There are so many 2D platformers on the Nintendo Switch eShop these days, it’s hard not to feel bad for any fresh takes hoping to find an audience. Should the game opt for a unique art style, serve up an unexpected premise, or attempt to find the perfect balance between fair challenge and fun gameplay?
Skybolt Zack is a new colourful platformer that tries its best to do all three, largely succeeding despite the extremely steep learning curve present in the early hours. This arcade-style adventure never fails to be fast-paced and thrilling once you understand its rhythmic style of play.
Much like you’d expect, Skybolt Zack is a 2D platformer that challenges you to get from one side of the screen to the other as quickly as possible. There are enemies to bash, platforming challenges to overcome, and a timer you’re working to keep low. So far, so standard. However, what makes the apocalyptic adventure in Zack stand out from any other is the fact that our protagonist equipped with two mechanical arms; arms that allow him to dash between enemies at great speed across 48 bombastic stages.
It’s all dictated by a rather smart colour-matching system, which sees enemies, projectiles and certain platforms colour-coded to the Nintendo Switch’s face buttons. Y is green, X is blue, and A is red, while B is reserved for a standard jump. Pressing the same coloured button as whatever falls inside your range will see Zack immediately dash to it, letting you build up a combo chain that sees you move through stages faster while racking up a huge high score. Skybolt Zack is primarily skill-based in this way, and even I’ll admit it took a while for me to learn what button was which colour without glancing over to my right Joy-Con.
Once you wrap your brain around the controls, though, Skybolt Zack really comes into its own as one of the most inventive spins on the 2D platforming genre I’ve played for quite some time. It feels incredibly liberating once you fall into the rhythm of how these levels function. Better still, you’re always encouraged to replay stages thanks to bonus points being added to your final score should you manage to get through them without ever breaking your chain or getting hit. Skybolt Zack is a leaderboard chaser’s paradise, if you have the time for it.
Skybolt Zack also flips the script on what’s come before by tying how good you are at colour-matching to the eventual overworld route you’ll take. You won’t experience every stage in just one run of the game, as there are multiple pathways laced within each that all lead to different exits. A lot of these are clearly signposted during the heat of play, but the general rule is that higher routes are more challenging and will, therefore, land you in harder stages. Because of this, don’t be too concerned if your first playthrough sees you exclusively head downwards.
Overall, Skybolt Zack constantly surprised and impressed me with how creative it gets on a tried-and-tested genre. The initial learning curve attached to the colour-coding might take a few hours to fully get to grips with, but it doesn’t take too long until the game has you performing button-tapping jazz.
Mix this in with Skybolt Zack’s incredible replay value, colourful art style and extra unlockable modes that work to further test your skill, and you have plenty of reasons to stay invested.
Skybolt Zack £17.99
Despite its initial learning curve, Skybolt Zack is one of the most inventive 2D platformers on Nintendo Switch, effortlessly balancing rhythmic fun and fair challenge.