Skyling: Garden Defense originally threw me through a loop with its name. I thought it may be some tower defense game and I think that most people might. After watching the trailer I found that the game was far more interesting than that, albeit with rather bland gameplay. The game is very pleasing to the eyes and ears, even if they seem to use the same song through the whole game (it could’ve been different songs but it sure sounded the same). While running and jumping through Skyling is fun, it does come with a small list of issues. The biggest one has to be the loose controls that killed me more than any monster in the game. Simply put, to get through the levels, you must use diagonals to reliably go where you want, but this doesn’t feel natural and gave me some trouble. Bloom also occasionally goes back a tile when you aren’t careful with returning your analog stick to the resting position.
In this small indie title, you play as Bloom, a girl with ‘magical toes’. The rest of the rhyme, a cute recurring element in all but one level, explains that ‘Greenery sprouts wherever she goes’, this is where the main mechanic of the game comes from. As you walk around Skyling’s levels, Bloom will bring each patch of dirt alive with green grass, bright flowers and even shrubs. You will use this power (and the help of some cats that simply couldn’t care less) across the games 30 levels. The goal of each level is to cover the dirt paths with ‘greenery’ and get to the end tile without getting caught by monsters. I personally enjoyed this element of the game. Your goal isn’t to defeat all the monsters or do it as fast as possible, at first it’s very relaxing and entertaining. The thing about Skyling is that it doesn’t stay easy and relaxing.
As you work through the first few levels, the game does a great job of introducing the player to all it’s elements and monsters quickly and concisely. My personal favorite are the orange slug enemies. These little buggers go around the level eating up any green on tiles you’ve been too. They are also the only enemy you can pick up and use to defeat other enemies. Now, this is where I feel I need to mention that the enemies have rules they must follow, some can’t jump, some can only walk on certain paths, and others can’t move unless you’re in sight. This should all sound familiar for anyone who has played similar games, but the monsters in Skyling can be quite ruthless. I had read something about the yellow chomper enemy being a pain and boy were they right. Chompers can’t jump but they are nearly as fast as you and seem to always know the fastest path to you. They make many levels much harder than they need to be.
I have some final thoughts that I feel the developers may consider when making their next title. Firstly, there is a ‘star’ system for score in each level. Shortly after the first 5 or so levels, I found myself not worrying about score. This is because there are no rewards for high score or even a leaderboard to compare yourself to others, making the system feel pointless. Second, the menus are oddly bland for how bright and pretty the rest of the game is. This may be more of a personal preference, but I think it looks a little strange.
Finally, I’m not sure why, but through my whole playthrough (in which I got all of the games 13 achievements) there was a mouse cursor on my screen. It would occasionally disappear too low for me to see it, but it would always come back and just quickly dart around the bottom of the screen as I tried to traverse each level. It was extremely distracting and odd.
Overall, Skyling: Garden Defense is a cute, fun, and occasionally frustrating game. It definitely has its moments but it seems to fail nearly as much as it succeeds. Not too shabby for a 5$ game.
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