There’s not much that’s truly original in video games these days, so it’s nice when something comes along to genuinely surprise you.
Skybolt Zack is one such game. It has seemingly come out of nowhere and it should be gathering more attention, as it’s a platformer unlike any other.
In Skybolt Zack, pretty much every enemy and interactable object is colour coded: projectiles, gun emplacements, doors, springs, fans. Everything. If you’re playing with an Xbox One controller the colours match up perfectly with the face buttons: blue, red, and yellow. The green button, A, is used to jump. Pressing the same colour button as an enemy or object when you’re in range causes you to dash at it. And by holding a button down you can increase the homing radius. Enemies and objects with no colour can be bounced upon with a well-timed press of the jump button.
What’s really clever about Skybolt Zack is that every enemy and object in a level is arranged so that you can combo from one to another. It means that if you have the skill, pretty much every level can be completed without even touching the floor. Button bashing will get you so far, but to move through levels with grace you need to take your time and find a good flow. With the music picking up pace as your combo grows, it can sometimes feel like your playing a music rhythm game.
Of course, levels get more complicated as you go on. You’ll find that most enemies go down in one hit throughout the game, though some enemies and objects require more bashing. And sometimes hitting them once reveals a different colour robot underneath. Add in environmental hazards such as spikes, bombs and laser beams and you have a recipe disaster if you’re not coordinated. You have to carefully choose your targets, and make use of your handy dash manoeuvre to cover ground quickly if there’s some distance between them.
There are five worlds for you to blast through, and the path you take is up to you. You essentially have to complete four levels in each world to progress to the next. Take the low route and you’ll find yourself having an easier time. Go up high and you might run into trouble. To consider the game fully complete you’re going to want to go back and explore all routes.
If you go low all the way, you can probably blast through Skybolt Zack in just a couple of hours. You might get still get stuck, though, because the game is truly fiendish in its later stages; this is not the game to play if you’re prone to throwing controllers across the room in a fit of rage. Unlocking and playing through all levels adds some longevity, as well as the unlockable Super Play Mode, and trying to master every level will truly be a considerable task. If you need a bit of incentive to do so, there are online leaderboards so you can measure your performance against others. Both the time taken to complete each stage and your score is measured.
Alongside Skybolt Zack‘s challenging gameplay, an exciting and dynamic soundtrack really pumps you up to rush through stages as fast as you can. It’s a nice looking game, too. Technically there’s nothing that’s going to wow you, but good art direction and great use of bold colours means that it’s easy to spot targets as you zip along at high speed. Everything comes together to make Skybolt Zack a game that’s very nice to look at, listen to and play.
Like a bolt of out of the blue, Skybolt Zack has truly won me over. It’s inventive, wholly original, and most importantly a lot of fun. Some might find the challenge it presents a little too steep as they make their way further into the game – situations can indeed get a little messy at times – but with practice and perseverance, no gauntlet it presents you with can’t be overcome. It just requires coordination and quick-thinking. Don’t be a fool; check it out if you like fast-paced platformers with a difference.