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Review: Skul: The Hero Slayer is a tough roguelike platformer

Developer: SouthPAW Games
Price: $6.99/£6.99
Size: 1.79 GB
Version: 1.0.0
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Skul: The Hero Slayer belongs to a specific lineage of roguelike action games where each run presents a unique configuration of levels and branching abilities. If you’ve played and enjoy Hades or, on iOS specifically, Dead Cells, you’ll want to give it at least a cursory look.

Just like the aforementioned Dead Cells, Skul takes the form of a 2D action-platformer. You and your nimble little skeleton hero must leap between platforms and dash through enemy assaults before laying the smack down through assorted melee and ranged attacks.

Enemies tend to mass together

It’s the latter where the intrigue lies here. Our bony protagonist’s major ability is the capacity to not only lob his head as a projectile, but to swap it with one of dozens of others. Said replacement bonce imbues you with a fresh set of abilities and attacks.

We haven’t gotten close to seeing them all, but highlights so far include a werewolf head that lets you pounce forward, a mage who fires globules of energy from a distance, and a kamikaze who literally carries a huge bomb into the middle of an enemy pack.

This golem spawns every 15 seconds

Alongside these heads are a range of additional powers and abilities that might give your main weapon extra pep, or a status effect like freezing. You might also gain a majestic bird who occasionally rains light blasts on the enemy, or spawn a hulking golem every 15 seconds.

It’s this steadily building, almost endlessly varying combination of abilities that gives Skul an addictive sense of momentum. Or can do, at any rate. Very often your run won’t quite click, and the game’s punishing difficulty will end your run in a fairly unsatisfactory manner. Needless to say, this is another game that really demands that you play on a physical control pad.

Bosses are big and difficult

Even with a controller, it’s at these moments that Skul: The Hero Slayer’s inherent weaknesses become apparent. The game’s basic movement and combat simply aren’t as fluid as those of Dead Cells, which was a game that could drag you through a series of frustrating runs through simple solid gold gameplay. Skul doesn’t quite have that.

Its pixel art graphics, while charming enough, can get a little muddled, with background and foreground elements smooshing together. Massed enemy attacks can be impossible to read, not helped by the odd frame rate stall (and this on an iPhone 15 Pro).

The starting area fills up which characters you meet

There isn’t too much to hang on to in the way of narrative either, with a somewhat stilted English translation preventing any real connection with any of its characters.

Its blend of agile platforming action and randomized thrills might not be quite on the same level, but if you’re a fan of the genre then Skul is a worthwhile next step.