Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island – 3D Platformer Front-runner?

(Review copy of the UK/European version of Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island for PlayStation 4 courtesy of Right Nice Games and Grip Digital)

Prior to Ratchet & Clank-esque 2D indie platformer/Metroidvania/platform-shooter, Iconoclasts, is Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island, a 3D indie platformer inspired by Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter (and Sly Cooper thrown into the mix due to the slideshow-like 2D cutscenes). It’s developed by a small, student, indie developing team called Right Nice Games and published by Grip Digital. Instead of being influenced by 3D platformers and collect-a-thons from the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 1 era, it draws inspiration from the 3D platformers and collect-a-thons from the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube era.

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The background picture makes for a terrific temporary wallpaper/PlayStation 4 theme.

The story begins when Skylar regains consciousness at C.R.T.’s space station only to realise C.R.T. conducted experiments on her. He launches himself into a monologue, gloating and explaining what he done to her. He soon reveals he erased her memories which means she have no recollection of her old life prior to her imprisonment. When he finishes describing his evil scheme, he leaves. Suddenly, a robotic voice starts to speak to her and releases her from her cuffs. As she makes her way through the space station, the mechanical arm assists her to become accustomed to her new-found abilities all the while C.R.T. comes to the realisation she escaped from her incarceration. When she presumes she’s able to flee, she is confronted by a large, bulky robot which easily towers over her. C.R.T commands it to attack her and when it tries to assault her, its mighty punch caused him to malfunction. While he is distracted, she takes advantage of the diversion and blasted off in an escape pod.

In the meantime at Clover Island, an owl notices an escape shuttle have already entered the planet’s atmosphere and is currently making its descent. Assuming his father have arrived to pick him up, he cheered gleefully as he flew in the direction of the escape pod. Meanwhile, a Swarmbot is minding its own business admiring the scenery as it smiles in a carefree manner before it hears the looming sound of a spacecraft about to crash land. Unluckily, it finds itself crushed underneath the weight of the spaceship. By the time he reached his destination, the door of the alien craft opened to reveal Skylar unconscious. At first he is dismayed to discover his dad isn’t inside the vessel but it didn’t take him long enough to warm up to his new friends whilst the mechanized arm introduced the space cat to the owl. He returned the favour by telling his name to them. Thus, this is the start of a beautiful friendship as his adventure with Skylar and the mechanical arm commences.

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These spherical-shaped artefacts power up the Siphon within Siphon Valley.
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Collecting each artefact causes Skylar and Plux execute a celebratory animation.
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Skylar and Plux’s celebratory animation is similar to Jak and Daxter’s victory sequence.

Concerning the story, it’s a bit wishy-washy. First and foremost, the main villain doesn’t explain about how he goes about his evil plan, how he removed Skylar’s memories and what he intends to do with her. Secondly, there is little in the way of the lore behind the Preginitors, supposedly the almighty, long-lost, ancient people that created all of Clover Island and in terms of where they vanished to and what their physical appearances are. Thirdly, there isn’t much information in regards to Skylar, Plux, the mechanical arm, C.RT., Bob (C.R.T.’s seemingly loyal, right-hand minion), the Lo’a elder and the other characters, backstory wise. Not to mention, the game didn’t inform the players who Skylar is, if she is a mercenary or a bounty hunter or an intergalactic heroine, what she stole from C.R.T. and so forth. Regardless of the fact Skylar and Plux defeated C.R.T., she didn’t recover her missing memories.

Unlike its inspirations, Skylar & Plux is the first platforming game in video game history to star a lead female protagonist whilst the male sidekick kind of sits on the sidelines instead of the tried-and-true and seen-it-all-before double acts which consists of the male lead hero and the female sidekick (Banjo and Kazooie and Yooka and Laylee) or two main male characters (a la, Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter and Kick & Fennick). In the world of video games, main female heroes are extremely hard or rare to come by.

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The Easter Egg is a reference to Skylar’s former physical appearance in a Beta/Alpha build of the game.

