normally do. The story is strong, although with what I was limited to playing, it certainly seemed to overshadow the playing elements.
SkyKeepers has been Greenlit by the Stem community and is coming soon to Steam, PS4 and Xbox One.