As I’ve mentioned before, lying on the couch playing mobile games isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, particularly when a game drags on and on and on some more, and/or when it’s simply no good.
No such worries with ClutchPlay Games’ Skullduggery, a wonderful physics-based thingamajig with the skulls and the skulduggery and whatnot. Praise below.
The story here is that a bunch of “Deadbeats” have taken their riches into the next life, and as a member of the “INFERNAL Revenue Service” (IRS) and a "Semi-Organic Autonomous Skull" (er, SOAS?), you’re tasked with claiming it all back.
That means traversing three sets of eights levels (24 in total, for the mathematically challenged), grabbing coins and finding hidden heirlooms as you go. Each of the three areas – Skullcademy, Bonewalk Empire and Pyramid Schemes – is punctuated with a boss, including a machine gun-toting Al CaBone, and the brilliantly named Tutan Conman.
In terms of controls, you simply pull back on the protagonist’s head (well, he’s only a head, actually), set your angle, and release to send him flying. If you’re thinking Angry Birds with platforming elements, you’re definitely in the right ballpark.
Making things more interesting, time slows down when you hold your finger on the screen. Using that mechanic to your advantage, it’s often necessary to chain together a quick succession of movements in order to avoid moving walls, for example, or perhaps a big screen-hogging boss.
There’s a multitude of other things going on, too, including hands that safely catch you, springs, magnets for attracting coins, fire for burning through wood, cannons, and the ability to become a big giant skull and smash through things. Neat.
And that’s everything you need to know about Skullduggery. Now to pull it apart into the obligatory Pros and Cons. Pros first?
Skullduggery is, at its core, a great concept, and it’s very well executed. Everything about the physics feels great, even when time and precision are of the essence. The controls never feel cumbersome.
As you’ve probably gathered above, there’s also a ton of stuff going on, but the various gameplay elements are introduced without resorting to a full-on tutorial, and without spoon-feeding the player.
Each of the 21 non-boss levels is well carved up, too, with regular checkpoints, so having to retry a particular section doesn’t feel like a chore.
However! I say “non-boss levels”; when battling a boss, dying sends you right back to the beginning of the level. That’s incredibly annoying given that the final moments of a boss battle (the beginning bit generally involves flying away real quick) can be rather tricky. Having to go through those first few minutes again and again and again is – no two ways about it – annoying as fug.
The other thing that bothered me, though only slightly, is the difficulty of some of the later levels. Some of the enemies can take you out pretty much instantly.
And a final gripe (I’m duty bound to come up with three); Skullduggery is relatively short, but to be fair, there’s a ton of replay value when it comes to meeting all the targets and finding all the stuff.
All in all, Skullduggery is pretty great, and definitely one I’ll remember when it comes to penning The best mobile games of 2014 in a couple of months.
- Great concept, and the physics are spot-on
- Loads of stuff going on, but not confusing at all
- Regular checkpoints (er, in 21/24 levels)
- Having to restart a boss level from scratch
- Pretty tough near the end
- Fairly short (but with lots of replay value)
Summary: In short, Skullduggery is a great physics-based platformer. I could’ve saved myself some time and written that 600 words ago, but, y’know.
Developer: ClutchPlay Games
Price: £2.99 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimised for iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus.