Lila’s Sky Ark Review
I’ll be the first to say it: I’m sick of indie platformers. It’s the low-hanging fruit of the video game world. Easy to market and easy to make (I say, having never developed so much as a photo myself). But Lila’s Sky Ark is not that.
Lila’s Sky Ark, developed by Monolith of Minds, is an indie, but not a platformer, which is already a point in its favor. It’s an action adventure game with the vibrant color palette and interesting world of many of those indie darling platformers I’ve set aside, but it’s based around exploration and puzzles integrated into its environment.
Keep It Basic
You play as Lila, a little girl whose must save Sky Island with her father’s instruction and the help of strange creatures and spirits she find along the way.
To be honest, I really had to think to write this summary. While I was playing the game, a lot of things about the basic premise weren’t clear to me. Why did her dad look like a machine? Why did this magical island exist, and why was Lila on it? What are the Spirits of the Forest? What exactly were the enemies after?
All of these questions are reasonable from the setup of the game, and I did eventually figure out the answers, but it made for a disorienting opening as a player.
What I did understand was this: I was playing as a little girl who had to save her home from some bad guys. That was enough to get me going, and I’m glad I did.
Calling something “unique” has become more of a buzzword than anything, but I mean it when I say that Sky Island is full of distinctive imagery and characters. I was constantly finding new, intriguing scenes and characters, whether it was a giant in a rocking chair, a crying eyeless witch, or worshippers of the pineal gland.
At first, I found the puzzles as disorienting as the story. While I prefer games that integrate the puzzles into the world the way Lila’s Sky Ark does, its instructions on how to navigate its world aren’t clear. I spent a lot of time backtracking because I didn’t understand how to use the map.
Later in the game I got the ability to lift heavy objects and jump, but until I got those, I constantly ran into areas blocked off by those abilities. Because I didn’t understand the map, exploring an area only to find it blocked off until a later time was frustrating.
A Psychedelic Adventure
At first, I thought I didn’t like this game, and that I wouldn’t be recommending it. But as I kept playing, something happened: the gameplay started making sense. This correlated directly with the map-making sense. Searching out the next area using the map prevented a lot of the infuriating backtracking.
The fighting in Lila’s Sky Ark is projectile-based. I was always on the hunt for more and better projectiles. The throwing mechanic feels good – although pulling out the weapons from the backpack wheel can take a hair longer than I want – and the boss fights were genuinely satisfying when I finished them.
The projectiles came in the form of different fantasy objects like Titan Eyes and White Dwarfs, all with accompanying flavor text. The whole world, not just the characters, is drenched in this psychedelic palette. Once I understood the lay of the land, I wanted to see more.
There’s so much off the beaten path in this game; it rewards exploration. Because the world is so interesting, the rewards go hand in hand with the joys of looking around for its own sake. It’s a dark and lyrical universe, with great atmospheric attention to the weather, rain effects, and a great soundtrack. Lila’s Sky Ark demands exploration, and it earns it.
And while I described the story as hard to follow earlier, it gets clearer with time. The emotional core in Lila’s Sky Ark centers around Lila’s difficult emotions surrounding her mother, and it’s handled well. Inside all of these swaying mushrooms and sentient animals is something special.
At first, Lila’s Sky Ark made me think I was getting sick of indies in this style in general, not just platformers. But the more I played it, I realized its weak opening was hiding a real gem. Once you dig into it, Lila’s Sky Ark is full of interesting characters, sweet story beats, and engaging gameplay.
***A Switch code was provided by the publisher for review***
- fun projectiles
- charming setting
- unique characters
- compelling story
- initially confusing
- unclear map
- story starts slow