Posted on 21 Feb 2020 by Jay Shaw

Skul: The Hero Slayer

The Defence

Developer: SouthPAW Games
Publisher: NEOWIZ
Genre: Action, Roguelike
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 19 Feb 2020

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 450 GTS
AMD Radeon HD 5750
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 500 MB
DirectX: 9
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
AMD Radeon HD 7800
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 500 MB
DirectX: 9
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

Skul: The Hero Slayer is a 2D side-scrolling rogue-lite platformer where you play a runty little skeleton dude with a cool purple cape and leg bone on his quest to save the undead king and senators after a bunch of so-called heroic humans busted up their castle and kidnapped everyone. To do this the little guy has a few tricks up his sleeve and some costly help from the other monsters that inhabit the lands between the castle and human kingdom.

Little Skul’s major trick is his ability to take on the form of other skeletons by collecting their heads. Grab a Minotaur skull and suddenly you’re not a half-pint kneecap basher but a hulking undead monster that uppercuts knights and heroes into pieces. The Early Access release has a sizeable selection of forms available; the knife throwing agile Clown, gun wielding Mummy, crazy powerful Ninja, and floaty Gargoyle are a few of the common ones. Each form comes with one or two powers unique to it and usually serve to enhance the role each form is intended for. For example, the Minotaur can rush enemies down with a powerful horn charge while the Ninja can throw a barrage of shuriken and dash through a line of enemies and strike them all at once. Skulls don’t always have the same skills between pick-ups either so even if you don’t like a particular form the first time it might be more to your liking with a new ability.

The Ninja is especially adept at dealing and avoiding damage.

Skul doesn’t stop there though; you can carry two different forms as well as a handful of items that provide passive bonuses to various stats as well as a Quintessence, an item that provides a passive and active ability. These active abilities can range from incredibly useful leaps or shields to kinda useless point-blank attacks that spawn some money if they connect. By working your items into developing the strengths of a skull that suits your play style you can create some pretty incredible builds that tear through mobs and bosses with ease.

Speaking of bosses, the Early Access build has several of them to face and each one has a simple attack pattern that’s easy to learn but requires some skill to evade and exploit. As they become damaged they’ll often unleash a more powerful variant of one of their attacks to catch you off-guard. Quick reactions can save your life in many cases but not all skulls are created equal and you may not have invincibility during the dodge animation so your tactic for evading attacks has to be spot-on or you’ll find your limited pool of health fading fast. For those who find themselves struggling, the options menu hides a “rookie mode” toggle which grants an extra 100 hit points, effectively doubling your starting health and all percentage based health buffs.

As with most rogue-lites you can unlock additional functionality for a pre-run area, in this case the undead castle; by rescuing the Witch you can spend Dark Quartz to upgrade your base stats such as health, attack power, and critical chance amongst others. Each upgrade has several tiers with rapidly increasing costs. Early on you’ll be buying 3-4 upgrades per visit but after a while you’ll be getting only 1 per 3-4 runs. It never feels like the grind is increasing thanks to your increased stats letting you get further and faster than the last time around. A second NPC in the castle is the Fox Hunter, a huge buff fox dude who will provide you with a random skull for free each run.

This image will make sense in 1 more paragraph.

Skul: The Hero Slayer is not a game that takes itself seriously: from the munchkin size protagonist to the cutesy world and bright artwork the game is absolutely jam-packed with character and colour. The characters you meet along the way often have an adorable twist to them and great art that conveys their personality and appeal without animations. We challenge anyone prone to collecting waifus to not instantly fall in love with The Witch and her pastel and purple design. Not to mention that rockin’ uh… hat.

Skul still has some minor issues; untranslated and ill-fitting text are common but mostly inconsequential and we’re sure a couple of the stat boosts didn’t apply when we picked up a new item but it’s rare to find a rogue-lite these days that can grab your attention with a cool style and then keep it by delivering on a very enjoyable gameplay loop. Even if it is derivative (like every other rogue-like, by definition) Skul delivers a good time and I ended up playing about six hours more than needed to for the sake of this preview because I actually lost track of time while having fun. We definitely recommend digging down the back of the couch cushions for the price of entry.

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