Paying homage to Ratchet & Clank and some of the other great 3D puzzle platformers series, Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island is a good start to a potential new series.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Casual
Developer: Right Nice Games, Grip Digital
Publisher: Grip Digital
Release Date: 19 May, 2017
Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island features an unlikely duo: a cat and a bird. Skylar, an anthropomorphic blue feline with a robotic arm, is suffering amnesia after the evil CRT stole her memories. It’s not exactly clear what events transpired prior to the game that lead to Skylar having a robotic arm or to be in the clutches of CRT or even why CRT rebuilt her and stole her memories. What is clear is that Skylar wasn’t a willing participant in whatever his plan was for her. After escaping CRT’s orbital headquarters she finds herself crash landed on what appears to have been an island paradise. Plux, a young bird who is a bit of a loud mouth, rushes to the crashed escape pod with great hopes that it contains his father only to find a blue Felis Sapien in the pod instead. Luckily for Plux, Skylar decided to have him be her guide rather than her dinner because it is clear with her memory loss she forgot that birds are often what cats like to eat. Here’s one last thing about Skylar, despite Plux being a chatterbox, I don’t recall ever hearing Skylar speak. It’s quite possible the cat hasn’t got her tongue.
I need to preface everything else I am about to say with a bit of a disclaimer. I’ve played puzzle games and platformers a lot. In fact, I grew up playing them, so it takes quite a bit to slow me down. Usually it is either a poorly made game or someone who made a puzzle so unique or clever that my usual methods to solve the puzzle fail and I actually need to start thinking about it. With that said, I beat Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island in a little over 2 hours. I was not trying to speed run; I was actually taking my time to fully explore each island in order to collect as many things as could. I am an achievement hunter who prefers to get everything in one swoop whenever it is possible rather than in multiple passes. In the end I did miss two achievements. One of the achievements is finding all the trapped creatures and the other is collecting 10,000 gems (I had just over 5,000 if you include all the ones I spent by the end of the game, so this might be one that either requires you to grind or perhaps replay the game to get). I have to say that at least one of those trapped creatures is well hidden because despite putting another hour in just to find the few I missed, I am still missing one! To be completely honest, I actually assumed when first starting out that I was playing the opening arc of the game. It came as quite a shock when I realized the game was about to be over. I was enjoying it up to that point and was sad that my Adventure On Clover Island was about to end seemingly almost as soon as it began.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the game properly. Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island is, as mentioned, a platformer with puzzle elements. Once you go through the tutorial which teaches you the basics of how to jump, swing and fight, you find yourself on Clover Island where you will spend the majority of the game. Here you meet the Lo’a, one of the indigenous species of the island which have been imprisoned by your common enemy, the nefarious CRT. As you make your way through the various parts of the island you will find the Lo’a trapped in cages. Spending your gems will let you open the cage to free them. While some of them can be found near the beaten path, most of them will require you to explore every nook and cranny of the island. You need to be careful while exploring however, as Cats as you likely know, inherently dislike water. In that aspect Skylar is no different, however in her case it’s her heavy robotic arm that is the problem as it will make her sink like a stone and unable to swim. Outside of enemies, water or later lava is pretty much your main obstacle in this game. If you fall into it you will lose a heart and respawn where you were prior to taking the dip.
Let’s talk about exploration in more detail. In typical platformer fashion, you will not exactly find an easy or straightforward path that leads from A to B. Even if you did, odds are there is some kind of gate in your way that needs a hidden switch or three pressed before you can progress to the next area. You will find yourself moving around the environment, jumping from springy mushrooms to tree branches and various other surfaces just to reach your destination. To aid you in your exploration, you initially have the ability to triple jump (jump, jump again in the air, and spin attack in the air to gain a little extra distance), but quickly find yourself a jetpack that helps you jump higher and fly further per jump. It will recharge quickly after landing, so you can use it pretty much as often as you want so long as you are careful at planning where you want to go. Each of the three main areas will unlock a new tool to use to help you make it through that particular stage. The jetpack was the first, the time manipulator being the second, and magnetic claw is the third. Of those three, the time manipulator is both the most interesting and fun as well as the most annoying feature. There are platforms that spin far too fast for you to do anything with unless you slow down time. Slowing time lets you use them to get across a gap. In theory this works really well, however sometimes the gap is quite large and has a number of spinning platforms to work through. The thing is your time manipulator, like the jetpack, will run out of energy if you use it too long. You need to stop using it long enough for it to recharge. This works all well and fine 99% of the time, however there was one gap that tripped me up a bit. The key to it of course is either being really fast or by turning off the time manipulator while in air and turning it back on again before landing to save the energy. Unfortunately while doing either method, I would sometimes mess up forcing me to go back to the start of the chain. The time manipulator also lets you pass some power to shrines which will roll back time’s ravages on the environment. This allows you to change the directions objects fell in the past to create bridges in the present or to remove an obstruction in general. The final tool, the magnetic grabber is exactly what it sounds like, it lets you grab on to certain things. You can grab on to a giant metal ball in order to solve some puzzles or to play bowling with enemies as pins or you can grab enemies and their projectiles and use them as weapons as well. There are also some floating plates that let you dangle yourself from them as they move you around the area. Once you have unlocked them, you can freely switch to whichever one of your three tools you want at any given time in order to progress though the game.
