It’s EGX 2019 weekend! Over the next few days we’ll be bringing you quickfire impressions of some of the highlights from the show floor here at London’s ExCel centre. You’ll find them all here – and if there’s anything out there you want to bring to our attention let us know!
Unpick the notes of a Guitar Hero game and drape them across a side-scrolling platformer – that’s Skybolt Zack in a nutshell. Colour-coded chords become bullets to deflect with your fists, frets become doors to pummel through. There’s a touch of Sonic to the rhythm of it all, the need to keep going fast. And it is fast – each level a crescendo of button mashing until the colour-based combat becomes a blur.
Mechanics are introduced in quick succession: new ways to keep up your combat chain. Enemies dangle in the air like a string of gaudy Christmas lights for you to zip towards and thump in a satisfyingly staccato snap, longer distances can be bridged via a tap of a shoulder button, while holding down a button for slightly longer locks you onto an enemy through walls.
But it all comes back to those colours. Green for A, Red for B, Blue for X, Yellow for Y. More complex enemies might have armour one colour and then innards another. Or come in a procession of poster paint flavours for you to quickly alternate between. Or separate off into various paths, offering multiple routes through a level.
It’s funny how those colours have become ingrained in muscle memory. Skybolt Zack is a PC game – it actually comes to Steam next week – but I’ve played it a couple of times now and it will adapt to whichever input you’re using. Back at Gamescom I played on an Xbox controller, here at EGX I was on a PlayStation pad, where the colours matched the DualShock’s face buttons. This was trickier for me – but your own muscle memory may well be different.
Muck up a button prompt and you lose a sliver of health, although health crates can be found and unlocked by diverting away from enemies and hitting the necessary colour. Every item and enemy in the game requires you weave it into the rhythm you are creating, while the thumping score ramps up intensity as your combo climbs, and you near the frenetic ending of each course. It’s perfectly tuned.