Thrilling candy, average game.
Do you remember those Skittles commercials where in some mystical land a legendary creature searches for the end of the rainbow? Suddenly, a shower of Skittles falls from the heavens, pelting the innocent to a cruel but yummy death. I mean, who the hell is going to clean up all them Skittles? Taste the ecological disaster!
Well, commercials aren't the only tool in the Skittles marketing toolbox. Video games apparently are the brave new world of advertising, set forth by such precedents as Yo Noid! on the NES and Cool Spot on the Genesis.
In the world of Darkened Skye, the evil Lord Necroth has veiled the land in darkness, quelling hope, freedom, and apparently anything that's colorful. It will take more than magic missiles to fight this darkness.
A hero foretold in legend must reunite five ancient prisms in order to banish Necroth and restore the rainbow. Who is this hero, or rather, heroine? It's Skye of Lynlora, a shapely Rainbow Brite with a sarcastic sense of self-awareness and a host of magic spells at her whim.
Darkened Skye pulls several of the early Skittles commercials and strings them together to create the different game environments. It tries to combine action, adventure and puzzle-solving, but the sum of the parts comes off dated and average. Really the game's saving grace is a sardonic sense of colorful humor.
So, how do the subversive Skittles fit into the mix? It's actually kind of clever, far more creative than the Red Bull ads littered about in WipeOut XL or the LifeSaver Gummi's you have to buy in Croc 2. Scattered about the levels are a bunch of magical colored orbs marked with the letter "S." You can simply pretend that the "S" stands for "sneaky" or "surreptitious." The "secret" ploy is thankfully "subtle" and understated. [Please "stop," Johnny. - Ed.]
The "S" orbs work as ingredients in your book of magic spells. It's a little like the crystal ability system of Final Fantasy IX, where you can pick and choose the traits for your character by filling up crystal slots. Spells range from defensive shield boosts to vital spells for problem solving and the perfunctory offensive blasts. For example, the fire spell takes one yellow and two orange orbs. As you progress, more spells are opened up.
Skye also has a few melee attacks at her disposal by means of her trusty staff. There are simple combinations to vary the attacks, but it really doesn't make a difference. You'll still get nailed with cheap shots or flooded by more enemies than can be handled with melee moves alone. This is one of those action games in which you find yourself Quick Saving every few moments and looking for ways to "cheat" the enemy's AI.
The third-person control is a bit loose, but the levels designed around platform elements actually don't come off so badly. The big problem is the weak usage of melee attacks and the fact that the game likes to throw hard-to-avoid things your way, whether it be swooping winged creatures or glowing green ooze. A shield or a defensive maneuver would have helped.
Usually, it's easier to send magic spells at the enemy before you are "detected." Perhaps the game should have gone for some Zelda style Z-targeting battles aided with more weapons than your plain ol' staff.
Things get worse as the game wears on. Instead of deeper and more advanced enemy AI, they just toss more enemies that make the standard beeline at you. It's hard enough fighting just one enemy when you are simultaneously tackling the controls.
The adventure and puzzle elements are straightforward. There are only so many collectible objects and situations to use them in, which make finding these objects the greater task. Puzzle are matching patterns or picking up on some word play clue.
What keeps this game going is its self-awareness. It touches upon many adventure game idiosyncrasies and laughs at them by breaking the fourth wall, and is actually pretty amusing. Skye essentially knows that she's in a game and is just playing along. She also keeps a journal you can reference for hints about what you are supposed to do next. It's filled with completely random thoughts, like how she could sell off the bipedal aquatic inhabitants of Ogmire to some Marine Park.
Unfortunately, despite the jokes at the expense of game clichés, the game can't help but be a cliché in and of itself in both the average gameplay and the traditional helping of PC game bugs, including a nasty one that lets you fall through the floor into a gaming void.
It seems that not only has "darkness" fallen over the land, but apparently so has some thick fog. Indoor environments fare better, with lighting effects and a fuller sense of structure. In all, the graphics have a very dated look. At least character animations, aside from a stilted jump, are done well.
Aurally, Darkened Skye carries a high level of production value. Skye is played by the actress who did the voice of Princess Jasmine from Disney's Aladdin, and she completely nails it, giving the character dry mutterings and witty repartees. The other voices hit their mark, particularly a lizard man that sounds like Don Knotts.
Rather than mixing action, adventure and puzzle, a narrower focus with more snide remarks and witty writing would have led to a better game. Darkened Skye could have made a great graphic adventure. I'd rather have one thing done perfectly than three things done with mediocrity...but you can do worse than taste this rainbow.