Similar to Jak and Daxter, Skylar is completely mute while Plux talks on her behalf. Unfortunately, he comes off as a narrative companion (in akin to Navi the talkative fairy from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) instead of a travelling companion who does all the heavy lifting. In other words, the one who helps the main protagonist to propel him/her into the air.

It’s a shame, really. Normally I’d imagine Plux to assist Skylar to soar across numerous platforms effortlessly, considering Plux is an owl and he possesses a pair of wings. Therefore, he should have the capability of flying. This means he’s inserted into the game just for the sake of creating a double act except he doesn’t have any purpose/reason of joining Skylar in her adventure and being in the game in the first place.

Over the course of the adventure, Skylar and Plux comes across gadgets which will aid them in their quest to defeat C.R.T. to restore peace to Clover Island and recover Skylar’s missing memories. Said gadgets are known as the Jetpack, Time Orb and Magnetic Glove.

The Jetpack can be obtained in the first world, Clover Mountain. Despite it’s a prototype according to C.R.T., the Jetpack allows Skylar to glide safely over bottomless chasms or fly for a brief time from one platform to the next. If a platform is unreachable, she can take advantage of the Rocket Jump ability. There are some instances where she must make use of the Rocket Roll skill to bridge gaps, it also doubles as a faster method of transport.

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While the Jetpack is useful, it renders Plux useless.

The Time Orb can be attained in the second world, the Forlorn Desert. Not only that, but it can be placed on any pedestal to alter time and revert objects and locations back to their original states. If utilised again, the items and the areas will return back to normal. Aside from manipulating time, it’s also used to slow down the flow of time, allowing Skylar to make short work of her enemies easily and quickly. The Time Orb is often compared to the time manipulation game mechanics and the Time Pad puzzles from Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time.

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The Time Orb slows the flow of time but it also reverts the scenery to its original state.

The third and final gadget, the Magnetic Glove, can be acquired in C.R.T.’s citadel/factory. It’s used to solve laser puzzles, pulling humongous objects towards you like a magnet, carrying them with you before you place them somewhere which usually triggers a door to open or thrusting them in the direction of your adversaries and targets and using a gatling/turret enemy against other foes.

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The Magnetic Glove allows Skylar to magnetise objects, platforms and enemies.

However, pay mindful to the current gadget you’re using, seeing as each of them have a cool-down timer. Once its time is up, you’ll have to wait until the meter fills back up.

As you collect more gadgets along the way, you soon gain the ability to switch between them on the fly, which will prove to be useful to overcome later platforming tasks.

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The reappearing/disappearing platforms are reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World.

Besides the gadgets are Skylar’s abilities such as her punch, her spin attack (it can also doubles as a triple jump if the spin move is utilised while she is airborne), her ground pound-esque ability (upon landing on the ground, her fist creates a shockwave which eliminates enemies if they are caught in the radius) which is identical to Mario’s Ground Pound attack, Ratchet’s Hyper-Strike ability from his OmniWrench and Spyro’s Headbash move and her Grappling Beam (it can latch on to platforms to pull them towards her and it can cling on to Swing Nodes to let Skylar swing through the air to reach the other side in a similar manner to Ratchet’s Swingshot gadget).

In regards to the Grappling Beam, I like the part where Skylar, Plux and the mechanised arm had to evade the overflowing, rising lava and the game forces the players to combine the Grappling Beam with the Jetpack, the Magnetic Glove and the double jump ability. The escalating lava is reminiscent of Mt. LavaLava from Paper Mario and a level from the Neo Star planet in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.

In spite Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island is Right Nice Games’ debut game, Skylar controls surprisingly well, despite there isn’t squash and stretch in the animations and the running animation looks and feels stiff. The jumping mechanics have weight and she doesn’t control like a bowling ball like in Yooka-Laylee or her jumping isn’t floaty like in A Hat In Time.

Speaking of Skylar’s punch ability, it should have more range but this might be due to the animation not having squash and stretch. The range of the punch isn’t long or wide enough to cover enough distance with the purpose of disposing the enemies, objects and obstacles. The spin attack does remedy the lack of range the punch capability possesses but due to the limited animation frames within the spin move, it leaves Skylar wide open for attack.

