The importance of the roguelite genre to indie games should not be understated. Games like Dead Cells, Neon Abyss and The Binding of Isaac are some of the greatest roguelite games. If you look at the genre as a whole, there are a few defining traits shared between all games in the genre, but each one differs in its own way. While Skul: The Hero Slayer feels similar to the others, its unique mechanics and creativity allow the game to form its own path.
When you first begin the game, you’re presented with a story that puts a twist on the typical hero’s journey. With most games, you play as a hero, fighting your way through numerous dungeons and enemies to defeat the big bad. In Skul, you play as a grunt working for the big bad to defeat heroes. As with a lot of roguelite games, the story is fed to you through NPC conversations. While the storybook aesthetics to the cutscenes are nice, it feels like the story is put in the backseat to everything else the game offers.
“The Clown Skull became a must-pick in most of my playthroughs.”
Skul: The Hero Slayer is a 2D platformer with a beautifully-realised pixilated world that simply can’t be faulted. Every area in the game, apart from the starting hub, has a vibrant colour scheme, creating an almost childlike storybook feel. I’m a sucker for good pixel animation, and Skul managed to keep me glistening in awe at every level.
Many roguelites pride themselves on never playing the same way twice, and Skul manages this with its own unique element. The Skull mechanic offers the player many different ways to play the game. Melee, Ranged and even Magical Skulls give the player many different playable skills. They even change how you look and move around the map.
The Clown Skull became a must-pick in most of my playthroughs. It offers fantastic ranged skills so you can keep your enemies at arm’s length. Obviously, you still have to dodge when there are a lot of enemies, but it’s definitely enjoyable throwing daggers at enemies. With upwards of 100 Skulls to choose from, the game will always have something new to offer. There are even a few easter eggs hidden in the game like the Prisoner Skull being a direct reference to Dead Cells.
“With the price point being so low, Skul: The Hero Slayer is easily accessible.”
You can also use items and quintessence to drastically change a run. Quintessence skills are akin to almost a Limit Break. They’re massive skills that can be unleashed to break you out of a dire situation. There are not as many as the skulls, but there’s enough so it never becomes too stale. Items add variation to your run. They’re nicely balanced, letting you hold a max of nine items. These range from inflicting elemental effect chance to increased HP & MP.
With the price point being so low, the game is easily accessible. Furthermore, Skul: The Hero Slayer frequently receives updates, so you can always return to the game with new content. It almost feels like it hasn’t completely left Early Access, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a great game that hopefully receives a more complex narrative as time goes on.