Rise and grind to save the swamp in Skator Gator!

Skator Gator is a high-octane lane platformer that is definitely more than meets the eye, even though it’s a little rough around the edges.

A game that defines ‘short and sweet’, but may not be for everyone…

Expectations are quite the pitfall. When I started playing Skator Gator, I’ll admit, my expectations were low, from the screenshots and clips I saw, it looked like a pretty standard lane platformer, but as soon as I booted up the game I was greeted by some great music and a super fun character design, something about the main menu just feels so charming. Already, I began warming up to this game.

Overview

Coming to us from Weathered Sweater, an award-winning, Vermont-based, Black-owned studio founded by Ryan Huggins, co-founder and co-owner of Sundae Month (Developer of recent release Pupperazi). The studio makes games and other media mostly focused around being art for change, and whilst Skator Gator is mostly just a fun swamp-based romp, there is a message in there about pollution and the ills of late-stage capitalism. The plot centres around ‘plucky skateboarding alligator’ Greenjamin as he goes on a mission to save the swamp from a group of evil robo-capitalists in ‘Rat City’ by using their own pipelines to travel through three different areas, dodging obstacles and enemies and collecting eggs!

But you don’t really need to know any of this in order to play and enjoy the game, it’s honestly just flavour to the gameplay.

skator gator Game Review Indie Game Fans Review

Gameplay

Skator Gator has you playing through over twenty fast-paced lane platforming challenges using a host of power-ups to fight off baddies and keep yourself grinding along the pipes, collecting eggs as you go. Many obstacles will block your path, and speed will be of the essence to make it to the end, but with patience and perseverance you can make it all the way to the big city.

This is where the game fooled me, it always feels strange booting up such a deceptively simple game on a big gaming rig, and when I saw my fps counter leaping up into the 1500+ range, I remember thinking that maybe this is something I’d rather be booting up on my phone. However, after just a couple of levels, I was sold. Firstly, I want to point out the great way this game handles its tutorial. Only one tooltip can be spotted in this game, telling you what are technically the only controls you get in this game, up and down. However, over the course of the first world, the first nine levels, you are gradually introduced to the game’s various enemies, platform types and powerups in ways that are immediately clear, fair and well integrated into the level design. This first world also does a great job of easing you into the game’s difficulty level, because unexpectedly the game’s challenge level was the biggest surprise of all. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to have you up for days trying to just scrape completion of every level, but by the end of the game, especially if you’re trying to collect every egg, you’ll definitely find yourself exasperated at least a couple of times.

However, getting to some negatives of the game, the rewards for getting every egg, besides the satisfaction of having done so, could be a little better; for the most part it’s new skins, that mostly amount to plain recolors of Greenjamin. This isn’t the best reward, and whilst there are a couple of nice skins it mostly feels like you are just collecting the eggs for, as I said before, the satisfaction. There is, however, a good thing you can gain from collecting all of the eggs, there’s a handful of secret levels to be found, these are a much more fitting reward, even if they’re a little short. And shortness leads nicely to the other big weakness of this game, I just wish there was more of it! Over twenty levels is a decent number, but considering they’re all pretty short, it adds up to only a few hours overall.  For anyone who read my previous Ghostrunner review, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of challenging games that give you instant restarts, I just can’t get enough. The feeling of ‘just one more try’ is almost addictive, in fact I beat this whole game in basically one sitting. The smooth and refined gameplay on show here lends itself perfectly to this style of fast, instant action. Sadly, this just makes it even more of a shame that there’s so little to enjoy! It’s hard to be too unhappy at the length of games an indie studio puts out, but only just getting up to three worlds, and ending rather unceremoniously, means that I am left with a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

skator gator Game Review Indie Game Fans Review

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Art and music

The first thing to really open my mind to this game was the sound and music. Greenjamin is just such a charming little lad, I couldn’t help but instantly fall in love, in fact all of the art and animation in this game is just wonderful. The same can be said of the music, funky tunes to skate and grind to are always appreciated, and every track in this game is one I’d happily listen to completely disconnected from the context of the game it’s in.

This, like the gameplay, isn’t perfect, there are times when animations will freeze, and certain assets will overlay others, for instance an egg on top of a bounce mushroom, or the wheels of the skateboard when you’re on moss. But these are things that really won’t affect your gameplay, and most people won’t even notice in the fast-paced minute-to-minute of Skator Gator.

Conclusion

Skator Gator is a high-octane lane platformer that is definitely more than meets the eye, even though it’s a little rough around the edges, the core gameplay experience is expertly crafted and feels amazing from start to finish. That even extends to the wonderful art and music the game puts on offer, I just wish it was longer! However, I’ll take the brilliant hand-crafted levels on offer here over more levels with less time spent on each of them any day.

Skator Gator is well worth the 2.99 price tag, and will happily give you a great afternoon that you’ll easily find yourself coming back to, even if it is just because you want more of the game. It’s available right now on Steam, and you can keep up with Weathered Sweater at their Twitter.

Our Rating

8 / 10

Story

8

8 / 10

Graphics

8

9 / 10

Controls

9

8