Breakout meets basketball in our latest review: Skorecery, by Grapplehook Studios for the PS4.
By far the most immediate thing I noticed when I first booted up the game is that it’s local multiplayer only. There’s no support for online play, or even rudimentary AIs to fight against. This meant that the hardest thing for me over the course of this review was just finding someone to play with so I could actually, you know, play the game.
Once I finally managed to bribe someone to play with me, I found the gameplay itself was rather rudimentary: You grab a ball bouncing around the arena and fire it towards the enemy’s runes while they try to do the same to you, There’s a few spells where the “sorcery” part of the name comes in, but they do little to change things up and have a hefty cooldown attached to them. It’s basically like Pong or Breakout, except with more control over the paddles.
I’m not asking for the most advanced AI mankind can create, but even NES sports titles had a rudimentary AI that serves a simple purpose: allowing players to practice on their own. I figure Grapplehook had this idea that Skorecery was something you sit down with a few friends and play; that local multiplayer is the proper way to play. But just because it’s the proper way to play, does not mean it should be the sole way to play, and a big part of playing local multiplayer games is coming up with new ways to counter their strategies next time. You can’t really have that if the only time you’re able to touch the game is when they’re over.
With Nothing to Do
Then there’s the content itself, or rather the lack of it. There’s only two characters, one stage, four layouts of runes, and a small handful of curses to add minor rules changes. There’s three game modes, but it’s just “default, default with a timer, and default with a shot limit” essentially. I’m usually all for games being shorter and not the massive 100+ hour behemoths they’ve become, but this is quite the opposite problem. Within 30 minutes I’d seen all the game had to offer
I’ll be honest here, I’m trying to pad for length where I can with this review just because there’s just a lack of…anything to talk about. It feels like I’m playing an alpha build or demo more than anything. This really doesn’t feel like a game that should have been released in its current state. As a mini-game within a larger game I’m sure people would have liked it, or they could have added more play modes, like say a puzzle trick shot mode to get a certain placement of runes with one shot.
As it is, while there is a little variety in how games may play with the layout and curses, such as one layout that places half of your runes behind half of the opponent’s, forcing you to lose a few runes before you can get to the rest of theirs, it’s not enough to make the game feel fundamentally different. No matter how I adjusted the layout and curses, it still just felt like I was running just the same level in a game over and over again.
And Nothing to See
The graphics and music are ok in a 90s flash game kind of way, but there’s maybe two tracks and you can count the number of sprites in the game on one hand. So, jumping right into rant mode in this section, I don’t think they’re realizing just how important aesthetic options can be for a game. The way we dress up a level means a lot. If you look at a game like Street Fighter II for instance, all the levels are exactly the same: An empty rectangle with a background. But it makes each fight seem different and many players have their own favorite level they prefer to play on.
They went to all the effort of adding a splash of occult spellcasting to their game, showing a token effort was made to adding theming and flavor, but it’s absolutely wasted due to the wasteland of options. No matter how you slice it, it’s just the same two people showing up to the same location to hurl a ball around, and that’s part of what leads to the game feeling absolutely samey and unchanging.
Art assets can be expensive, I get that. But if gameplay isn’t your strong point this is really one area that can save an otherwise bad game. A decent roster of characters, some more backdrops to play against, and this might be something I’d be willing to whip out when I’ve got some friends over to kill some time. As it is, if I got a four-player match going, half the players better not mind playing the same character as someone else, and they all better like playing on some rocks in front of a castle.
Ditched Class Early
In general, Skorecery feels half…no, more like a quarter finished. Normally when I write a review for a bad game I have plenty of things to complain about, and things that fell short. This has so little to it that writing about it was a chore just to find something to talk about.
I could be charitable and say I had little to complain about, but that’d be disingenuous. I can and did say a lot about where they fell short and could improve upon, but, to be honest? The base they’re working on is so shallow that I can’t say for sure whether it’d be a good game if they did everything I asked for. In the end, all I can say is maybe make sure you’ve got more of a game before you throw it out onto the store.
Review copy provided by Grapplehook Games for PS4. Screenshots provided by reviewer.