Take ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, ‘Mortal Combat’ and ‘Dragon Ball’. Now put them all into a game about mutilating your opponents through varies violent methods, complete with a robotic child who smokes cigars, a half-cat woman who can pull her head off at will and a girl with demon-hair that cuts people in half. Sound interesting? That was only a brief synopses of ‘Skullgirls’, a two dimensional fighting game from the developers at ‘Reverge Labs’ and ‘Lab Zero Games’.
This first thing you will notice about Skullgirls is that the developers did not skimp in the art department. From the very first scene, it is obvious how much time and effort the artists of ‘Revenge Labs’ and ‘Lab Zero Games’ put into the design and animation. The art style is a beautiful mix of classic cartoons and anime, two genres that many may believe would not mix well together, but like fries and a chocolate shake, the results are delicious.Every level, character and detail is mesmerizing and lovingly crafted. As far as animation goes, you would be hard pressed to find an assortment of more interesting movements and abilities, from throwing bombs, dropping an elephant on an opponent’s head to putting them in a coffin, burying them and then dropping a rock on them for good measure, every tiny bit of movement and breath is unique.
Regardless of the incredible art work, however, the setting feels a little ‘off’. From the opening credits, it is apparent the developers wanted a 1940s feel as far as interface and narrative went and unfortunately the wild art work and the 40s setting never really connect. There is nothing wrong with either of these two aspects but the setting feels disjointed from the rest of the game and fails to make any meaningful connection, as if they made all of these incredible art assets and just decided to throw it into a 1940s interface because ‘why not’. Despite this, Skullgirls art and animation goes above and beyond good, cultivating in a beautiful, humorous and unique experience.
The core of any good fighting game is the game play. Like most fighting games, ‘Skullgirls’ utilities a combo driven combat system which, unfortunately, has the potential to cause some pain with keyboard users. Initially, getting settled into ‘Skullgirls’ can be difficult for someone with little experience with fighting games, doubly so for keyboard users. You may spend some time just getting the controls adjusted to the point where you have a vague idea of how to navigate around the interface. Anyone who plans on playing ‘Skullgirls’ for a long period of time should save themselves the headache and invest in a controller. Failing the jarring keyboard scheme, ‘Skullgirls’ does not lack for good game play. Each character has their own unique play style, as any good fighting game should, but ‘Skullgirls’ takes play style to a different level and gives each character their own attitude and character. The sarcastic, cigar smoking, 40s mobster character of Peacock, for instance, is vastly different from the upbeat. playful tone of Ms. Fortune, a half-cat beast who can tear off her head and throw it at you. Every character is as unique as the last and reflects the colorful personalities of the development team instead of simply throwing together a few cool looking character with bland personalities and slapping on a few nice looking moves. The hallmarks of ‘Skullgirls’ is how smooth and fast paced each fight feels in addition to how well balanced each character is, unlike other fighting games where one character can spam the same ability over and over again until their opponent falls over, ‘Skullgirls’ has a way of keeping the player on their feet. There is no really good way to describe the game play other than simply saying that the feeling of dropping an Eastern Island head statue on someone head for the first time is nothing short of smile-enducing. This does have it’s downsides however. It is apparent how much effort was put into each character, but with quality comes a reduction in quantity. As it stands, there are nine characters that are available to play, one of which can be purchased as, currently, free downloadable content. Along with the free character, there is also a color palette available for extra character customization. Tag team combat is also a unique feature where players can choose to play as one powerful character, two normal character or three weaker characters. During a tag team match, you can call in your partner for a short duration as an AI controlled entity to help defeat your opponent. Beware, however, as your opponent can do the same. When one character is defeated, their tag team partner will take to stage to, hopefully, finish off what is left of the enemy.
The single player mode is not much to speak of. What you get out of the campaign, while polished and interesting, is remarkably short. Each character has their own campaign and back story, however each campaign can easily be beaten in under an hour. The premise of ‘Skullgirls’ is that there is a magical skull that grants the wish of one woman, but if she is not pure of heart, she is turned into a hideous monster, hence the title ‘Skullgirls’. Wading your way through the campaign, you will face against a cast of different characters, all culminating up to the fighting and defeating the Skullgirl herself. The campaign should be treated as more of a way to get to know your favorite characters back story and practice that characters combinations and abilities rather than a primary feature of the entire game.
The fact that the single player is somewhat lacking means that multi-player combat is where Skullgirls truly shines. As the developers have stated in the official game F.A.Q, Skullgirls aims to be a tournament-centered fighting game and thus the multi-player reflects that fact. The first multi-player mode is, coincidentally, tournament mode, where yourself and local players can fight in a cycle of matches in a tournament style system. Similarly, the second option is a local match where two players either on the same system or on a lan set up can face off in a simple 1v1 match. Quick match will pair you with other players over the internet where you will fight in a ranked match as each player works their way up the leader boards. The last multi-player option is ‘lobby game’ that compiles a list of available game lobbies for you to freely join without having to worry about being pitted against a grand master of fighting games like quick match has a tendency to do. Skullgirls is the ideal game for competition. It’s smooth, fast paced and complete with face melting action (sometimes literally).
There is nothing quite like playing a game where you can tell the developers truly cared and gave as much as they could. Although the amount of content is less what many may have preferred, the quality of the content is nothing less than top tier. With many games, you have a choice of playing a giant mediocre game or a small brilliant game and Skullgirls clearly falls under the latter description. There is no doubt that, with further development, Skullgirls has a true shot at becoming a fighting game for the tournaments and a mainstay for the fighting game fan. Put bluntly, Skullgirls is simply a good game with a bright future that fighting game fans should be excited for.
This review is based on a review copy of the PC version of Skullgirls developed by Revenge Labs
- Incredible Art Work
- Fast Paced and Fun
- Short Campaign
- Bad Keyboard Controls