Skytorn: Looting in the sky with diamonds - Games Weekly

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Skytorn: Looting in the sky with diamonds

Our favourite part of the Sonic The Hedgehog games was always the Sky Sanctuary level the decaying ruins suspended in the sky always felt constructed with this tragic, yet beautiful, ambition. Skytorn is effectively a game made in that world a pixel-art odyssey through a crumbling aerial utopia where survivors cling to the ancient technologies of the airborne society to keep themselves alive.

You play as a travelling hero equipped with a shovel that can dig through the terrain or attack enemies on a whim (sound familiar, Shovel Knight?) The shovel can be upgraded as you travel through the fading world, one of which can turn you from a scrappy fighter into something of a geomancer with an ability that creates solid ground when you hit the attack button. Expect fiendish vertical puzzles galore.


The world is procedurally-generated, too, meaning that the levels you’ll fight, build and dig your way through will be built on algorithms designed to make the most of every available skill, rather than specifically constructed to hold your hand and guide you through a story. Imagine Spelunky, Shovel Knight and Guacamelee all got together and put their best bits into a pot, and you’ll have an idea of what to expect from Skytorn.

A lot of thought has been put into the character’s height in relation to his world: like most pixel-art games, the game is constructed on a bed of tiles the player is 1.6 tiles high, while walls are typically three tiles high. This means vaulting and clambering over obstacles becomes tricky to animate and fit into the mechanics of the game; does the designer choose to snap the player to the desired platform from a few pixels away, make them slide into a wall-grab position or just lower the whole world a little?
Explore. Fight. Find items and enchantments. Dive into the depths of the island to find out what’s going on. Y’know, the usual
Noel Barry decided that he’d take the Legend Of Zelda route add in a little buffer of a wall-vault that means should your character’s bottomtile collide with the wall’s top tile, you automatically performa slight hop over the precipice, back onto solid ground. It sounds small, almost imperceptible, but it's the attention to details like this that makes us excited for Skytorn.

We brought Sonic the Hedgehogup earlier because this game bears more than a thematic resemblance to one passing level. Skytorn is a side-on action platformer with a phenomenal soundtrack instantly reminiscent of Sonic, with 16-bit visuals that are well-designed enough to make us salivate. The game has currently only been announced for PS4, but the developer has stated their interest in the title coming to Vita, too. Towerfall creator Matt Thorson is attached to the product as level designer, if you needed any more reassurance of how promising Skytorn looks.

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