Skeleton Crew is a side-scrolling platformer game with a tremendous amount of promise on which it doesn’t quite manage to capitalize. Still, the adversarial multiplayer is fun, so if you’re looking for an old-school-style title with some multiplayer action, you might consider Skeleton Crew.
In the land of Karpathia, the Yeoman Eldritch Extermination Team once brought peace and prosperity by defeating hordes of the undead. However, the thing about hordes of the undead is that, well, they don’t tend to stay, er, dead.
However, over time, the stalwart heroes drifted apart, so now that the undead have risen again, YEET only has Elgar, the wizened warrior and Yvaine the Ice Witch available at first, though over time, you unlock additional members of the YEET cohort.
Skeleton Crew is a combat-based platformer with a truly strange emphasis on kicking things. Whereas in other games, you throw things to discover new items or wound enemies, Skeleton crew has you kick rocks at them. Yes, you did indeed read that correctly. You kick rocks. A lot. Fortunately, it doesn’t skimp on the available ammunition, which makes sense given that reasonably there should hardly be a dearth of rocks in the world, but we’ve all seen it happen. Yes, there are other abilities that each character can use, which do provide utility, but mostly, you end up kicking things. Admittedly, given the name YEET, that shouldn’t be terribly surprising.
Between levels, you return to your home-base, which offers a number of puzzles and mysteries to solve, and you get to populate your zone with people that you’ve rescued over the course of your adventures, which is kind of a fun gameplay element. I also cared for the fact that Skeleton Crew lets you know from the jump what kind of adventure awaits you. You go in knowing how many energy orbs you can acquire and whether or not the level contains an unlockable character, based on the presence or absence of a portrait. The game gives you ample opportunities to stockpile orbs that you’ll be able to spend as a form of currency on upgrades, so you don’t have to wait terribly long for that mechanic to kick in.
Overall, the level design is fantastically intricate, and the puzzles are suitably challenging without being impossible. There’s a huge map replete with secrets to discover as you explore, and the brawling mechanic is delightfully chaotic. If you find that a character’s abilities does not fit your play style, Skeleton Crew offers a varied assortment of characters from which to choose, even if you do have to wait a bit to begin unlocking them.
The title even offers a multiplayer element, so on its face, Skeleton Crew should move to the top of my recommendations list. However, while the game’s design and concepts are solid, the execution leaves much to be desired. I experienced entirely too many bugs to the point that they outweighed Skeleton Crew’s positives. These bugs run the gamut between seeing items sink through a wall to become unreachable to movement related problems that have you unable to return to solid ground without a restart. Given that I’d invested an hour in some of these levels, that last nearly had me throwing up my hands and storming out of the office in frustration.
Additionally, I found the 15 minute tutorial frustrating because you couldn’t actually invite anyone to play with you until you’ve managed to get through the tutorial. Then, once you do manage to open up multiplayer, the game doesn’t allow you to shift your camera, which is hugely frustrating because, depending on where the camera is, you may not see key aspects of the fight until it’s too late. Normally, you can work around this issue, but in boss fights, it’s infuriating. I do like the adversarial mini-games that are available, but I don’t think it’s quite enough to outweigh the game’s issues.
I wanted to love Skeleton Crew, and to be fair, there is a lot to like about it. Unfortunately, between the programming issues and the strange design choices, I’m probably not coming back to Skeleton Crew any time soon.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- Why are there two currencies? Why is this a trend these days? It just feels unnecessary.
- I did enjoy Capture the Chicken. It’s cute.
- Y’all, there are definitely moments when the kicking feels slower than the deployment of a Tholian web, and that’s saying something.