How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. It's a mini-metroidvania, so it's short, but it follows the Metroidvania formula very closely
Time to beat: ~2 hours
Review Info: Super Skelemania was played on Windows PC using the Steam version
Buy Super Skelemania if you like…
- Momentum based platforming
- Short and Sweet games
- Cryptic Secrets
- Dark Humor
▼ Review continues below ▼
The Mini-Metroidvania sub-genre is a fascinating case of both an ideal and a restriction. The ideal is that you can get a taste of what a Metroidvania can offer without a time commitment that takes away from your other responsibilities – or other games that you are playing. The design challenge is creating something that leaves a lasting memory within such a short time span. I have often asked myself, “what does the hypothetical “perfect” Mini-Metroidvania look like?” Unfortunately my imagination needs help, because it’s rather difficult to establish a build-up and payoff using Metroidvania progression tropes while keeping it under the base point 2 hour time limit that establishes it as a “mini”, although we have seen a few games come close to accomplishing just that. While Super Skelemania is definitely a Mini, I suspect that it wasn’t created with that intention. Instead it was a series of really great ideas that were explored thoroughly enough that any extra time with them could result in unnecessary padding. Insert pun here about trimming the fat so much that you’re only left with a skeleton, but that wouldn’t be an appropriate description of what Super Skelemania has to offer. Super Skelemania isn’t a meaty offering, but what’s there is absolutely delicious.
The plot for Super Skelemania is about as barebones as it gets. Your skeleton crash lands onto a planet, and you explore until you find a way to escape the planet’s atmosphere. You accomplish this in the familiar Metroidvania way. You engage in action challenges while searching various rooms until you find an object representing a movement upgrade. These new movement tools enable you to access other areas within the game’s contiguous world.
Super Skelemania does very little to tell you what your actual goals are, and as such it can be fairly easy to get lost. You are helped by each biome having its own color scheme, keeping the tile-based terrain design from looking too samey. Each area also has a map you can find, and once you do the entire area is revealed to you. By default the game also has an assist option turned on where it tells you exactly where you’re supposed to go in order to progress. This map assist doesn’t tell you everything however, so you’re still rewarded for checking dead ends or suspicious pathways. Additionally knowing where a thing is and how to get there are two separate things. Puzzling out how your powers enable you to access passages is still as engaging as it ever is.
The primary challenge of Super Skelemania is its platforming, and the controls are tweaked to support that focus nicely. There are a lot of different ways that platforming can be designed. Some games have it so your character has a flat movement speed where you can maneuver around instantly in any direction whether in the air or on the ground. Other games take momentum into account; for instance your character may have an acceleration speed, and a running start is necessary to manipulate distance or jumping height. This is the difference between Mega Man and Mario, as an example. Super Skelemania is sort of a hybrid between the two. Your default movement is slick and controllable, but each movement upgrade behaves more similar to momentum based platforming. Positioning, running starts, and any quirks the terrain might create must be taken into account to get the result you want. This is in contrast to the usual Metroidvania approach of the double jump just making things easier. In Super Skelemania the platforming actually gets more complex as the game progresses – and more interesting as a result.
A possible downside to putting the emphasis on a more physics oriented platforming approach is that it increases the number of ways the player can get things wrong. In my playthrough I actually found some of the progress points to be a bit confusing since it seemed like my current tools weren’t enough to overcome the obstacles presented. At one point I was actually trapped in an area, where the only way out was some extremely precise inputs that barely let me clear the gaps preventing me from leaving. The area was easily cleared of enemies, so I was in no danger while trying over and over to get the jump right, but it was persnickety enough that I questioned whether or not I was missing something. I actually think the game trapping me in that location was evidence of good game design, since it forced me to learn the nuances of the powers that I had. I do however question the value of making those specific jumps as tight as they were, especially given that the rest of the game rarely hit the same level of precision. It’s nothing that a cup of “git gud” can’t fix, but it’s a still bitter drink that might have some players spitting instead of enjoying.
Mastering the platforming nuances is quite rewarding. As your tools expand the flow of your skeleton’s movement is like an acrobatic dream. Best of all, Super Skelemania takes some of the genre’s most tired tropes and adds a different spin to them. My favorite example of this is the game’s answer to the ubiquitous “ball form” style upgrade that let’s you access small tunnels throughout the game’s world. Once you activate the ability, you continue to roll without stopping until you hit a wall. This let Super Skelemania put auto-scrolling style platforming challenges into the game in a very creative way. There’s a freshness to each challenge you discover since Super Skelemania includes many ideas that I haven’t seen before in any other Metroidvania game.
The combat in Super Skelemania is mostly a novelty. Enemies – as they should – act mostly as obstacles to the platforming. Your unorthodox attack method kills basically anything in one hit, so fights are more of a percussive beat in your flow rather than a pace breaking affair. The couple of bosses included are no exception to this. You’re rarely given an opportunity to simply fire away your attacks – they keep you constantly moving. This makes them relatively easy, but they offer up a welcome change of pace that adds flavor to the overall experience.
To get the most value out of Super Skelemania you’re encouraged really dive deep into its world. If you’re into speed running, optimizing your route and your technique is a very fun thing to do with this game, as both have a lot of variables to consider. There’s enough controllable jank with some of the movement upgrades that I suspect there are a lot of corners you can cut to get that perfect time. For the explorers there’s also additional cryptic content for you to discover, which results in a rather hilarious secret ending. This kind of no commitment optional content is a mark of the best kind of Mini-Metroidvania.
Super Skelemania is the epitome of a game that leaves you thirsty for more, but satisfied with what you had. The occasional unnecessary difficulty spike and a feeling that something else is missing – perhaps a stronger theming or narrative – keep Super Skelemania from hitting that hypothetical perfect Mini-Metroidvania experience for me. But among the other Mini-Metroidvania experiences that I have had, it’s another example of a game that is headed in the right direction. Especially at its budget price point, there’s a lot of value to be had with its novel ideas and potential for optimization. As far as short Metroidvania experiences are concerned, Super Skelemania belongs in the upper tiers of what the sub-genre has to offer.
Super Skelemania has a strict platforming focus, and as such the emphasis is on movement rather than aggression. You do have an attack, but patterns are fairly simplistic.
Some jumps are a little persnickety but overall the movement is fun and fluid, with a ton of leeway for creativity
Super Skelemania does not tightly hold your hand which rewards observant players, but optionally it does have tools to keep you from being completely lost. Beyond the main quest there are also a number of secrets to find for an extra special prize
Occasionally you have to use your powers in creative ways to progress - more so than the usual Metroidvania fare
You crash land onto a planet. You have to get off said planet. It doesn't get much simpler than that
The classic oldschool retro look is pleasant and works well with the gameplay
The music ambient and appropriate, but somewhat forgettable
Speedrunning the friendly short length or shooting for hidden secrets can inject extra playtime in to Super Skelemania