There are a few different styles of puzzles to be found in this game. The first and foremost is the puzzle of figuring out how to get to your destination when there is an obstacle in the way. For example a large gate that needs three buttons pressed to open said gate. Now you have to find those buttons! There are two separate ways to go about doing this: the smart way and the adventurous way. The adventurous way is to randomly explore the area collecting everything that isn’t nailed down and freeing as many trapped creatures as you can. That’s the way I did it just for the fun, then there is the much quicker and smarter way. You can simply follow the giant wires, look for where they are leading and head that direction. Either way works! Another type of puzzle is the sliding puzzle. Moving an object until it is resting in the correct spot. The game has two variations on this theme. The first is in the ruins where you get the time manipulator and it involves moving a chronosphere (I am sorry to say that I forget what their actual name was if one was even given, but chronosphere is what I will call them!) from where it started to where you need it to be. The thing is, like many sliding puzzles in other games, the floor is apparently made of grease as a slight punch to the side of it sends it flying either to the other end of the area or until it hits another obstacle. You must move around the various pieces until the key piece is resting in place in order to solve the puzzle. The other variation is the laser puzzle. Similar to the moving object puzzle but now you must align a laser with mirrors in order to hit a target. Using your magnetic manipulator, you move mirrors until they correctly reflect the beam where you need it to be. Sadly there really are not that many puzzles in the game, and what is there I was able to solve very quickly and easily, but I partially attribute that to my keen puzzle solving skills.
Getting back to exploration, this game encourages you to explore in order to find the trapped creatures, still, it can be quite unforgiving as well if you just do exactly that. A few times I found myself trapped in places where it was a real struggle to get out of because it is quite likely I was never intended to go there in the first place. Other times you see something you think you should be able to get over to and easily land on just to find it is actually a smooth surface that sends you plummeting down to the water below. Worse, you could land on a ledge so low down that really your only recourse is to either jump into the water under your own free will just to reset you back to a place where you are supposed to be, or jetpack jump and hope to catch on another ledge higher up so you can climb back out of there. It would be really nice, especially with how the game ends, if some kind of trapped creature tracking device could be acquired so you can more easily find the ones you missed. This would save you from having to poke around places you have no business in. It would also let you avoid having to cross through the entire zone repeatedly until you happen to hear the creature whimpering somewhere in the distance (assuming you are reasonably close to it, you can usually hear it crying in its cage). The game does require you to revisit the earlier areas as you will need a tool you acquire later in the game in order to access the area a trapped creature is in. A prime example of that is at the start of the ruins area with the time manipulator you will see a chronosphere sitting on floating island after a few hook-shot swing loops. If you go there before you have the time manipulator there is nothing you can do with it. If you return later you can energize it and reveal a trapped creature. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is a common element in these sorts of games, however, it can still get frustrating if you end up having to go through the same area too many times without success.
Graphically this game is quite visually appealing. Everything looks pretty and has enough detail that it is actually interesting and nice to look at rather than just being purely atmospheric. It is delivered in a cartoonish 3D style reminiscent of earlier Ratchet and Clank games. The collectibles in the game are gems which are used solely for unlocking cages. They are plentiful and are generally available in unlimited quantities as leaving an area and reentering it will respawn all destructible objects as well as the fact they also come from killing enemies. As for enemies, there really are not that many to discuss. There are the little robots that look sort of like a small television set and act like a dog that runs around and leaps at you. There are the missile launchers which shoot a missile that can be easily destroyed or grabbed and thrown back at the launcher, and a machine gun turret which is particularly troublesome without the help of the time manipulator. That’s pretty much it other than the end boss. The end boss I have to say is an exceptionally fun fight and I suppose could be considered a bit of a puzzle as well.
