This week I'll be taking a look at Skattered Dream from Sapling Studios. It is a tribute to the classic 2D platformer games of the 1980's and uses 8 bit art and music styles from the era to create a nostalgic Atari feel. Like many of these types of games it boasts about being so tough you’ll end up pulling your hair out, but is it worth a purchase? And does it live up to my nostalgic expectations.
The premise is similar to that of which you would see in many of these games. You work your way through various different levels, collecting coins as you go, battling enemies and finally meeting a boss to fight. You can also collect hats that your character, which looks a bit like an AA battery, can wear after completing each level.
For me, this game has a few issues, some of which I think could potentially be ironed out. A big one for me is the music. It has a tinny sound, almost as if it's been recorded being played through a speaker. It also resets every time you die, so you end up listening to the same portion repeatedly, which gets boring fast. The soundtrack itself is also gratingly annoying. After about 10 minutes I found myself thoroughly pissed-off with the music and wanted to turn it off. I believe a good improvement would either be no music at all, which is an option, or just continuously playing in the background. Rather than constantly stopping and starting. An even bigger improvement would be an overhaul of the soundtrack completely.
The level design could do with some tweaking too. There's parts where you can go up or down stairs into another area, but it's not clear where these are. I stumbled across the first set of stairs by chance, and it looked like I was just going straight into the wall. This could easily be improved by just differentiating the foreground and background a little better. I also ended up in an area that literally just took up the top left corner of my screen. I don't particularly have an issue with this concept, especially if all that blank space is just part of a level to unlock, but I was in such a small space I couldn't really see anything at all. A retro element that I both loved and hated was that the game forces you to learn from your mistakes. For example, I would scroll across the screen to the next area and would immediately be killed by an enemy lying in wait. The game then resets you back to the beginning, but this time you'll know what to watch out for.
So how about the controls? I started out using a controller and the movement was controlled using the analogue stick, rather than the D-pad. I couldn't see a way to change this as I couldn't find a settings menu either. The issue with the analogue stick was that the character would keep jumping so I found it difficult to control. I resorted to using the keyboard, which generally is not how I think these kinds of games should be played. It might be better with an old-fashioned joystick, but not everyone has those to hand. The jump itself felt a little too floaty as well, I'd prefer it if it had a little more weight to it. With regards to the general movement, there seems to be a bit of a delay when trying to stop, which was a particular issue when trying to fight enemies. If I just tapped the key to move, it was fine. But as soon as I held it down it was almost as if the character was sliding. When going up stairs as well, I would find that the character would just jump when I reached the top, without actually pressing the button to do so. Coupled with the irritating music, I was initially struggling to enjoy the experience of playing this game.
I did like the overall look of the game though. The devs seem to have gone for that old Atari feel, which they have largely been successful implementing. For that reason I do feel like this game has some potential, especially for nostalgic vibes. I did find that the longer I played this game, the more it grew on me. But at the moment it just has too many of the previously discussed issues for me to find enjoyable. If Sapling Studios are able to tweak the controls a bit, or most of all, overhaul the soundtrack, I think there is a decent game to be played here.
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