Hell has reached its limit and is beginning to expel the souls of the dead. With your axe and firearm at the ready, it falls unto you to repel the oncoming hordes and maintain peace. Skelly Selest is a top-down action game that features occasional dungeon-crawling elements, so on face-value it appears to tick all the boxes, but how does it fare in the long run?
The gameplay in Skelly Selest is both fast and slow-paced, with the overwhelming dread of an increasing number of enemies, however you rarely feel rushed. There is no timer, allowing you to strategise your approach, but that doesn’t mean that the hordes will wait for you.
Skelly Selest begins with a quick five minute tutorial that covers the basics of the gameplay, however it all becomes a little vague after that. I often found myself asking “What does that mean?”, with no hint at an explanation.
The battle mechanics run smoothly enough, but the upgrades and customisability options are lackluster at best. Taking damage feels off, especially when you collide with an enemy. There is no resistance there so if you’re not listening to the audio, you may not even know that you’ve taken damage.
Among the various battle modes available, you can choose take a break and relax a little with a strategic card game called Clashful Cards. It’s difficult to explain, but think of it like dominos meets reversi with cards. It’s fun… for about 15 minutes as it loses its appeal very quickly. The most surprising decision about this mini-game is that it cannot be played multiplayer, so you are forced to play with computer AI. It just seems as if you’re going to have a game such as that on the Nintendo Switch, a console that encourages multiplayer in its core design, then you simply must provide the options to play it against a friend.
Each stage is relatively straightforward, positioning you in the middle of a circle-based arena with hordes of enemies coming at you from multiple directions. The stages are randomly generated with obstacles and hazards, so you’ll need to be on your toes and quickly adapt to your surroundings.
There is one mode that has you exploring a randomly-generated dungeon, which was absolutely the most exciting part of the game. However it all just seemed lazily thrown together, involving little thought and even less ingenuity.
Needing to fight off hordes of souls that are spewing out from the depths of hell is certainly motivation enough to take down each and every horde of enemies. However as the game sets the scene quite early, it leaves a lot of what follows up to the imagination of the player and you quickly find yourself going through the motions.
The dialogue has a ye olde approach that replicates classic Bible verses. This could have been implemented well, but it is very sloppily done. There are frequent grammatical mistakes and the game’s use of the word ‘thee’ is often incorrectly used.
Graphics / Art Direction
The overwhelming dark red aesthetic certainly paints an accurate depiction of hell, however it can become difficult to look at over long periods of time, especially with the 8-bit art style.
Skelly Selest looks respectable enough in handheld mode, however it becomes a pixelated mess in docked mode. This is especially the case for any text on screen, and reading the numbers on the cards in the Clashful Cards mode is simply awful. With the red and black colour theme, you may as well slip the switch tablet into the Labo VR headset and relive the Virtual Boy in all its headache-inducing glory.
Music / Sound Design
For a game focussed around fighting the souls that continue to flood out of hell, the soundtrack is often surprisingly cheery and upbeat. I actually found it to be a nice change of pace, not taking itself too seriously and it weirdly fits. It also has a fine chiptune quality to it, much like you’d expect from classic Game Boy titles rather than from the NES. I often found myself really enjoying the soundtrack and it would be stuck in my head for hours after I put the Switch down.
Final Score: 52%
Whilst Skelly Selest is an adequate-enough video game, It lacks in its execution to be anything more than a simple time killer. Its presentation is rough and sloppy, with its gameplay never feeling unique in any meaningful way. It’s by no means a bad video game, just nothing to get particularly excited about.