Skul The Hero Slayer (Xbox One) Review
Michael P Cleworth
As a man that’s so old that his history class was just called ‘Class’, my heart still resides in the wonderfully simple days of yore. Owing to this, is my deep-seated love of retro-style platform games and all of their simplistic charms. This is why, when I saw that Skul The Hero Slayer had been added to the ever-growing library of Xbox Game Pass, I was overjoyed. My inner child awoke as I hit that download button and once again, I was back in 1992 (albeit with a lot more facial hair).
The Story Behind Skul The Hero Slayer
Contrary to the usual tale of a hero taking on evil forces to save the world, a galaxy or a woman, Skul: The Hero Slayer puts you in the shoes of a skeletal soldier and minion of The Demon King (insert evil laugh here). After his king is defeated, Skul, with the help of his friends of all that’s unholy, embark on a mission of revenge as he battles the forces of good to hunt down and destroy the warrior who struck down his beloved hero.
Yes, that’s about the size of it. While the story is beyond simple, this is a clear drive to keep the player focused on just having fun. A deeply intricate plot would have taken away from the game’s glorious simplicity and just wouldn’t have fit in with the easy going gameplay.
Despite the retro charms being omnipresent in Skul: The Hero Slayer, the graphics remain true to modern-day gaming. With a beautiful, crisp cartoon shine, Skul: The Hero Slayer stands out from the crowd with a fresh graphical angle and masses of interesting characters and enemies to meet and beat (sometimes).
Don’t Lose your Head
At the start of the game, our anti-hero has the default ability of removing his (or her) head and throwing it and enemies. The fact that by using the right trigger allows you to transport to your skull’s location opens up a world of tactical possibilities and, once mastered, can be used to devastating effect.
However, this super-useful ability is merely the icing on the cake, as Skul: The Hero Slayer is host to over thirty different skulls that each grant a different ability – kind of like the power-up costumes in the Mario games. What skulls present themselves is mainly reliant on the luck of the draw; adding a little ore excitement to an already enthralling game.
Skul the Hero Slayer – Gameplay
As excellent a game this is, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. True to the era the game drew inspiration from, the adventures of Skul can be ire-inducing, to put it lightly. While the game starts of relatively easy, the heat is turned up as you first meet the first boss, an angry tree. While trees, angry or otherwise, aren’t usually deemed as formidable, this one requires a pattern that needs to be mastered should you have any chance of coming out unscathed.
“That’s the case with any boss, though” I almost hear you saying. While this is certainly very true, Skul doesn’t have any checkpoints whatsoever, making it difficult to learn said pattern. This was the reason that I very nearly put down the control pad and allowed the defeat of The Demon King to go unavenged. I did, however, soon learn that after each death you have the option to use garnered dark shards to upgrade your health, attack power and magical abilities. Once I discovered this, I knew that the key was preservation, and it really paid off.
If you have the patience of a saint, Skul the Hero Slayer is definitely right up your street, as, as with most difficult games, the feeling of accomplishment is more than satisfying.
Skul the Hero Slayer has provided me (and more recently, my kids) with hours of torturous fun. While I have yet to finish it (and have been thrown back to the start countless times), I still haven’t began to tire of its fast-paced pandemonium.
Available now on PC, PS4/PS5 and Xbox Game Pass, this is a game you don’t want to miss.