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'Darkened Skye' (GCN) Review

Overall Rating

Watch Saturday 2/15 at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday 2/16 at 12:30 a.m. Eastern.
By Greg Bemis
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Darkened Skye (GCN)

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Darkened Skye
Platform: GCN
Developer: Boston Animation
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Interactive
ESRB rating: Teen
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Let's get this out of the way up front. "Darkened Skye" is a game about Skittles, you know, those bite-sized fruit-flavored candies. Although using a commercial confection as the central element in an action/adventure game sounds like a recipe for disaster, "Darkened Skye" isn't the train wreck you might expect. Join "Extended Play" as we explain why.

Taste a rainbow of product placement

The land of Lynlora is a dull and dreary place. The evil overlord, Necroth, has outlawed bright colors. But it wasn't always this way. At one time a great rainbow arched across the heavens from which magical artifacts known as Skittles poured forth. It is up to the brave heroine, Skye, to find a way to foil Necroth's plans and bring back the power of the rainbow. Surprisingly, from this spew of marketing dreck comes a fun, lighthearted adventure.

Taste a rainbow of pain

"Darkened Skye" is a third-person action adventure game that plays in a manner similar to titles like "Soul Reaver" or "Hexen 2." Taking the role of Skye, players run, jump, and fight their way through various exotic worlds. There are equal parts fighting and puzzle solving in the game. Armed with only a modest staff, Skye spends the first level or two pummeling enemies into submission. Upon discovering and collecting Skittles, Skye's offensive capabilities open up significantly in the form of magic spells. Throughout the game, more powerful spells become available, and each spell requires a more complex combination of Skittles to cast.

Being a port of the PC game, "Darkened Skye" carries some unwanted baggage. Graphics, while not bad, are rather dull. The characters and terrain lack appropriate shading and thus end up looking a little flat. Other effects like those found in magic spells look nice enough, but nothing here is pushing the GameCube hardware. Music is uniformly uninspired. It plays quietly in the background, doing neither harm nor good.

Darkened Skye (GCN)

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Problems with the combat system are severe. Most enemies are devastating up close, so melee combat is often a suicidal last resort. Spells, on the other hand, are both powerful and varied in their effect. Unfortunately, aiming projectile attacks is insanely difficult. The game does attempt to compensate for this with a rudimentary auto-aim system, but it is not at all reliable. The mouse/keyboard combination on the PC probably made spell casting simple and effective, but on a console controller, it's more frustrating than anything else.

Navigating the terrain is also problematic. After a brief introductory level that is fairly easy to complete, "Darkened Skye" thrusts the player into a series of extremely unforgiving environments littered with jumping maneuvers that must be executed perfectly. Failure to do so results in instant death. The saving grace here is the save/load scheme that allows players to save at any time during the game. Thankfully, reloading is instantaneous. If there's one piece of advice to impart on anyone attempting to play this game, it's save all the time. By mid-game, the game's difficulty hits a playable stride and a certain level of enjoyment sets in.

Taste a rainbow of genius

It might seem like this game is not worth the effort, but nothing could be further from the truth. "Darkened Skye" is filled with some of the finest script writing and voice acting in a game. No joke. While some games like "BMX XXX" make weak, flailing attempts at humor, "Darkened Skye" consistently pulls off laugh-out-loud dialog. While there are a few misses -- especially in scenes with Skye's sidekick, Draak -- the majority of the writing is golden. "Darkened Skye" never takes itself too seriously. Constant references to the ridiculous situations characters in adventure games find themselves in are refreshing. Special mention must be given to Linda Larkin's work as the voice of Skye. She's smart, plucky, and strangely believable. In a time when Lara Croft is the yardstick by which all female game characters are measured, it's nice to find a heroine who brings so much more to the table.

As a straight adventure game, "Darkened Skye" also excels. There are many puzzles in the game, and while most involve using the correct inventory item at the proper time, there are several truly clever ones. While none are particularly difficult, it's a nice diversion from the tedious and frustrating combat. In fact, if "Darkened Skye" had more adventure and a lot less action, they'd have the makings of a genuine classic. As it stands, however, the frustration factor alone will be enough to turn away most gamers. But if you're up to the challenge, a wonderfully crafted, truly funny adventure awaits. "Extended Play" awards "Darkened Skye" a 3 out of 5.

Posted January 13, 2003

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