He has a bone to pick with those so-called heroes! Skul: the Hero Slayer Review


The hero in the story always wins, why else are they they hero, right? They are the righteous ones, defenders of good, destroyers of evil. At least that is what the stories want you to believe. But what if I told you that sometimes, evil does not come in the shape of a monstrous shape but is actually hidden behind the face of an angel? Who becomes the true and unlikely hero of this story?

What is it?
Skul: Hero slayer is a game about Skul, a small insignificant skeleton who lives in with other skeletons and all sorts of other monsters and demons in their own carved out piece of habitat in the evil underworld. You wake as you suffered a particular brutal attack from the humans. The imperial army led by the hero of Caerleon has over run the Demon Kinds castle and imprisoned everyone save for Skul. With the help of a mysterious Witch and a cast of monster allies, it is now Skul's task to make those heroes pay for their mistake in overlooking him and to rid his homeworld of its occupiers. But it will take time and a lot of  tries, over and over and over again.


Game play

At its heart Skul is another entry in a long line of Roguelite action platformers. This means you will have to expect to die a lot , especially in the beginning as you get overwhelmed by the enemies you face over and over again. Each time your items and money are lost and you find yourself back at the beginning. Save for some collected crystals which you can trade to gain some skill upgrades. Over time you will get stronger, faster, sturdier. Each time you go back into the world it will be a little bit different due to the randomly generated levels.  


Skul starts out packing light with only a severed femur and his head at his disposal. Yes I said his head as by pulling the left trigger he can fling his skull across the field and hit an enemy right in the face. But not only that, he subsequently  can also teleport back to his skull with the push of the right trigger. With a snappy dash to step out of the way of any attacks combat becomes a game of reading the telegraphed attacks of the enemies , avoid them and counter. 


But that is not all Mr. Bones has going for them. Throughout the world Skul will find other skulls. He can swap them for his worn and by doing so gain new powers that he normally does not have available.  Each new skull or head comes with new advantages and disadvantages. From a sword wielding warrior or mini groot looking tree to a Rockstar complete with electric guitar solos and thumping speakers.  There are over 50 skulls in the game to find and try and over time you will get familiar with which ones will best fit your play style.


Presentation
With impressive pixel art style, full of color and background animations ,Skul delivers an experience that is charming, endearing and easy on the eyes. Some of the skull and enemy designs vary from imposing to hilarious and each feels distinct from another.

The soundtrack varies from melancholy sounding piano rolls in quiet areas to chest thumping combat music during a hero boss fight. It is an impressive soundtrack to could fit well with any of your bigger RPG's out there and I felt that in the music department this game is definitely above its weight class.


The combat feels tight and impactful. The way each enemy has their own animations that telegraph their next attack puts it on the player to react and counter in the most effective way. However in some instances where the random generator spawns a lot of enemies things easily devolve into a button mash fest and hope for the best.


Final thoughts
Skul:the hero slayer is a charming entry in a long line of roguelike game. It is released as we left 2020 behind us with some strong lineup in that genre. From that perspective this is a solid entry for the new year and sets big expectations for those other rogue likes still to follow.


However the fact the games genre also means there are a lot of restarts, do overs and backtracking. Especially early in the game. Trying to figure out what does what and then to be unlucky with one of the many traps, hazards or enemies, just to do it all over again can wear on you.  I still prefer my action platformers to be more straight forward in their progression and get that feel of growth that takes much longer time with these games. But once it clicks and you start leveling up your traits, you get a little bit further and feel a little less helpless each time. And you want to start again because you want to see what is beyond the next part.

Skul is available now on Steam and will be 20% for the next ten days.

Game information
Title: Skul: the Hero Slayer
DeveloperSouthPAW Games
PublisherNEOWIZ
Release date: January 19,  2021
Platforms: PC ( Steam), Console editions will come later in 2021.
Review platform:  PC ( Steam)
ESRB: N.A (But fun for all)

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