Reviews: Skullmonkeys

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KAW! KAW! OOOEEE!
As side-scrolling platformers go, Skullmonkeys is really nothing all that special. If you've played any 2D adventure that involves jumping than this game is bringing very little, if anything, new to the table.

Like it's predecessor, The Neverhood, Skullmonkeys retains the familiar and charming claymation style, which in itself already sets the games apart from at least 95% of video games. Had it simply been all lumpy 32-bit polygon models than it would have lost practically all it's character, as Klaymen and the hordes of vicious skullmonkeys are still amusing to watch even when compared to modern game sprites and models.

Arguably the greatest aspect of this game, and it's prequel, has to be it's soundtrack by Terry S. Taylor, even if neither games are your cup of tea the music alone is worth hunting down and listening to. At the creator's, Doug Ten Napel's, request Taylor avoided the mid-90's modern music wave to instead divulge into blues, jazzy, and 'heavy, thudding, clay-like' songs and tracks, and to this day they remain my personal favourite game soundtracks.

The actual structure of the levels are basic at best, simple platforms, some moving, others exploding after being touched. While many of the stages 'look' amazing, when a world contains three or more levels that are copy-pasted with only slight colour filter changes, coupled with several overly long, needlessly difficult and fiddly moments (the stages YNT Death Garden, YNT Eggs and Evil Engine #9 suffer from this beyond belief), Skullmonkeys could have done with much more polish in the actual 'game' aspect. Competent, but crying out for more variety.

Lastly, the bosses are a mixed bunch. While great to look at, only Joe-Head-Joe puts forth any real challenge (if projectiles are not used), while the first boss goes down in three hits and the final boss is plain insulting (especially since he's the main antagonist from the first game). Had the last boss had more than one 'form', or lasted until the very end cutscene I wouldn't have minded so much.

A classic case of style over substance, but despite that I have a particular soft spot for it. The visuals and music are good enough to compensate for the difficultly spikes and bland levels. Has yet to see a release on the PS Network or Xbox Live, but one can hope it finds a new audience someday.
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