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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

RPG/Adventure

 

Publisher

Simon & Schuster

 

Developer

Boston Animation

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2002

 

 

- Awesome humor that pokes much fun at gaming clichés

- Big and bright graphics

- In-game display easy to read and manipulate

 

 

- Everything else only goes ¾ of the way

- A few missed opportunities

 

 

Review: Drakan II: The Ancients' Gate (Playstation 2)

Review: Enclave (XBox)

 

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Darkened Skye

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

I can almost imagine what went on during the initial design meetings at Boston Animation.  But of all the scenarios, this one seems the most plausible.

 

Imagine if you will, a murkily lit room and a few haggard people slumped in chairs around a large circular table.  All have headaches from the night before.  There’s the stale smell of bad cigars hanging in the air.  The ideas come slowly or are so poor they aren’t worth a second look.  Someone pulls out a small container of mind-altering drugs and a pack of Skittles.  10 to 12 months of frenzy later and Darkened Skye (DS) is the result – a quasi RPG adventure coded by many of Eastern Europe’s finest and featuring a certain chewy candy.  Hands down, this is one of the weirdest games I’ve played this year.  But it’s also the funniest.

 

darkened-skye-2.jpg (41960 bytes)          darkened-skye-3.jpg (51971 bytes)

 

DS puts you in control of Sky as she fulfills her destiny of restoring the Skittle Rainbows to the Five Lands from the hands of the evil Lord Necroth.  And with the help of her new friend Draak, a gargoyle, she just might do it.  If the setup and plot seems trite and old – except for the Skittles tie-in – there’s a reason.  DS doesn’t just revel in old contrivances; it plays with them, makes fun of the clichés and generally bashes videogames.  It’s cleverly written and made me laugh out loud more than a few times.  (“Isn’t this the part we say, “Lock and Load?””)  Which is why it’s so disappointing that the other aspects of DS don’t match the writing and the humor.

 

Of main concern is the fairly strict level design – Skye is funneled from one area to the next.  This is a particular problem since most games since Zelda: Ocarina of Time have allowed quite a bit of player exploration.  Skye’s not on rails, but the feeling of really exploring an area is missing.  Since DS was released on the PC some months ago, there was time to retool the levels to make them more open.

 

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The combat could have been refined somewhat or at least a lock-on feature included.  Skye’s main weapon, her staff, is great fun to use but executing specific moves with consistency takes time.  Taking on multiple enemies at once is a good feature but when you can’t perform the moves you want, when you want, it can get a bit frustrating.

 

Easier to use is the magic system.  Spells are created by combining different colored Skittles and range from Firewalk to Ring of Time to Lighting.  Figuring out the spells and their uses is the only way to conquer most puzzles – just bashing enemies isn’t enough.

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Challenge is moderate with most puzzles easily and quickly solved with the odd one that can leave you scratching your head.  There are the typical jumping and timing puzzles accompanied by various mini-quests (e.g. find Bob’s lost keys to gain the secret bit of knowledge that allows you to open a door).  Basically, you don’t have to worry too much about dying (unless you’re just being careless or you haven’t mastered the controls, which can take a couple of hours).  One glaring omission though is being able to control Draak.  The only times he shows up is for some witty banter (which is great) or to offer a nugget of advice.  Why not make him more integral to gameplay?  I’m not suggesting DS should have been a buddy game, but just think of the different puzzles that could have been implemented with such a radically different character.  It’s a missed opportunity.

 

darkened-skye-4.jpg (68777 bytes)          darkened-skye-5.jpg (82015 bytes)

 

The “Taste the Rainbow” theme actually fits in with DS’s various environments across the Five Lands.  Everything is big and bright – except the dark areas, of course – with a certain amount of lushness imbued in everything like a hyperactive cartoon.

 

Although Darkened Skye hits the high notes with it’s humor, it has a few too many flaws to make it a permanent part of your gaming library.  However, if you want to see how funny a game can be, go for the rental.  (Not only that, you get to see one of the strangest commercial tie-ins ever.)

 

- Omni

(December 11, 2002)

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