Diving into a new but familiar journey.
Sky Dancer is a conflicting, yet intriguing title. It has vivid visuals as you descend through an ever-changing road of fragmented paths, but sometimes that beauty’s betrayed by technical issues. There’s a wide array of content to explore, but some of it’s still work-in-progress. It’s a hard game to put away, but darn if it can’t be frustrating at times.
Sky Dancer casts you in the role of one of its titular dancers, rushing down through a planet’s floating, inverted valleys at a breakneck run. Timing and movement are key, with a heavy emphasis on player execution over hand holding. This isn’t another Temple Run wannabe, but instead, more a hybrid of Mirror’s Edge and Doodle Jump.
You tap left and right on the screen to shift and turn, with a double tap to jump. Precise jumping boosts your score with a bonus, as do careful landings right in the center of each pad. Mindful taps are critical, as overshooting can lead to disastrously careening off into the abyss below. All the while, the game presents new hazards and rewards to you, including collectibles and a magnet power-up.
Atmospherically, Sky Dancer has spectacular scene setting with its art direction and presentation. The void you navigate, however game-y the layout may be, feels tangible and intriguing in a marvelous way. The pleasant soundtrack only adds to this, upping the tempo while keeping everything cohesive.
Unfortunately, keeping that cohesive tone can be a struggle for Sky Dancer. During my time playing, I encountered several animation bugs with one of the playable characters, leading to mid-air running and ‘falling’ as my character would run along a path. Nothing game-breaking, but it was disappointing to see in an otherwise polished game.
Similarly, the choices for unlockable skins are… somehow both underwhelming and absurdly bizarre. Santa Claus’ daughter, a zombie slowly regaining his humanity, a gas mask wearing bandit, and a goddess are all unlockable, with their own challenges to unlock an experience booster and alternate variants of their skin. They offer little more than visually unique content to unlock – as does a second biome the player can explore upon collecting enough in-game stars, one of the game’s two currencies. A third biome is currently in development.
The game’s progression system is light, but effective. You can upgrade the range of your magnetic power-up, as well as acquire a one-time use slow-motion ability for when you’re in a pinch. Other than this, there are microtransactions to grant immediate currency for both stars and regular coins, but none priced exorbitantly. You can also earn around 2,000 coins regularly, just by watching ads voluntarily for a few minutes, which is a nice alternative. When you do have a stable internet connection, expect video ads to pop up when navigating menus – which was a fair bit more unpleasant.
Overall, Sky Dancer is a fair, fun title. Its long term plans are a bit unclear, but what’s on offer now is plenty good fun for free. Its technical issues warrant addressing by its developer, and the inconsistent tone can be odd, but the core gameplay loop more than makes up for this. There’s a lot to like – we named it one of the best titles of 2017 for a reason – but that doesn’t mean the top tier is beyond reproach.
|An intuitive rush of an infinite runner.||Strange creative decisions and lack of polish hold it back from exploring its full potential.|