Pirates are a scurvy bunch! They prey on the weak, steal whatever they want, and cause problems for whomever they encounter. It takes a brave person to tackle them head-on, a person who fears nothing and has an overwhelming sense of right from wrong. Yet, it’s not just the feel-good factor that drives these vigilantes, there is also the bonus of a bounty when each filthy dog is blown to smithereens. Skycadia asks you to play the part of a bounty hunter in its pixelated homage to Nintendo’s 1993 hit Star Fox.
Developed and published by Studio Nisse, this is a brightly coloured first-person flying shooter. You control three different heroic pilots who aim to clear the skies of the never-ending threat of insect pirates. You soar through the sky avoiding projectiles, Kamikaze bugs, and buildings. Your aim is to shoot down as many foes as possible, collecting the gold they drop, while staying alive for as long as possible.
Skycadia is a blast from the past.
The moment the game loads in you instantly get a twinge of nostalgia. The dated graphics, the arcade-style logo, and the rasp of the synthesised music all make for an eye-catching and overwhelming experience. You are given two options to enjoy in Skycadia. The first is Bounty Hunt. This is the main mode where you will spend most of your time. Second, you can fly freely in the Cruisin’ mode, where you’ll enjoy every low-poly image at your own pace.
Bounty Hunt is an endless mode that asks you to fly freely around a large ocean map. You must search for your foes, shoot them out of the sky, and take every piece of gold they possess. Each pilot has a specific ship with its strengths and weaknesses. Captain Sanders is the all-rounder, Big Bucket flies a hefty crate, and Lord Yolka is nimble and agile. The quicker they are, the less health they have! Lord Yolka must use his speed to avoid bullets and enemies that want to kill him, whereas Big Bucket can take a beating and still keep flying.
I loved the idea of using the quickest ship, darting in and out of the fight, picking off each pirate. In reality, however, it was tough to distinguish between foes, making the faster pilots nigh on impossible to use. This trait also transferred to the choice of weapons. You start with a machine gun, and you then unlock a Scattershot (a Shotgun) followed by a Chargeshot (a high-powered laser). The first was too weak to be useful, and the last was too slow to overcome the hordes of bugs, meaning the only viable option was the Scattershot.
An illusion of choices.
As you look at your choices, you are given the illusion that you’ll be able to select the vessel and weapon that suits your style. Sadly, this isn’t the case! Skycadia gives you the freedom to pick whichever pilot you like, and you can select your loadout, but you will always return to the highest health, and most useful gun. Big Bucket and the Scattershot will always be selected to give you the best chance of success.
So, what is deemed as a victory in a game with no story? In short, the amount of money you collect before you are destroyed. Each short game comprises lots of explosions, dodging, and collecting of gold. Once all your health is depleted, it’s game over, and you either restart to try again or return to the tavern.
You can see your stats in the tavern, how you compare on the global leaderboard, and how many times you have been killed in the Bounty Book. It was interesting to read but added little to the gameplay. It was nice to see how I compared to my friends or the big boys around the world, but I would have preferred a focus on another game mode to get my teeth into.
Skycadia has dated graphics that were great to see but are problematic.
The low-poly style will certainly not be to everyone’s liking. The garish and jagged lines aren’t pretty to look at, nor are the sharp and contrasting colours. Yet, there is something wonderful about this old-school experience. It sucks you in and transports you to the genre’s heyday. Unfortunately, though, I have to take off the rose-tinted spectacles and realise that this art style caused many issues. It was hard to see the opposition, depth perception was nonexistent, and the scenery was challenging to make out.
These issues are not going to go away. They cause you to be hit more times than I care to remember, end your playthrough, and generally annoy you throughout! But the pain is all worth it, as you soar around a wonderful pixelated sky, trying to pin down your opponents.
If it isn’t the bright colours giving you a headache, it will definitely be the synthesised audio. With high pitched electronic sounds, an upbeat soundtrack, and tinny sound effects, it was brilliantly reminiscent of early 90s gaming. Bugs flying into you made awful crashing noises. The rasping sound of your weapon crunching your enemies armour, and the inevitable explosion as you failed your mission were all great to listen to. Though the sound wasn’t always pleasant, but it carried the action perfectly and suited both the style and theme to a tee.
What, no brakes!!!!!
Who has heard of a plane with no brakes? The oversight was maddening! You can boost, roll, and shoot to your heart’s content, but try to slow down…..hell no! I admit, it’s not the end of the world, but it was a bit strange not having this option. It removed a necessary tactical element and made the action much harder in the process. If I put this to one side, the rest of the controls were great. You can choose to invert the analogue stick, and other actions use a couple of buttons. So other than the lack of brakes, it was easy to play.
With only one viable game mode, Skycadia’s replay value is dented, somewhat. Yes, the Cruisin’ option was fun, but this soon became tiresome. Bounty Hunts were always fast-paced and enjoyable, but I wanted much more of a challenge, and this sadly never materialised. If the developers had added a time trial, power-ups, squadron battles, or any other tangible option it would have gripped its audience much more. If you are a completionist you’ll spend no more than five hours on this, and that’ll get you your 100% status.
Skycadia is a fun casual experience that needs a bit more bite.
Skycadia’s gameplay, style and presentation are all great, mostly. Retro gamers will fall for its charms and will get lost in its low-poly world. It’s an excellent albeit short casual experience that will transport you back to the 90s. There are a few areas that need improving, but overall I recommend you buy it here! Help the three heroic pilots take down the swarm of bug pirate scum. It’s a never-ending battle, but at least you are paid handsomely for your efforts.