Much like Yooka-Laylee, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is a game that tries to pay homage to adventure games from years gone by. You take on the role of Skylar, a humanoid cat that wakes up on a space station with a severe dose of amnesia. Equipped with a robotic arm, courtesy of antagonist evil robot CRT, you make a desperate escape and end up crash landing on the tropical vistas of Clover Island, where you meet up with a talking owl known as (you guessed it) Plux. Here on out you and Plux will be working hand in glove to free the natives from CRT’s control, and with some luck, restore Skylar’s memory along the way. It’s a very basic story introduction as far as platform games go, but it gets the job done nevertheless.
One of the first things you will notice about the game, and this leads me to my first of many gripes, is that it looks somewhat blurry. This isn’t immediately apparent, but it does blur more so in certain places in comparison to others. What I will say however is that it’s not completely distracting and nowhere near as attention-grabbing as Final Fantasy XV, but it’s undeniably noticeable. You do eventually bond with the visuals well enough to overlook it, but it’s a bad first impression when all is said and done. The same cannot be said about the unforgivable drops in frame-rate. I cant say whether or not this is isolated to Xbox One, but there’s definitely some optimisation issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible. The drops in frame-rate tend to happen everywhere. You could be fighting enemies or just collecting gems, when all of a sudden your screen goes into overdrive. It’s a mess, and that’s putting it nicely.
Developer Right Nice Games have pushed forward two fairly memorable protagonists that have a good level of depth. I would love to touch upon the chemistry between them, but Skylar doesn’t talk. Not even at the end of the game. It’s a wasted opportunity on the developers part to really engage the player with two characters through dialogue, so it’s a shame that most of the chit-chat comes from Plux talking to himself. In fact I was often questioning why the hell Plux was even in the game. He has no one to talk to other than our mute Skylar, you don’t control him via gameplay, and he does little with the story. It’s almost as if he was thrown in for good measure, because why the hell not?
I guess if the decision was to keep Skylar silent from the beginning of the development process, it makes sense that they would want some level of chit-chat in there, but even then it’s somewhat pointless. As with any platformer that aims for the entire family, there’s a level of humour to enjoy within. Most of it comes from cutscenes and although some of it does withdraw a giggle or two from the player, a lot of it is just cringy, and I mean on a level that could rival the second Mortal Kombat movie. Mercifully, for what Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island lacks in technical and narrative delivery, it makes up for (some of) it through the decent gameplay.
There’s a nice collection of different environments for you to travel to and from, ranging from ice mountains, volcanic caverns, deserts, and more. Along the way you will free natives in exchange for more health extensions, solve challenging puzzles, and beat down just about every foe that tries to step in your way. Combat consists of spin attack, ground pound, and a basic attack. You’ll also gain access to a magnetic power that enables you to control enemy robots to great effect. Splattered all over each area are little orange crystals that you can pick up, as well as obtain from fallen enemies, these refill your health and free the aforementioned captured natives.
When you’re not doing that you’ll either be platforming from area to area as you move on, or trying to solve one of the tricky puzzles that Right Nice Games have dished up. The puzzles are not overly taxing but there’s one or two that definitely demand your attention. Platforming on the other hand is probably the high point for the game. There’s a lot of awkward and well placed structures that you will navigate on, under, and through. To do this you’ll be using your trusty grappling hook, as well as a jetpack, and the super cool ability to manipulate time. Sure, these things have been done several times before in games much better than this, but they work just as well here as they do elsewhere.
The level design gets another thumbs up from me, being that across all of the varied environments, there’s good structure to the overall presentation. The game has you collecting three items from three regions to ultimately save the day and face off against the simplistic final boss. Although you have the option to save the natives and gain more health points, it’s not necessary because you can indeed nuke the entire game with little aid. It’s a very easy platformer, and unfortunately doesn’t last for more than three hours, with another hour thrown on top if you want to save everyone on the islands. The accompanying soundtrack for each area is well struck and captures the theme of each zone quite well, but that’s small praise for a game that lacks in content and delivery almost everywhere else.
Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is marginally fun whilst it lasts. That is assuming if you can forgive the fuzzy visuals, the drops in frame-rate, the overly short length, and the lack of character engagement between the leading protagonists. When you look at the likes of Yooka-Laylee, you have wonderful platforming and a diverse selection of tools to see you through. You also have a sidekick that actually has a meaning to the game. Here on the other hand, you’ve got a half baked adventure that lacks in almost all departments, and a sidekick that’s there for the hell of it. The few things that stand out only stand out because of the several flaws that pull the rest of the game down, such as the decent level design and fairly structured gameplay. Nevertheless, if you’re forgiving of those issues and looking for a quick-fix of simple platforming and some easy Gamerscore, this may well keep you happy for an hour or two.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.