Skylar & Plux: Adventure On Clover Island is a 3D platformer developed by Right Nice. It revolves around the titular pair as they try to save Clover Island from the oppression of the robotic overlord CRT.
I think it's prudent to bring up the the largest criticism of S&P first. That being it's length, and consequently, its budget. It's quite apparent that the game was made on a minimal budget. I'm almost afraid to know just how small.
I think the money was used quite well, but it only went so far. As it stands, the game is 2 hours to beat, plus a bit more for 100% completion. I don't think this is enough time for the game to get the most out its mechanics.
I'm willing to bet that a sequel with twice the budget would more than double the game's length and push it into more respectable territory.
S&P is very honest with its inspirations. The description namedrops the year 2001 and it becomes clear why as soon as you start. The game is more or less a combination of a Ratchet & Clank game and a Jak & Daxter game, both in terms of aesthetics and mechanics.
It's very uplifing for me to see indie-developers try and make games in this style. The result isn't a complete clone, as it does have some things to call its own. It's pretty fun to keep an eye out for references, both big and small. For example, instead of Precursors, there's Progenitors.
Besides the length, I find the plot of S&P to be its weakest point. I like the themes of friendship and rejecting a past that binds you, but the game doesn't quite reach its potential. The budget is partially to blame for this. There are a few animated cutscenes aping the style of the later R&C games, except with worse animation and a hurried pace.
It's a real problem with story as a whole, it establishes things too fast. Skylar is a mute experiment, which gives her very little to do in cutscenes, besides look stupid. Her ties to the themes are nearly non-existant. She was a criminal before CRT got to her (something that is almost difficult to catch thanks to the pacing), but the story doesn't make use of this at all.
You don't meet anyone she wronged, nor does she display any criminal urges. So when the others claim that she's become someone better, it rings hollow. She's just a vessel for the player's actions.
Plux has the opposite problem. He's not playable and gets to spend the game slinging banter and puns at CRT. I like his little story, but it weirds me out just how fast he clings to Skylar. It feels a bit artificial, like they have to become friends just because they share the title of the game.
CRT is pretty nice as a villain. He isn't as fun as Dr Nefarious, but he does get a proper arc. The supporting cast is barely worth a mention, as they add little to the experience.
The game feels very much based in some sort of jokey irony. It calls attention to clichés and seems afraid to embrace the power of friendship completely. I don't think this was the right choice, since the game isn't funny enough for this to work.
In contrast, the controls are the best part of the game. Skylar is afforded a nice amount of aerial control, plus a double jump. I don't think I could ask for better kinesthetics. It's so easy to get around that I barely have to pay attention. It's a very fast-paced game, which doesn't help the low amount of content, but is probably fun for speedrunners.
Combat really feels like a 50/50 split between R&C and J&D, sans guns. You have a punch like Jak, but it comboes like Ratchet's Omniwrench. There's also a spin that serves as a third jump and cuts through enemies. You can't chain it as easily as Jak's spin sadly, so that's a little minus. Might be for the sake of balance. There's also a ground-punch for good measure.
Skylar starts with a grapple beam, mirroring the Swingshot and Versa-Fuse Omniwrench in R&C. The swinging is fine, but the platform-pulling feels under-used. The camera also allows you to go completely vertical, which weirds me out.
Once you crash down on Clover Island, you start getting more gadgets. They're all pretty nice, but aren't used fully. First up is the jetpack. It's almost a copy of Clank's Thruster-Pack, but manages to surpass it on the whole.
It's limited by fuel (inviting comparisons to the Hover-Packs in Going Commando, R&C Remake and Into the Nexus), but it restocks as soon as you land. In gameplay terms, this translates to you getting to use one if its three functions before having to land. Those being hover, boost-jump and a high-jump. The hover is the same as the one in R&C and the high-jump takes a second to charge, which sucks. But the boost-jump accelerates extremely fast and goes far.
This makes it excellent for moving fast, should you want to. It's always nice with some ”tech” in a platformer to raise the skill ceiling a bit and allow you to dash through the levels.
Next up is the Time Orb, which serves a few functions. On its own, it let's you slow down time which is useful against fast platforms and enemy projectiles. It reminds me of Clank's slowmotion power in Tools of Destruction and Light Jak's too, except it's actually put to decent use.
The interplay between the jetpack and the Time Orb is where the game truly shines. Swapping between them as you platform is is very engaging. It reminds me of the way Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands has you chain powers, but not as extreme.
The orb also lets you activate pillars which rewind time in a certain radius. It's a fun mechanic that's used for a few nice setpieces. Reminds me of Skyward Sword.
Lastly, there's the magnet, which is very similar to the magnet in Breath of the Wild. It lets you grab enemies and manipulate a wrecking ball. It's fun, but could've been used in a few more ways I think.
All of these gadgets have functions in combat and either work in puzzles or platforming. They are successfull designs, but need more gamespace to be used in.
As far as graphics go, S&P gets a very solid pass. It's not mindmelting, but it comes close to a PS3 R&C game. The metallic reflections are worse and the water looks more like goo, but I think it's very good for such a cheap title. Music is nice and jaunty, but I didn't find any standout tracks.
Even for such a short game, there are problems with variety. There are only a handful of enemies, and even though they serve their purpose well, I'd have liked to have seen them in different costumes at least.
There are only 3 proper levels in the game and it's a bit sad just how fast you can blow through them. I blame the design, as even when the game opens up a bit, there isn't much to keep you occupied. It's just a matter of running forward and doing some fun jumps. A few more level or enemy gimmicks might've helped here. The puzzles we do get are just complex enough not to befuddle my poor brain.
What is a platformer sans shinies to collect? Nothing! S&P is kinda the opposite of DK64, as the collectibles are few and interlinked, making for an easy time. The most basic kind is just named Collectibles (Moon Crystals, Solar Energy, Spinsters? It's not hard to name these things people!) and serve double duty. Collecting enough refills a heart of health (Not unlike Green Eco in The Precursor Legacy, except not stupidly rare.) and you can then trade them to free a Loa from its cage.
Once you free enough, you earn yourself a health upgrade from the Loa Elder. So, your only reason to collect things is to keep yourself alive. If you're good enough, you don't need to get anything. It's an interesting choice, as platformers usually lock you out of levels until you've collected enough stuff.
Taken with the rest of the game, it really seems like a speedrunner's game. I didn't feel like backtracking for the rest of the Loa once I could, take that as you wish.