Double Dash Studios, working as both developer and publisher, present Sky Racket for review. Sky Racket hopes to push the shoot ’em up genre into different territory by removing the player’s ability to fight back directly. Your chosen avatar must fly through multiple worlds and defend themselves by hitting projectiles back as enemies attack.
Platform Reviewed: PC
Sky Racket has a simple gameplay loop that picks up steam quickly. There’s a bit of difficulty trying to figure out which projectiles can be used as offense and which ones must be navigated around. But once the player does, it becomes a matter of learning the new tricks each level throws at you in order to maximize the enemy attacks that can be thrown back. Each world has something different, ranging from literal pinball flippers to help the player knock projectiles back to defense mechanics that offer assistance if the player is successful in keeping enough bullets away. It’s perpetually jaunty from the bright sprites to the ringing soundtrack, and while defeat is likely it will always teach something about the level’s approach while not setting the player back too far.
I love a solid grasp of gameplay escalation when the loop has a simple concept, and Sky Racket‘s concept is as old as Pong. You’d think that there wouldn’t be much to iterate on from that starting line but Sky Racket knows the near-perfect way to push the old paddle back mechanic. Taking offense away from the player is a great start, forcing me to consider the entirety of the screen to parse out which attacks could be sent back and which ones I’d need to navigate around. I also appreciate that it doesn’t lean hard into bullet hell territory, which is something modern shoot ’em ups dip into a bit too much. It all results in a great blend of old arcade hard with modern leniency in checkpoints.
The creativity in the levels, plus the graphic design, holds respect to one of the greatest games ever – Yoshi’s Island. There’s one level where touching some projectiles causes the screen to faze out into a wavy haze of color but, much like the classic “Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy” level, keeps the sense of movement and scale from throwing the control out of whack. At no point in Sky Racket, even at its most chaotic, did I feel the programming or movement led to my defeat. The vibrant color palette and little enemy touches, such as a flashing ring around enemies that can be hit alongside projectiles, communicate what can be safely hit without outright saying so.
Another dip into the arcade classics comes from little animal helpers that, in a modern amusing twist, get their own mech to pilot a la Power Rangers. I had the option to recruit them into my growing cohort of helpers or not which is a great boon for those who want Sky Racket to be more difficult. One of my few criticisms does lie with the critters as, even through experimentation, I was not always clear on what benefit they provided outside obvious touches like a shield. In fact, a circular swing from one of the animals connected so rarely I still wonder if the poor little thing was bugged.
If the idea of animal powered helpers doesn’t tickle the player maybe bringing a human friend along will. There’s glorious co-op with Sky Racket, which keeps the on-screen clarity intact thanks to the striking design of the two racket wielding avatars. I haven’t gotten an opportunity to play much with it as I prefer the company of the animal companions (despite their sometimes wonky powers). But from the time I have had with it, the clarity in Sky Racket‘s defense-as-offense gameplay suits 2-player fun very well as there’s little chance of frustration in the midst of the racket back combat.
Game was played and reviewed using a provided review code of Sky Racket for the PC through Steam.
Sky Racket is a game I'm going to be getting the itch to play for a long time. Beyond the simple premise and escalating complexity of levels, there's a whole wealth of challenges tailored to each new level mechanic that are as fun as they are challenging. So if you're a solo player looking for a sparkling challenge on one of the sturdiest game foundations in history, or a player wanting to bring a friend along to share in the racket back combat, there'll be plenty of joy to be had in Sky Racket's gameplay.
- Beautiful escalation of difficulty from one of the oldest systems of gameplay - the ball and paddle.
- Music and enemy design combine to keep the player consistently engaged without being overwhelmed from oddness, always bouncing along with the shimmering beats.
- Multiplayer does not dip into any kind of frustration as the projectiles and avatars are personalized enough to not get lost in the assault.
- Animal companions could be better explained to avoid what little frustration comes with trying to use their abilities.