With its focus on 3D platforming and puzzles in the backdrop of a mysterious setting, and a clear emphasis on narrative and storytelling, Finish Line Games’ upcoming title Skully certainly looks like an interesting prospect. From its central mechanics to the game’s setting, it definitely seems like it’s got some interesting things going for it, and used properly, a combination of those might just deliver something special. Recently, curious to learn more about the game, we sent across some of our questions about Skully to its developers. You can read our conversation with them below.
"Skully is really a narratively-driven platformer at heart. The player will be jumping and climbing to escape danger, clear obstacles and reach new areas, and doing so for very clear reasons that are revealed as the story progresses."
It seems puzzles will be where Skully will be focused the most, but what more can players expect from the game? For instance, is platforming going to be a big part of the game?
Skully is really a narratively-driven platformer at heart. The player will be jumping and climbing to escape danger, clear obstacles and reach new areas, and doing so for very clear reasons that are revealed as the story progresses.
The main mechanics of Skully all revolve around the fact that Skully, being a skull brought back to life with magical clay, is a round character that rolls around. This means that unlike most platforming characters, Skully doesn’t have feet to steady themselves. The player has to be constantly mindful of their surroundings. Sloped terrain and rounded platforms like logs mean that if Skully stays still, they’ll roll off and likely die. We wanted a character that you’re always mindful of and you must be constantly making little micro-adjustments to keep safe.
This means that when you’re playing as Skully, the positioning and platforming elements never truly go away. Those gameplay elements are always at the forefront.
What has been your approach to Skully in terms of puzzle design and how they balance between approachability and challenge?
As with the platforming, the puzzle solving is all about being thoughtful and careful with your movements. Skully learns to harness the power of the magic clay to conjure forms of clay that give them a body and new abilities.
The abilities of these forms (ranging from strength to speed) are used to manipulate and change the environment to open new paths, reach new areas and help get our skull hero rolling onward.
From a design perspective, we aimed to present the player with clear objectives by putting them into a situation (such as showing a river they must cross, or a cliff face they must climb), and then leave it open to them, with the characters available, to solve it however they wish.
Combining each of the clay forms’ abilities and having them work in tandem is exactly what we’d like the player to experiment with and discover.
"As with the platforming, the puzzle solving is all about being thoughtful and careful with your movements. Skully learns to harness the power of the magic clay to conjure forms of clay that give them a body and new abilities."
How much do the three forms players can take differentiate from each other? Do they each present unique strengths and weaknesses that must be leveraged in specific situations?
The three forms are very different and each one excels in different ways.
The hulking Strong Form can punch its way through rock walls and can defeat enemies with powerful shockwaves. The nimble Swift Form can dash at high speed to perform long-distance horizontal jumps to clear large gaps and can use magic to move certain objects imbued with similar magic around to create bridges and steps to lead Skully away from danger. And the Vault Form can double jump and use its magic to raise objects into the air.
This provides a combat option, a lateral movement option and a vertical movement option. Combining them you can freely traverse 3D space and work on taking out any threats.
The synergy of the Forms is key to puzzle solving. So, you may have to destroy a barrier up high. No problem! Just move Strong Form onto a magic object and have Vault Form lift it up. A lot of the game’s environmental puzzles have multiple solutions and combining the Forms’ abilities in unique ways can result in solving them quickly.
How much of an emphasis does Skully put on story and storytelling?
Skully’s adventure is driven by the game’s story, so there is plenty of emphasis on narrative throughout the game. Skully’s companion, Terry, bickers with his siblings as the player navigates Skully through the title’s levels, adding more personality and colour to a vibrant world.
On top of that, there are nearly 30 minutes of stylized, storybook-like cinematics in the game, accenting each major story beat. The entire game is fully-voiced by fantastic actors who bring our characters to life.
What can players expect from the world of Skully in terms of size and environmental variety?
Skully takes place on an ancient island of mysterious origin. Everything is rooted in the natural world, so all of the game’s areas are natural with no human-made architecture. There are beaches bordered by volcanic rocks, forests with rapids rushing through them, volcanoes erupting with magma, deep underground caverns with eerie bioluminescent plants and more.
The player will travel all over the island and there is a lot of visual variety. The different areas also communicate threats and dangers to the player. Volcanic levels are raging with heat and bubbling lava splashing everywhere to make the player quickly understand that these are among the most deadly and challenging areas in the game.
As the story progresses, the environment progresses as well to keep the tone clear.
"Skully’s adventure is driven by the game’s story, so there is plenty of emphasis on narrative throughout the game."
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Skully be?
The average playtime for a new player has been 10-12 hours. This can vary slightly depending on how thoroughly players search for hidden collectibles and how challenging they are finding the game. For players wanting to seek out everything and fully complete the game (specifically Trophy/Achievement hunters) players can expect another 4-5 hours to reach completionist status.