Aside from the enemies themselves, water and lava are one-hit kill hazards which should be avoided at all times. One touch of the water (or lava) and Skylar and Plux is sent back to the previous checkpoint. During the tutorial at the beginning of Clover Island, Skylar’s mechanical arm explains why she’s forbidden to touch the water. The arm is already fully aware felines despise the water and the arm is too heavy to be swimming with it.

Speaking of the enemies, they range from Swarmbots to robots that shoot a consecutive row of heat-seaking rockets at Skylar if she and Plux comes into contact with them and gatling/turret robots. On a related note, the cheap enemy placement will lead to unfair deaths and will make for a slightly frustrating romp through the worlds. It’s irritatingly annoying when foes are placed in randomised spots and are situated all willy-nilly and haphazardly. Granted, the effective way of eliminating the adversaries is utilising the Time Orb.

Don’t be a certain Miss Dane Downer like Amberdiamondswords. It isn’t fair when people like you judge a game before it’s launched or people judging a product, an item or a form of entertainment media by its gameplay, similarities, graphics, aesthetics and what have you. It’s one thing to form an opinion before a video game is released to the public, it’s another when you hate something before you even tried it.

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It’s unfair when you knock a game before you even tried it.

It’s unfair when you knock a game before you even tried it.

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Leave the constructive criticism to the freelance and professional journalists, wannabe.

It’s pathetic in this day and age when jerkwads like Trix_Master_100 couldn’t let go of the past. He’s got nothing better to do with his pitiful, sad life, cowardly hiding behind a computer screen like always. Don’t listen to him, he’s spreading lies about me behind my back, seeing as he continues to stalk me just like the many cyberbullies who used to bully me on deviantART when I did nothing wrong. If he’s not a sheep who persistently kowtowing to Channeleven, I don’t know what is. I can’t stress this enough that he’s a cyberbully and yet, he still carries on to deny being one. In spite of my innocence, he still carries on being an a**hole by bringing up the past whenever he gets the chance in an attempt to ruin my day. Why couldn’t he let bygones be bygones? If he’s a “talented” (and I use the word, “talented”, very loosely) artist on the deviantART website, he sure ain’t acting like one. I suggest you refrain from speaking to him, he’s a sad, little man just asking for unwanted attention and asking for trouble. Leave it to a bigot who got nothing to do with his shameful life and thinks he can get away with trying to ruin my life and my chances to aspire to become a journalist/critic/writer.

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Don’t tell me how to do my job. This prick doesn’t know REAL journalism if it hit him like a lorry full of cement.

While I’m still on the subject of cyberbullies everyone should steer clear of and refrain themselves from contacting with the purpose of providing unwanted attention, this random malicious individual called jpepper2391 decided to be a cyberbully and become passive aggressive for no reason simply because I wanted to share a podcast video detailing the current situation with Sly Cooper. There is a saying, “It is better late than never”. Such as the case with my Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island review. Maybe this low IQ person should consider to look up this sentence in a dictionary? Just because I’m sharing something which is regarded as old news doesn’t he needs to be a a**hat about it. He should mind his own business and let people post up whatever they want on Twitter. If he doesn’t have anything nice to say, he shouldn’t say anything at all and keep his opinions to himself. Leave it to one rotten apple to spoil the rest of the Sly Cooper community. He must be soooooo brave, cowardly hiding behind a computer screen.

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In future, you should think before you act. Words hurt people emotionally.

Yet another a**hole who have nothing better to do than to ruin someone’s day for no reason. I’m already aware it’s the internet but can’t people care to be a little nicer? Actions can have future repercussions. Unintelligent trolls like this one don’t know that words can hurt people. How ignorant can he be when he’s unaware words can damage people emotionally in the long run? How am I supposed to know PlayStation Network is still down or is having technical difficulties by the time I returned home from Cressida Cowell’s book signing event?! I was unaware of what is going on during my absence from the internet. In fact, I didn’t know how long it’s been out of commission for. Not everyone needs to be aware of the news in relation to the PlayStation Network undergoing maintenance beforehand. I’m not sure who this malicious individual thinks he is, acting like a nasty turd for no reason. I’m not sure if he’s referring to me or to the Ask PlayStation UK Twitter account. Dude, I’m getting real sick of your rude attitude.

