Skul The Hero Slayer

Year: 2021
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Adventure
Review Date: 1/1/23
Rating: ***

Humans are on the attack and destroying demonkind. Demon King has been captured by First Hero, and it's up to a tiny skeleton guard named Skul to rescue him and restore peace to the world. That's a lot to ask of a little guy who's only armed with a bone as a weapon, but he finds help along the way. It's a roguelike action game, which means you'll be dying and restarting from the beginning over and over, and hopefully growing slightly stronger with each run. I'm not a fan of this gameplay design, although "Hades" managed to perfect it and keep things interesting. Even though boss battles play out as singular plot points, you still have to fight the same bosses during every run, which quickly made me lose interest. After about three hours, the tedium, difficulty, and repetition wore me out and I gave up, which is unfortunate because it's a compelling game with lots to offer.

The first thing you notice when you launch the game is the amazing soundtrack, which does an excellent job of setting the dramatic tone of Skul's adventure. The art direction is superb and the colorful pixel art is both cute and beautiful. The controls are simple and responsive, and Skul can jump, attack, and dash. The game's biggest gimmick is that Skul can swap heads, and each head comes with its own special weapons and abilities. Your success on each run depends greatly on which heads you have equipped. The various heads are very amusing, and at one point I had a Rock Star head that allowed me to attack with an electric guitar. The characters are charming and the dialog is well-written, even though the overall story is a bit mundane. There's even a funny reference to Leroy Jenkins thrown in for good measure. It's just a shame that the game is such a monotonous grind and can't maintain its momentum.