Indie Review: Forward to the Sky (PC)

Fancy a light and breezy game for something a bit different? Then better get ready for a trip upwards with Forward to the Sky.

Developed by Taiwan-based AnimuGames, with an interesting interview about the development of the game on Siliconera, Forward to the Sky is a 3D platformer where you play as Princess, who ventures into the Sky Tower to confront the Witch at the top, gathering strange crystals and battling skeletons along the way. The story goes pretty much where you'd expect it to, moving along via voiced chatter between Princess and Witch as you advance through each stage and story sequences you unlock depending on your performance (more on that later). It's quite sweet and cute, honestly (although an option to adjust voice volume would be nice, and perhaps it's a bit too sickly-sweet for some) and the way it's presented is better than most as it never stops you mid-level to dump exposition. In any case, though, the platforming's the focus here, so let's get to that.

No fancy wall kicks or triple jumps for Princess here- this feels more like an exploratory platformer with a bit of melee combat thrown in. As a result, the only actions you've really gor are jumping, pushing boxes and levers, hitting switches and for combat, weak and strong sword attacks plus a backwards dodge. Between the platforming and the combat, the combat is the weaker of the two- it's very basic and while you'll get the hang of it quickly, there's little beyond 'hang back then whack with heavy attacks until dead'. The game does introduce new enemies almost every level, at least, with the dodge being more important for the crystal-summoning mage enemies near the end. Before you learn to use the dodge on those enemies, you might die a few times which you'd better watch out for, as there's no checkpoints- fall off the tower and you get brought back by Princess' hot air balloon, but outright die and you must restart the stage! Fortunately, they're relatively short stages, but you need to be careful later on in particular.

What am I saying? I must move forward.

The meat is the platforming, or rather the exploration. It's a slow, thoughtful little game, where it's less interested in your desxterity and more in you figuring out what to do. While the first level is pretty basic, each of the subsequent ones focuses on a new puzzle mechanic to get to grips with, such as pushing blocks onto switches, activating air holes that propell Princess through the air, and rolling around on giant boulders and shutting down laser traps. It's all pretty intuitive and relies on purely visual clues rather than text (the entire game is like this, actually- even the menu is all pictures and symbols), making you stop to think about what to do next, with mouse/analogue camera controls that make looking around simple. The game never overloads you with stuff either- the only collectibles are 100 Crystals in each stage (some held by enemies, the rest hiding in statues that require you to figure out how to get to them) that unlock story bits between stages. They're split into three depending on the crystals you gather, so while you can get the basic gist just getting one, finding all 100 crystals is needed to see the full illustartion and text (and get the full ending) which adds to the exploration feel of the game. It helps that the environments look great- all the stages are set in the same crumbling tower, but it feels like a large place, and the time of day changes between stages too.

So far, Forward to the Sky probably doesn't sound too special. The appeal, though, is that this is a very relaxing, serene game. It's got a clean art style that's easy on the eyes- it almost feels like a spruced-up PS2-era game- the music is quiet and soothing, and most enemies are in groups, so while you fight a fair number of them at a time, when they're gone you're left in peace to explore the ruined Sky Tower and just take in the tranquil surroundings for a minute. It's a game you can take at your own pace for the most part, and it also knows not to overstay its welcome, as it's quite short. The game can be beaten in about 2 to 3 hours, and add an extra hour or two to get all the cyrstals in every stage, but I don't see that as a bad thing- while perhaps having something more to the final stage than a boss fight would've been nice, it doesn't feel like it stretches itself too thin, and actually being able to beat a game this quickly is, well, a bit of a pleasant surprise!. Personally, I've been playing a lot of intense games myself lately, so something like Forward to the Sky is just the thing I needed to kick back a little and take it easy with a cute little game.

Gameplay Trailer:

 

I'm not just any trouble-making Princess!

Forward to the Sky isn't a game for everyone- if you're looking for a large, expansive game to get lost in with deep fighting mechanics, you won't really find it here. If you're looking for something short and sweet with a focus on exploration, a break from intense and high-action stuff, or a game where you can just take it easy for once- just the thing I was looking for lately myself, really- then Forward to the Sky might be just the thing you need for a light afternoon's entertainment. AnimuGames have already said they'll be working on more games, so I hope they can conjur up another relaxing, tranquil game like this.

Please note: Forward to the Sky is available on Steam now, click here for the game's store page. We tested this game with a SNES controller, using the mouse at the same time for camera control (although there is a Camera Reset button that moves the camera behind Princess) but the game is probably best played with a 360 or PS3 controller for more direct camera manipulation. Additionally, the graphic quality was set to 'Decent' for a more stable framerate but has two higher settings that would probably look nicer on a better computer. 

 


Last Updated ( 02 February 2015 )  

Tepid Snake

Wait, what do I put in this box again? Oh, it's about me. I like playing weird and unusual games- the sort you're likely to forget about- and I hope you like reading about them because they're what I write about. And game trivia too. Please look forward to it!

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