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Here’s another wanker who reckons it’s a good idea to be a dickhead for no reason.

Now back to the subject at hand. To be frank, this game is laughably easy. If you’re not going for the extra mile and if you’re not aiming for 100% completion, it should take you two days tops.

This game may be targeted at long-time platformer fans that grew up with the platforming games from the late 90’s and early 2000’s but I feel it’s aimed at a much younger audience due to the novice difficulty level.

However, this is not the case with some of the puzzles. In fact, the difficulty level will vary from player to player. For most gamers, the puzzles will be completed within minutes or if you’re lucky enough, seconds. Although, people with disabilities (whether if it’s physical, mental or learning disabilities) will struggle. For instance, due to my learning disabilities, the sliding block puzzles in the Forlorn Desert and the laser puzzles in C.R.T.’s citadel/factory took me roughly at least a half an hour or an hour to finish. The puzzles are nothing groundbreaking and nothing to write home about (the same applies to the forgettable soundtrack) but they are fun to solve.

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This puzzle can be problematic for players with physical disabilities or learning disabilities.
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Whether puzzles are fun or asinine, opinions vary from player to player.

On an unrelated note, this is a minor thing to point out but Skylar most noticeably is lacking a tail despite cats tend to have tails. In real life, there are some dogs without tails but whether some cats have tails or not, this is up for debate. It’s still strange to see Skylar missing a tail nevertheless. It’s unknown whether Right Nice Games forgot to add a tail or they assumed she looked fine without one in spite of the fact she is a space feline/space cat alien. Either way, it’s still a minor issue to address.

It’s a shame A Hat In Time blew this out of the water, ousting Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy from the coveted Game of 2017 in the process, otherwise Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island would’ve proved to be a formidable contender in the all-out-war, free-for-all Game of 2017 fracas. One of the main reasons why Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy got its butt handed to it by A Hat In Time is asinine, unnecessary, mandatory speedrunning. The Time Trials achievement trophies are required to platinum Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy. Furthermore, this forces non-speedrunners and casual players to speedrun. Not everyone likes speedrunning or is skilful at it and most importantly, Crash Bandicoot and Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash’s limited moveset in these games aren’t built for speedrunning to begin with. Bottom line, A Hat In Time practically overshadowed Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island, Yooka-Laylee and Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy.

While I played through the game, I appreciated the little things such as the Lo’a (the inhabitants of Clover Island) are more than just collectibles. They also act as NPCs you can talk to and you can even attack them in a Spyro-esque fashion through means of punching, spinning them or using a pile driving-like, downward thrust ability in order to flatten them like a pancake. If they are flattened, they immediately pop back up. However, they don’t react very much if they’re assaulted. Rescuing the Lo’as from their cages costs 100 orange gems/crystals and the more you liberate them from their imprisonments, the more they populate the island. The same applies to the elder. Although, freeing her costs 300 gems/crystals.

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The elder and the citizens can be attacked in a Spyro-esque fashion.

Additionally, you can see where you are in relation to your previous spot. For example, you’re currently in Clover Mountain and as you’re scaling upwards, you’ll notice the beginning of Clover Island in the distance and the other locations you haven’t visited yet such as the desert and C.R.T.’s citadel/factory around you. Seeing all of the worlds at once makes them one big connected world instead of countless, separate worlds. This minor feature haven’t been seen in video games for years since Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and Super Mario Sunshine.

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Seeing all of the locations at once makes all the places one large, connected world.

As Skylar, Plux and the mechanical arm progress through their adventure, they come across checkpoints. The voice of the arm provides an explanation, including the fact the added confetti as motivational flair. If Skylar falls into a body of lava or water, she is immediately respawned at the previous checkpoint they went past. Since there are no game overs, if she loses all of her hearts, she reappears at Siphon Valley but she may lose some of her gems/crystals.

Regarding the gems/crystals, they serve as currency but they can also recover your health in a similar fashion to Mario collecting coins to regain his health in Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 etc. Sadly, upon gathering the gems/crystals, the sound isn’t satisfying to listen to in comparison to the bolts from the Ratchet & Clank series, the musical notes from Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, the coins from the Mario series, the Precursor Orbs from Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and so forth. In fact, the sound effects didn’t stack on top of each other.