There are traps and other things to hinder your progress throughout so the game doesn’t really need to rely on the enemies all that much. Besides laser walls and mashy plates, or falling or disappearing platforms, there are various other treacherous effects that will help keep you on your toes. Each of the areas look different enough that it doesn’t feel like you are just redoing the same thing even if the enemies are all the same. The space station looks kind of like what you would expect a space station to look like. It appears constructed for functionality on the inside but is cool looking on the outside. The jungle level looks lush with a nice beach near the water, that is until you climb the mountain enough and you realistically hit the frozen ice cap at its peak. The old ruined temple is full of sand and broken things, and the factory looks to be made out of grungy metal and full of various mechanical obstacles. All in all they did a great job with the makeup of the various areas.
Audio…usually a section I don’t have too much to say about. I actually have plenty to say this time! The music in this game works well with each area having its own theme. That really helped to add to the atmosphere of each area. The general sound effects were pretty generic but they worked beautifully. There is nothing at all wrong with having common sounding effects. One wouldn’t expect a jetpack to sound like an accordion so having a generic jetpack sound works perfectly fine. The voice acting in this game is where the game really shines, particularly for one character, CRT. CRT is a lovable villain in this game much akin to Handsome Jack of the Borderlands titles and Wheatley of Portal 2. He gives the impression right from the start that he doesn’t exactly think things through and is just doing what he can since he can and because he feels compelled to do it. I have to say CRT sounds exactly like I would hope CRT would sound like. I realize that is a weird statement to say, so I will try to clarify. Sometimes when you see a character they give you a certain impression, you know what they will look like, what you think they will sound like and then when they start talking, perhaps in a future game of the series, they sound completely wrong to you because they sound nothing like you imagined they would… well in this case CRT sounds perfect. His sidekick Bob is also the perfect sounding lackey for him. Acts and sounds like he has been repressed and is afraid to speak against the glorious CRT out of fear of some kind reprisal. Plux has a bit of an annoying voice at first, but it really suits his character. Here is the funny thing, Plux started to remind me of Navi, since he mostly just flew around Skylar and never really did anything other than make suggestions and talk in general. Skylar never said a word, much like Link, so I might be on to something with that train of thought. Perhaps the reason why Skylar never says anything is because the Developer is paying homage to The Legend of Zelda and other games with a silent protagonist. Perhaps I am also over thinking things. Overall the music and dialogue work really well to help enhance the enjoyment of the game.
The plot of the story is a little bit of a mixed bag in so far that some of the elements ultimately never get resolved. I’d go into more detail on that but it would be spoiler laden. I have to say though that the big reveal at the end about CRT and his true motives fit the narrative of the game perfectly and it was unique enough that I found it to be charming. Sure I have seen that concept before but they pulled it off quite well here and it served as a suitable end to the game. Still, I would have liked to have seen at least two of the other major story points resolved as well. In terms of the overall story, the game feels like one of two things happened: they planned on making a huge game and scaled it back, or they are setting it up for sequels and wrapped the game up with this ending just in case that never happens rather than leaving fans hanging. Either way, perhaps we will see another adventure of Skylar and Plux in the future if this one does well.
Overall, should you get Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island? If you enjoy platformers and puzzlers then yes you should enjoy this game. If you are a casual gamer who doesn’t like things to be too stressful or difficult, then you will likely enjoy it as well. If you are someone who is a platforming or puzzle veteran seeking a challenge and the thrill of solving puzzles, perhaps this game might be a bit too easy for you. It could be one you might wish to share with your less skilled friends to help them understand your fondness for these sorts of games.
Since it is very short, having been almost 100%’d after less than 3 hours, and has very simple puzzles that almost give the feeling like this is the introductory stages of a much larger game, we are going to have to give Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island a rating of Save For Later. We will look forward to see if this develops into a franchise as this game has a lot of potential. It would be a shame if it is left as a standalone game.