Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sky Puppy Review

Sky Puppy, developed and published by StarQuail Productions.
The Good: Really easy controls (just the spacebar) for all age levels, branching levels, the dog is named Wilford
The Not So Good: Can be difficult to maneuver where you want, game plays the same from beginning to end, pressing one button repeatedly gets old fast
What say you? A one button platform game that’s short on variety: 4/8

Platform games used to be extremely popular during the days of Nintendo dominance (last Tuesday), featuring the well-known icons Mario, Sonic, and Donkey Kong (among others). They have never been too terribly popular on the PC (probably due to an older audience), but some smaller developers have come out with some titles to satisfy those gamers who wish to relive days gone by. This brings us to Sky Puppy, a platform game where you control a flying dog. Makes sense to me!

Sky Puppy is a vertically scrolling 2-D game that features flat 2-D graphics. The game doesn’t look bad, but it isn’t much above the level set by console games in the early 90s. They have a distinct hand-drawn feel to them and accentuate the overall cartoon theme of the game. There isn’t much detail to the graphics other than the repeating backgrounds. The sound is along the same lines: the background effects are pretty good, but general effects are below average. The game’s fanciful theme shines through the graphics and sound and although they are a little underwhelming, they serve their purpose and don’t detract from the gameplay.

Sky Puppy is a classic platformer where you navigate the levels finding bones, avoiding enemies, and try to reach the exit before time runs out. The game’s controls are very simple because they consist of one button. That’s right, in order to play Sky Puppy, all you need to do is mash the spacebar to make your puppy fly a little bit further towards the top of the screen. You don’t have any control over moving your character left or right: this is done by touching arrows that are arranged by the level designers to move you up through the obstacle-laden levels. While moving through the levels, you must also avoid touching any enemies, as they decrease the amount of time you have to complete the level. As you might imagine, the decision to make the game have such simple controls has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it makes the game easy enough for any skill and age level to play. On the other hand, it makes playing the game extremely repetitious. Additionally, the game isn’t really that varied or compelling to play. I’d imagine that it would entertain school age children, but the rest of the population will probably grow tired of the one note tune that Sky Puppy offers. The game can get frustrating at time because it’s difficult to make your dog go where you want it to. If you miss a certain arrow by pressing the spacebar one time too many, you might get stuck in an out-of-the-way area and have to slowly navigate your way back to the main track. The game does have a branching level system in which choosing your exit path determines the next level you’ll play: this means you’ll need to play the game more than one to access all of the game’s 45 levels (15 levels at each difficulty level).

Sky Puppy is a platform game with extremely simple controls geared towards the youth of America (and other countries). Most players of older ages will get bored by the constant, repeating gameplay, and younger players might find the game too difficult on anything but the easiest difficulty levels (and even easy is fairly challenging for youngsters). There’s not really anything that Sky Puppy adds to the genre that might make it considered a unique or innovative game other than the single button controls. Of course, the game is only $10 and there is probably an audience for this game if there are children who enjoy platform games but don’t have a console. You can always try out the demo and see if Sky Puppy’s simple controls are right for you.