SKIPCHASER is the first Steam release for the team over at Ponywolf, and they describe the game as a story-driven shooter with procedural levels with an emphasis on weapon customization. With that in mind, and upon first reading about it, it all sounds pretty compelling but, the more I played it, the more I saw its main flaws arise.
Genre: Action, RPG
Publisher: Ponywolf, LLC
Release date: 21 Mar, 2017
One thing that clearly strikes the eye right from the start is the colourful aesthetic which consists pretty much of 2D sprites. The visuals have a pretty stylish look to them, and they remind me of something else which I can’t quite put my finger on what that thing really is. In the same vein, the music is extraordinarily compelling and fits the theme of the game quite nicely.
Personally, I found that the story doesn’t make much sense but, to be fair, there isn’t enough to make out a proper cohesive plot from what’s going on. Still, on a small scale the premise is pretty simple, you arrive at an unknown planet with the mission of eliminating a criminal overlord in order to prepare said planet for a mining operation. Besides that, I found the dialogue to be somewhat convoluted, partially because, while there is some dialogue between characters but when you’re fighting inside a dungeon it is hard to fight and read the text at the same time. It would be great if the player would have to press a specific key in order to advance in the dialogue as it would make things a lot easier to follow.
The game is, in essence, a top-down shooter with some dungeon crawling elements. As you play the game you’ll unlock dungeons which you can revisit in this hub-like area and these dungeons are procedurally generated. Nevertheless, having played through the 7 dungeons which are currently available, plus an infinite one, I can say that, while the color scheme of each of them seems to be unique, the layouts are extremely similar and you can easily spot the similarities very early on. These dungeons are very simple, with you only having to find the exit and proceed to the next level in order to succeed, you don’t even need to kill the enemies, which I find rather odd.
When you die in a dungeon you’re given three options, you can respawn where you died by paying 1500 credits, you can pay 500 credits to go back to the dungeon’s entrance, or you can go back to your ship for free. As far as I can tell, this is the only thing credits are used for at the moment but, considering this is still in development, it wouldn’t surprise me if this would change in the future. In any case, your ship also doesn’t have much use at the moment, there you can pick up a health kit to recover some health, teleport to the hub area or use the weapon workbench. The weapon workbench allows you to mix different weapon parts, which you can find inside dungeons, in order to change your base guns by adding damage modifiers, such as fire or poison, increasing the time it takes the weapon to overheat, amongst various other stats such as fire rate, dps, accuracy, range and knockback, which in a way acts as some sort of permanent progression.
The weapons are one of the main focus of the game, as it can clearly be seen given the point above. In that sense, one thing that dictates the pace of the game is the fact that weapons don’t use ammunition, they instead overheat if you keep firing them. When a weapon does overheat, your only option is either to switch to another weapon or use grenades. That said, I found grenades to be of no practical use because you can’t really tell where they’re going to land nor how far you’re going to throw them, which results in a lot of missed throws and accidents. On the other hand, you have access to three different weapons at all times. You have a slow firing one which deals high damage, another one with a medium fire rate and small one with a high fire rate but low damage. In any case, I didn’t find the need to use any other gun other than the medium one, which resembles a SMG, and the few times I did use another weapon was because the weapon overheated. The way I see it the other two guns don’t really have a specific purpose and you can pretty much only use one of them if you can avoid overheating.
One thing that ties to the gunplay is the fact that there is a brief delay between the moment you press the attack button and the moment you actually shoot, which translates in the player having to hold down the attack button for a brief period of time even if you just want to fire one bullet. I’m not sure if it was made like this on purpose for some reason but, personally, I quite hate it as it doesn’t help in giving the weapons and the shooting itself any sort of authentic feeling. As a side note, the fact that the game doesn’t have a pause option is somewhat unnerving and for some reason the frame rate seems to be locked at 62, which is rather odd, considering that it isn’t a particularly demanding title.
Right now, I’m not too comfortable in recommending SKIPCHASER for someone who’s looking for an entertaining game to last a few hours. If you exclude the endless dungeon mode, you can easily beat everything else in about 2 hours or so and, besides that, the game has some problems that really need addressing. The fact that enemies don’t have detailed animations and just run at you while attacking, even before they see you, makes them look like mindless robots. The AI needs some serious work, some enemies, throw grenades at you, and sometimes they’ll even throw them against walls only for them to bounce back and kill them, all because you’re on the other side of the wall. Sometimes they even walk on mines, which obviously ends up with them dying. Then there’s also the fact that, while the game does have some kind of bosses at the end of some of the dungeons, they seem to be just regular enemies with way more health points and are not interesting to fight in any particular way.
There’s also some minor stuff which is more tolerable once you get the hang of things, such as the fact that the game shows a controller layout when you’re using mouse and keyboard and the way the dungeon map is designed, which is a bit hard on the eyes. In the end, I don’t think that SKIPCHASER is necessarily a bad game, it has some good ideas and I feel that it has a place amongst many games like it, it just needs a lot more polish and content. I’d only recommend it to someone who’s willing to support the developers, provide feedback and be patient, because if you want a truly fleshed out product right now, your best bet is to give this one a pass for the time being.