Ratchet and Clank have given the world of platforming a lot to get excited about recently. Insomnia’s sparling reimagining of 2002’s enchantingly double-entendre-riddled Ratchet and Clank is headed for release tomorrow (or next week for Europeans), and with the partnered film just around the corner, there has never been a better time for platforming fiends to look back fondly on the many hours of crayon-hued hub worlds, idiosyncratic gizmos and wide casts of cartoonish characters.
Skylar and Plux draws from the figurehead platformers of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and flings them forward in a contemporary, 1080p jacket. The game follows two unlikely heroes who embark on a journey to thwart the formidable intentions of antagonist, CRT, who intends to turn their home into a wasteland. Despite its need for a little more tweaking yet, Stockholm-based developer Right Nice Games presented a beguiling opportunity for fans to relive some of platforming’s best moments at EGX Rezzed 2016.
Developer: Right Nice Games, Grip Digital
Publisher: Grip Digital
Previewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: PS4, PC
Release Date: 2016
The premise is noticeably Ratchet and Clankian – right down to the Chairman Drek character pursuing universal annihilation – but right now the game feels more nostalgic than unoriginal. The anthropormorphic wolf character Skylar takes the reigns of the narrative as the pseudo-mechanical creation of the evil CRT. Intended as a powerful weapon, Skylar is forced to defy CRT, pursuing justice against her will (an interesting, amusing spin on the typical goody-two-shoes-hero), whilst finding herself in the lovable companionship of a goofy little owl named Plux, who incidentally proves rather handy during the game’s platforming segments.
As with many platformers, Skylar and Plux implements a range of mechanics and systems to aid speedy traversal across rifts, chasms and ravines. Whilst its storyline echoes Ratchet and Clank, mechanics feel more comparable to Banjo Kazooie. In addition to platforming bread-and-butter jumping, your lovable owl companion serves as a nifty tool for hovering between more distanced platforms. Skylar able to pull out movable sections of wall to land on by way of the Xbox Controller’s trigger buttons, as well as use an airborne pound attack.
Whilst mechanics are clearly defined and purposeful in theory, however, controls in the demo felt clunky and ever so slightly convoluted. Jumping is unresponsive, unnecessarily complicating some of the wider leaps, and although the game wears its 90’s inspirations on its sleeve, some of the reactions still feel stuck in the PS1 era, proving a bigger hit with frustration than it does with nostalgia.
The game’s visuals, though, are quite another matter. Sprung from the belly of Unreal Engine 4, Skylar and Plux’s world looks like Crash’s Wumpa Island meets Going Commando’s Endako, with heap-fulls of Jak and Daxter stirred in. Whilst exploring this high-def, newfangled world, I was simultaneously watching the worlds I’d rallied with in my youth collide – for lovers of Playstation and N64 classics, Skylar and Plux’s world could be something very special.
Although it’s evident that the game needs a little work, the demo was undeniably promising. The notion of revisiting gaming’s past is incredibly popular now, and the release of Ratchet and Clank is sure to get audiences excited for more entries around the ‘platforming golden age’, after its long hiatus from the wider public eye. Skylar and Plux is planned for release later in 2016, so platforming nuts won’t have long to wait, and in addition to the Xbox One, the unlikely duo will be stomping their way to both PS4 and PC.