Nostalgia is both a useful tool and a slight handicap.
By creating a game that plays on people’s fond memories for past titles, you can recapture a feeling they had from their gaming history, a feeling they want to remember. But pushing too far down this avenue also poses the risk of isolating modern gamers, by utilising outdated mechanics and tropes for a genre long dead.
Skylar and Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is a game that walks this fine line. Skylar and Plux takes me back to the heyday of the 3D platforming genre. When discussing the game with them in an interview, developer Right Nice Games told me of their inspirations. Games like Banjo Kazooie, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, but strangely not Ratchet and Clank. The reason I cite this as odd, is that Skylar and Plux feels like the perfect blend of the original Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter games.
From a story stand point, Clover Island takes ideas from Ratchet and Clank. A maniacal villain named CRT has set out to destroy the planet of Clover Island. However Skylar, a humanoid space leopard breaks loose and escapes down to the planet below, crash landing with her memory erased. She immediately meets Plux, a chirpy owl-like local, looking to fly away from his home planet. Beat for beat this is the origin story of Ratchet and Clank. Clank similarly escaped from the villain of his original game, only to crash land on an alien planet, with no memory. It was here that he met Ratchet, a local of the planet, looking for adventure, and very similar in appearance to Skylar herself.
While from a design perspective Clover Island takes ideas from Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. From the partnering of a silent protagonist and chatter box sidekick, to Clover Island sharing a strong resemblance to Sandover Village, to basic movement animations being almost identical between the two games. But what stops this from being a simple copy and paste project?
Skylar and Plux does create a personality for itself in its 2-3 hour campaign. Upon arriving on Clover Island, you find that CRT has attacked the planet and captured its inhabitants. You’ll collect glowing yellow shards throughout the world in the same way you collected Precursor Orbs and Bolts. However you’ll then use these shards to free the locals from their cages. Free enough locals and your overall health will be raised.
The game itself is split into three main areas. Each area is aesthetically different and offers unique platforming challenges and puzzles. The game stays fresh by introducing new abilities once you enter a new area. From a jet pack, to the ability to slow down time, to a giant magnetic claw. These abilities change up how you tackle combat and puzzles within the game. The game is simple to master. None of the platforming or enemy encounters felt too gruelling, while puzzles were often fair and straightforward. This is a game fans of the genre will be able to cruise through, but is also accessible enough to accommodate younger gamers. These features don’t revolutionise gaming, but help Skylar and Plux stand out enough from its inspirations.
Although Clover Island finds an identity for itself amongst all the references, it doesn’t do anything to entice those who weren’t already fond of the genre. However Skylar and Plux is exactly what 3D Platforming fanatics are looking for. It’s a compact three hour experience that covers a genre you grew up with, in a fresh coat of paint.