Darkened Skye Review

Darkened Skye turns out to be a colorful and fairly entertaining game that's surprisingly funny.

Though you wouldn't know it from glancing at its box, Darkened Skye is, of all things, a tie-in for a recent Skittles candy marketing campaign. Instead of having to "taste the rainbow," you'll need to put it back together in this third-person action-adventure game. Long ago, a great rainbow shone over the skies of Lynlora, dropping magical artifacts known as Skittles to the earth. Recently, the evil Lord Necroth has destroyed the rainbow, hoarded most of the Skittles, and banned magic from the realm. Now it's up to you to help the sarcastic heroine Skye find the ancient prisms that can restore the great rainbow. This might sound like an inane game idea based on accounting instead of good sense--theoretically, that's true, but in practice, it's a bit far off the mark. Darkened Skye turns out to be a colorful and fairly entertaining game that's surprisingly funny.

It's true that Darkened Skye doesn't have a deep or novel story. A young shepherdess tries to save the world and find out who she "really" is--that's the predictable stuff of any old generic fantasy story, and the clichés keep piling on top of each other until you end up with a big jumbled heap of them. Darkened Skye usually rises above its material, though, even letting you ignore the inherent silliness of a game based around a real-life candy. One way the game manages to stay entertaining is through its likable main character. Skye is endearingly self-deprecating and sarcastic in a lighthearted way. She has a few strange allies, but she's basically on her own against the world, which also makes her sympathetic.

Along with its likable heroine, Darkened Skye features some of the funniest writing since No One Lives Forever and Giants: Citizen Kabuto. The characters offer all kinds of unexpected one-liners and amusing dialogue. When Skye meets a bizarre merchant who deals in rare animals from distant lands, the merchant shouts, in a hyperactive imitation from Jerry Maguire, "Show me the bunny!" Skye's extensive journal is well worth reading for its share of pointed barbs and puns, which will make you groan--but gleefully so. Humor is subjective, of course, and more than a few of the jokes fall flat, particularly after you've been running in circles for a while, stuck on a particular puzzle. But for the most part, Darkened Skye is one of those rare games that will have you laughing out loud.

Outside of the script, Darkened Skye's gameplay is solid though not spectacular. You lead Skye through the different realms of Lynlora, solving puzzles, casting spells with the Skittles you pick up, and talking to nonplayer characters. A slightly clunky interface makes this all a tad more difficult than necessary.

You'll also get to bash lots of monsters during your quests. The combat is simple if not simplistic. The same monsters also appear too often, and you'll actually have to fight little venom-spitting flies that look like Daikatana hand-me-downs. On top of that, monsters appear too predictably--basically, whenever you grab a particularly useful object or find yourself on a precarious perch, you'll get bushwhacked. Ho hum.

Compared with the combat, the puzzles are handled pretty nicely. They require you to use inventory items, manipulate objects in the environment, or cast spells to solve them. Some challenges require more than one of these techniques, like a catapult you'll need to arm and fire at a monster in a tree. You need to first find the ammo and then figure out how to free the swivel mechanism and aim the weapon. You'll generally need to pay close attention to possible clues and make use of everything at your disposal. However, the puzzle difficulty varies too widely, as some puzzles depend more on blind luck than skill. In one instance, you'll have to figure out that you need to walk right through the scenery, as if the game had some sort of intentional clipping problem.

Actually moving Skye around the game environments is unnecessarily tough. There are plenty of tedious mazelike sections, but no mapping feature. On top of that, the controls are erratic--hit the jump button once, and Skye will often jump twice like some kid with a Skittles sugar buzz. Skye's awkward animations almost make her seem as if she were floating across the ground instead of properly reacting to the surfaces underfoot. This looks odd and can be ignored, but it also makes it too hard to jump accurately between platforms.

Unfortunately, Darkened Skye relies way too heavily on platforming segments, like some kind of game design crutch. Jumping puzzles appear where there's no real reason for them and where more diverse challenges would have been more fun. Get ready for tons of running, jumping, falling, and repeating.

Assuming you're not slipping off rocks into the sea, exploring the world of Darkened Skye can be entertaining in its own right. The areas you'll visit are quite scenic, if a bit cartoony. Technically, the graphics are hardly cutting edge, but there's still plenty of artistry behind the visuals. You'll encounter lush forest greenery, spooky twilit seashores, fetid swamps, and other memorable locales. The bizarre airborne home of a band of "sky pirates" mixes bits of Jules Verne with The Arabian Nights and shows more visual imagination than 10 average game levels put together. The character and creature designs often stand out too. Instead of repeatedly drawing on the usual Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons fantasy stereotypes, they tend to look unique to the gameworld. You'll meet all manner of odd beings that defy ready description.

Like the visuals, Darkened Skye's audio has its weaknesses but makes a good impression overall. The music is pleasant enough, but who wants to hear the same track repeated ad nauseam as you make your way through a level? The actual sound effects don't make much of an impression either way.

Since Darkened Skye relies so much on its humorous dialogue to entertain you, it's fortunate that the real standout is the voice-overs. Linda Larkin, best known for her work as Jasmine in Disney's animated film Aladdin, voices the crucial role of Skye, and she really brings the protagonist to life. Robb Pruitt gives an equally strong performance as her smart-alecky gargoyle companion, Draak.

Darkened Skye is rough around the edges, and clichés and countless platform-jumping sections sap some of the fun from the game. Still, Darkened Skye usually manages to supersede its faults--not to great heights, but high enough to stay entertaining most of the time. For that matter, Darkened Skye avoids the perils of being a candy tie-in and actually manages to fit the Skittles into the story and gameplay smoothly. The fact that the game occasionally makes fun of the candy connection doesn't hurt either. And when it comes to a game about Skittles, you better know how to laugh.

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Darkened Skye More Info

  • First Released Jan 27, 2002
    • GameCube
    • PC
    If sarcastic humor and some cringingly bad puns don't sound like your idea of good comedy, you should probably pass on Darkened Skye.
    Average Rating182 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Boston Animation
    Published by:
    TDK Mediactive, Simon & Schuster, Oxygen Interactive
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Blood, Violence