Skullgirls Review (PS3)

Flashline: From the artist that brought you Scott Pilgrim, comes one of the most stylized games to grace your eyeballs in recent years... Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game on the XBLA and PSN that sucks you in with its gorgeously original visuals, and keeps you there with its easy to learn but hard to master controls to provide a fun and addictive, yet challenging experience.

Developed by Autumn Games and Reverge Labs, and featuring the unique art of Alex Ahad (Lava Punch, Scott Pilgrim), Skullgirls features a roster of female warriors, set in the ‘dark deco’ world of Canopy Kingdom. The story mode has you fight your way through a series of enemies to gain control of the ‘Skull Heart’; an artifact with the power to grant wishes. But like most fighting games, it’s playing with others that brings the most satisfaction.

Pictured above: Assets

Each character has their own unique look, from Parasoul, the umbrella wielding nun, to Ms. Fortune, the zombie cat-woman with detachable limbs. The only thing that is similar in all of them is the fact their costumes can barely contain their... assets.

The game tried to handle in an old school 2D arcade manor; and it pulls it off well. Although I’m not a massive fan of the series, I couldn’t help but think of Street Fighter II while playing. Players can choose between having one powerful character, two medium characters, or three weaker characters from the nine in total, depending on how they want to play. However, due to the handling, most of the characters feel the same to play with, and so to really get an edge over your competition, learning the combos is a must. The combat relies on a mix of these combos, and blocking - high attacks beat low blocks, low blocks beat medium blocks etc. Unfortunately, learning the combos is easier said than done.

The layout of the controls means that all the buttons on the controller - from the face buttons to the shoulder buttons - are all in use. Lets face it - the Xbox 360 controller was never the best to play fighting games on when it was just A, B, X and Y to choose from, but throwing the shoulder buttons in too is nothing short of arthritis-inducing. As for the combos, instead of a moves list, the game has an extensive tutorial section, which starts with teaching you how to jump, and ends with combos that can cut through someones health bar like a hot knife through butter. (And the health bars in this game are extensive to say the least.)

You won’t find another game quite like it, visually

I personally found the tutorials to be of little help when it came to the combos. The complexity quickly ramps up without warning, and goes from “press up and kick to do a jump kick” to teaching jumping double dash attacks. It’s one thing to lay out the buttons in a easy to read way, but don’t expect me to be able to pull it off successfully in the middle of a fight. I can play guitar, but stick the solo to Metallica’s Unforgiven III in front of me and I’m not gonna be able to play it. Especially when a hot girl dressed as a nun is wailing on me.

Having said that, the games website does feature an extensive downloadable moves list for those of you ‘hardcore’ gamers that want to perfect their art, but the message I got from that is ‘...or you could just sod it and button mash, hoping to stumble across a finishing combo.’

Learning how to use projectiles will be a game changer

What this game does really well is appeal to those nostalgic fans of old-school fighters, whilst providing a new, refreshing aesthetic. Concept art fills the loading screens, and the games music transitions between awesome Japanese-style power rock to jazz.

However this makes it hard to place. Judging it solely on how it lives up to older fighters, I’d say pretty well; judging it solely on its art-style, then the game is nothing short of phenomenal. However, when you bring in the facts that the story line is quite short for each character, the character feel doesn’t differ as much as their visual styles might suggest, and how difficult is to learn to play the damn thing, you realise that the games beauty may well be clouding your judgment. Having said that, the game is fun to play, and everything does what it should be doing, and if having a good time with a few friends and a few beers, doesn’t warrant £20 or so, then what in the world does?

Top Game Moment: Watching Valentine in her neutral stance... What?

Platform Played: Xbox 360