Keep an eye on your hearts, seeing as they serve as your health. For every couple of inhabitants you rescue, the elder increases Skylar’s heart points. In order to gain more hearts, more citizens of Clover Island must be liberated from their cages. It’s a missed opportunity that players aren’t offered an award for saving all of the captured denizens. I reckon the developers should’ve given the gamers an incentive to bail out the population from captivity.

On that note, the game sadly suffers from audio issues. The same applies to the cutscenes. Not to mention, the Clover Mountain, Forlorn Desert and C.R.T.’s citadel/factory renditions of the Clover Island hub world doesn’t transition very well into each other. The Clover Island theme music changes depending on which entrance of which world you’re heading to in akin to Gruntilda’s Lair from Banjo-Kazooie and Hivory Towers from Yooka-Laylee. After every time Skylar recovers a part of the Siphon, the aforesaid cutscenes plays in pitch black. Either the game developing team didn’t have enough budget, time or talent to create these abovementioned cutscenes and finish the music tracks.

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: the performance. Skylar & Plux runs in 1080p, 60 frames per second. It’s inexcusable when the framerate chugs in C.R.T.’s citadel/factory. This results in bogging down the experience. There were times when the game seemingly crashes or the framerate becomes choppy.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t contain a lot of content post-game. Even if you possess the motivation to collect 99,999 gems/crystals, you won’t receive anything from going out of your way to acquire this amount. The only “post-game content” is saving the remaining Lo’as that are still trapped in their cages.

On the other hand, there are instances where some locations such as Clover Island, Clover Mountain and Forlorn Desert had a ton of dead end-like spots. For example, a few areas had a clutter of high platforms, complete with empty peaks and you decide to check them out with the intention to mount them via the Rocket Jump skill from your Jetpack. Then you realise you did all of the climbing for nothing. It seems the developers wanted to create a myriad of mountains but the catch is, ascending them is an absolute waste of time, energy and effort for the players.

Just like the script, dialogue and the writing, the voice acting is amateurish. Hence why the aforementioned script, dialogue and the writing are cringey. For example, when Plux sings one of the lyrics of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” song as the claw holding the mechanical ball dropped it while it makes its descent to the bottom of the factory. I understand the developers are going for the condescending, arrogant villain who thinks highly of himself and is full of himself but the voices doesn’t fit with the writing. On the bright side, the antagonist have a fantastic diabolical laugh.

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This song-turned-internet meme will become more and more dated with each passing year.

Presentation wise, the worlds are eye candy and vibrant, everywhere you look such as the scenery, the greenery, the lush, rolling hills, the tall, snow-frosted mountains etc are beautiful as far as the eye can see. The most breathtaking to take in and bask in all of its glory is C.R.T.’s citadel/factory due to its intricate and complicated machinery and structures. Alas, the framerate suffered as a result. Though, the watery splashes at the bottom of the waterfalls could use some improvement which spoils the feast for the eyes. To make matters worse, the character models are a tad on the primitive side. In other words, they look unappealing, soulless, rigid and static to gaze at.

Last but not least, final bosses are meant to serve as a “final exam” to test you on everything you’ve learned throughout any game but this is not the case with this first and final boss, considering if you’ve took advantage of the Time Orb, the final showdown will be finished in a matter of mere minutes. However, if you didn’t utilise the Time Orb or you’ve forgotten to use it, the final confrontation might prove to be a little bit of a challenge. Despite the main antagonist threw everything he had at me (slamming his fist to the ground to create a shockwave, attempting to slap me senseless, shooting bullets at me and attempting to shine a beam of light to harm me) and turning the surrounding area into lethal acid, he met his match and his defeat is at the hands of Skylar and Plux.

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If the Time Orb is activated, this skirmish will be a cakewalk.

In spite of its flaws, I genuinely enjoyed playing Skylar & Plux. Heck, I can go so far as to say I enjoyed it more than Yooka-Laylee, Celeste, Owlboy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy combined.

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