Previously released last year on Steam, but just revealed during the most recent Indie World Showcase, Sky Racket from Double Dash Studios is a unique blend of genres looking to soar onto your Nintendo Switch. Taking elements of shoot ’em ups and infusing it with characteristics of block breakers– Sky Racket is the first of its kind and probably one of the best unconventional takes on tennis in a long time.
You play as RacketGirl or RacketBoy as you thwack, fly, and roll through four pixelated world on a quest to thwart the endeavors of Korrg. The opening cinematic that rolls portrays a Saturday morning cartoon vibe, followed by diving directly into some gorgeous pixelated mayhem. A delicious original 16-bit soundtrack will accompany you throughout creative boss fights, and lengthy air battles. With a cavalcade of wacky enemies including sandwich cats and flying bananas, the story is light and bubbly while Sky Racket focuses on nailing its gameplay.
On the gameplay front, take what you know about shmups and throw it out the window. Well at least in regards to offense, defense you’re going to want to partially remember some of those skills. In pretty much every bullet hell game I can think of, you always have some sort of projectile that you’re in control of firing at the onslaught of enemies, but what immediately puts Sky Racket in its own sub category of the genre is that you don’t. Instead, you’ll maneuver levels while looking to volley certain enemy attacks back at them, akin to a match of tennis. Certain enemies will be firing attacks you can return, others will fire lasers that you can’t, and some will function as barriers. The barrier type enemies is where the brick breaking aspect comes into play. You’ll want to continue to blast enemy attacks back at these in order to remove them from the airways so you can then successfully attack the enemies on the other side.
The gameplay in Sky Racket is buttery, while the further your delve into the game the insanity continues to increase. So that smooth play is crucial for a game infatuated with shooting you out of the sky. Being able to multitask and keep track of everything that’s happening on the screen will separate success from failure. Dancing around between attacks you cannot return, knowing when to chase down an attack to volley back and when to retreat transmitted the feelings of an actual tennis match greater than some tennis games can execute. Knowing your reach and not over-extending is crucial, especially when you are trying to save your mech friend in certain stages, shooting for combos, or trying to knock out certain in-game achievements. I always felt as though when I did get hit or lose it was my own fault and not an unbalanced enemy or lack of response from a button input.
One of the interesting things that Sky Racket does is introduce companions on each world that you can bring with you into any level once you unlock them. Not only do they give you an edge in battle, but I felt like they were necessary during some of the boss fights– at least paired with my skill level. This was a fantastic way of not only adding deeper mechanics to the game but allowing players to sort of set their own difficulty. If you choose not to use these companions your runs become much more difficult– doable but difficult. On the accessibility front, there’s also an option for assist mode which will allow you to play under “god mode” and not take damage. So between both the optional companions and the assist mode, Double Dash Studio added multiple ways to increase the accessibility of Sky Racket to a much broader base of players. More accessibility options are always welcome in game design.
Sky Racket isn’t a super long game which is one of the disappointing aspect of the game, not because short games are bad but because I enjoyed the game so much, I wish I could live in it longer. Though, there are a few optional additions to the core game that open up the game for replayability. The first of which being, upon completing the main game, arcade mode opens up which gives you the ability to test your might at running through the entire game without losing. A challenge meant for those who want to truly test their prowess on the court– the court in this case being the open skies of course. The second being that the true final level is locked behind the collection of orbs. Each level in Sky Racket has achievements within them that upon completing levels with certain requirements you’ll gain an orb. If you collect all of them, you’ll unlock the true final stage. This gives those looking for the real challenge and bragging rights a place to thrive. I’m up in the air on whether or not locking the true final stage behind completing these trials is good or bad. On the one hand, it’s a way to reward those willing to put in the effort while on the other it alienates an assumed larger base of players who may not be as talented or willing to pour the time into the optional tasks. Though again, with the complaints about length and the choice to lock the final stage behind the in-game achievements I still felt like there is enough here to satisfy those looking for a fresh shmup.
Sky Racket serves up a unique shoot ’em up that smashes together mechanics not typically found in the genre that becomes a welcome and balanced treat for fans of bullet hell games. With memorable boss fights, satisfying gameplay, and an aesthetic that’s pleasing to both the ears and eyes, Sky Racket is an over-the-top, one-of-a-kind arcade shooter that soared above my expectations and warrants your presences in the skies.
Sky Racket is available now on Nintendo Switch and Steam for $14.99. We reviewed the game on the Nintendo Switch with a code provided to us by the developer Double Dash Studios.
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