Skylar & Plux are the latest duo to introduce themselves in the recent resurgence of 3D platformer games. The developers at Right Nice Games, based in Sweden have tried to capture the essence of platforming-duos from the likes of Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank and for the most part, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island achieves this across its beautifully varied environments.
Skylar and Plux journey through this island to stop the maniacal CRT, a computer intent of colonizing the world on which Clover Island is based. The game starts with Skylar, a cat-like humanoid strapped to a table in CRT’s lab while weapon modifications hardwired into her body. She soon manages to escape to Clover Island where she meets Plux, the most punny and puny of companions who pledges to help Skylar find CRT.
Something that did strike me as a negative quite early on is that Skylar has an unusually long stride when she moves around. This may seem a little petty to pick at, but I thought that Skylar’s movements could have been slightly slower for a smoother and more concise experience. I felt as though Skylar’s large stride made her move faster through environments than you want her to. It’s not that this affects the fluidity of the platforming at all, nor does it affect difficulty or frame rate – which is solid outside of a few hiccups in cutscenes – but it would just feel smoother.
The adventure starts in earnest by saving the Elder of the island from being captured, who then tasks you with collecting three Progenitor Ords scatter across the three regions: Clover Mountains, Forlorn Desert and CRT’s Citadel. She also asks to free her children from cages scattered across Clover Island and doing this will latter will increase Skylar’s hit points. Thankfully, the game isn’t a long-winded collectathon, which made for a more pleasant experience though the diverse environments of the island.
The game’s environments are actually enticingly gorgeous, with a snowy, mountainous area on Clover Mountains that exists above the tropical paradise. Forlorn Desert, by contrast, could have been a little more detailed, though it does get considerably better as you progress through it. Finally CRT’s Citadel is essentially the typical final area of most platformers where you storm the castle, and save the world, though this did present some of the best dialogue of the game and some surprising twists to the story.
Clover Island offers a combination of ball puzzles, which could involve reversing time or using a magnetic field to move objects around. These are all cleverly done, but provide only a moderate level of difficulty to complete. It’s still adds an unexpected by very welcome element beyond platforming that serves as a nice break from punching enemies and platforming.
The soundtrack compliments each environment very well, but there is a more technical issue at play with some of the audio. I often found the music played over character dialogue, where ducking the music’s volume beneath or increasing dialogue audio at these points would be beneficial to trying to get the most out of the simplistic story.
The game consistently pushes you to keep moving, never really letting you spend too much time in an area unless you want to be there – a fast travel option at each checkpoint is nice. The platforming segments were genuinely fun throughout the whole game, reminiscent of Jak & Daxter in that regard, while the gadgets feel more inspired by Ratchet & Clank. This works fine, but there was obviously room for originality here and sadly, tried and tested gadgets like the grappling beam and jetpack took priority.
Similarly, Plux actually has nothing to do in the game besides talking rubbish. He also just so happens to be a bird, so why couldn’t he help Skylar fly or glide across short distances, for instance? Why aren’t there short gameplay sections with Plux? The game has such great potential to grow into something bigger with a little more time to develop the characters and abilities.
Skylar & Plux does an exceptional job at giving us a beautiful 3D platformer with truly fun platforming sections, delightful puzzling elements and one-liners that had me laughing. The problem with the game is that it needs a bit more polish. While taking good inspiration from games like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank, it has taken on-board some pre-used traits that have become too much of a signature to those games. I feel more work on Skylar and Plux’s movement and character design would be a good start to reaching its own identity going further. This could be the start of a beautiful new platform game franchise.
Version tested: PlayStation 4