Title: Skybolt Zack
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Devs Must Die
Publisher: Green Man Gaming
Genre: Action, Indie, Platformer
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Official Site: https://www.greenmangaming.com/fr/games/skybolt-zack-pc/
Release Date: November 7, 2019
Where to Buy: Eshop, Steam
Skybolt Zack is a game that almost defies definition. According to the developers, it’s a platformer where you don’t jump and a music game where you dictate your own rhythm. Both descriptions are pretty true, even if you can jump.
As the debut game of developers Devs Must Die, Skybolt Zack throws players into 2D levels where they must destroy enemies and reach the end. Fairly straightforward and usual. What’s not so usual is the way to go about it. Each enemy is color-coded to represent a certain button on the Switch controller, hitting said button will launch Skybolt Zack at the enemy to destroy it.
Hit a wrong button and the game will loudly yell “nope” as the combo meter ticks down and Zack hurtles towards the floor until you get it right.
Things start promisingly enough, in the first cutscene it is revealed that Skybolt Zack is effectively Crash Bandicoot. A failed experiment that hadn’t actually failed after all and is now on the warpath against his tormentors. Not that anyone will want to play this game for the story as it’s all about gameplay.
The early levels feel great as you learn the ropes and traverse to the end with nary a problem in the world. This gentle pace does not last as more mechanics get thrown at players and the difficulty ramps up to Mount Everest levels. Some of the troubles I had were my own fault, but more on that later.
As well as hitting the correct buttons, enemies will also need to be within the range of Zack for a hit to register. This is represented by a small circle that surrounds him. Much like Trafalgar Laws’ room for any One Piece fans out there.
This area can be increased if a button is held down to make farther away enemies easier to hit.
The main aim of Skybolt Zack is to try and reach the end of a level without touching the floor. After hitting something, Zack will shoot off in whatever direction the player is holding in the search of more enemies. A correct button press will then keep the combo flowing.
Combine this with a mid-air dash button and the aforementioned room and it’s possible for skilled players to zip through the levels with ease and have a great time doing so. If you are one of those skilled players, let me know how it feels.
The X, Y, and A buttons are all assigned an enemy color whilst the B button is used to jump off of grey enemies and this was where my problems first arrived.
After the first few levels, Skybolt Zack throws many more challenges at the player. There are more enemies, spikes, enemies that have to be hit at a certain angle to avoid pain, and enemies that change color after the first hit.
The problems I had were due to the Xbox and PlayStation. It’s no secret that every console has an X button in a different place as well as a different color scheme for each button. When things started to get hectic I would accidentally hit the corresponding button from a different console or I would look at a color and think of the PlayStation layout.
This may just be my old befuddled brain, but it did make things more difficult for me. Thankfully though, Skybolt Zack does let players completely remap the controls and customize the enemy colors to go with them. This helped to no end. For me, I set them up in PlayStation colors meaning I could easily hit the enemies without thinking.
You may not have that issue, but keep in mind that if you make the same mistake, this can be rectified.
When things do go right, the music ramps up along with the combo multiplier. Getting hit will stop the music which can really throw you off your rhythm as well as leading to death and a level restart.
There’s no adjustable difficulty in Skybolt Zack. Every player is thrown in the same level and asked to make do. What does make things more interesting, however, are the different paths throughout each level. The higher routes in the levels will lead to an increased challenge, much like how things play out in Outrun.
It’s a nice way of offering skilled players an extra challenge and it allows other, less skilled, people like myself the option to just take on the lower, easier, levels at the start.
With 48 levels on offer, it’s no small challenge to get to the end. An accomplishment I am struggling to achieve even on the lower paths and with plenty of hours behind me. I’ll say it again. The difficulty in Skybolt Zack is no joke. It has a very steep learning curve that may put off some people. Others will relish the challenge.
You can find replayability with the game’s unofficial achievements and online leaderboards. I checked my score on the first level before writing this and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was ranked 463rd for my score and 577th for my time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t out of very many people, which is a shame as I am enjoying the game despite any frustrations I may hold.
Sklybolt Zack does look and play really well. It’s bright, colorful, and smooth. I’d definitely recommend at least trying out the demo to see if it is a game that will click with you. If it does, you should be in for a good time.
Other than the difficulty, the only real issue is how much time players will want to put into getting the best scores and the perfect runs. Should you enjoy these aspects, there’s plenty to do once the game is over. For anyone else, Skybolt Zack can start to feel a bit mundane, even if it’s still fun to play in short bursts.
Verdict: Skybolt Zack is a fun mash-up of game styles thrown into a bright colorful game. The steep difficulty may put off some, while others will relish the challenge and aim for those spots at the top of the leaderboard.
- Great for quick bursts of play
- Colorful and lovely to look at
- Fun Soundtrack
- Steep difficulty
- Can get tedious