I would love to simply explain what genre Skelly Selest is, but it’s more complicated than that. What starts as a 2D rogue-lite action game, somehow also becomes a dungeon crawler, card game, and even a twin-stick shooter all in one. From wave-based hack and slash combat to speeding through a boss rush mode, there is a ton of content packed into what initially seems like a light product.
+ The game mechanics are simple, but effective – you’re given a few bullets in your gun, and a melee weapon. Bullets are limited and can only be refilled by getting a melee kill, so you need to balance which enemies you’ll shoot from a distance, and which ones you’ll face up close. You’ll get a ton of upgrades throughout the levels that allow for varying combat styles, which makes the game much deeper than it appears.
+ Each run feels unique due to the large variety of power-ups you’ll encounter. They each help in different ways, and as you unlock new characters, you’ll realize that some upgrades are more helpful than others depending on who you choose to play as. There are some drawbacks to this, but ultimately it works well and allows you to experiment with what works for you.
+ Most content is locked to start and is only available after you’ve completed what comes before it. This would normally be annoying, but it actually helps you learn how to play the game better so you’ll succeed in what comes next. The first two “hunts” are both wave-based affairs until you beat the bosses at the end of each – then you’ll unlock an endless mode, a dungeon crawler mode, boss rush, and finally – a challenge mode. You constantly feel like the game is expanding, and I was really happy with how much there was to unravel.
+ There’s a ton of depth between the characters you unlock, and you can turn the game into the style you prefer. I really enjoy twin-stick shooters, so I stuck with the gun-only character and was able to play the game as I wanted, instead of how I was forced to. If you’re more into heavy hitting and slow movement, or weaker attack but better dodging – those are options too, and they are all viable in beating each mode. Unlocking characters is vague at first, but most of them will come naturally the more you play.
– The melee combat can be very hit or miss – literally. Some diagonal slashes will seem to be lined up perfectly and miss for no reason. This is insanely frustrating, because it normally leads to taking damage. Even after hours of play, I never fully figured out why this happened and I started relying more on shoot/dodge because of it.
– I mentioned that the upgrade system had some drawbacks, and they’re exactly the same as you find in most rogue-lites. In some cases, the upgrades you get directly impact if you’re able to beat a specific run or not. Boss Rush mode is the worst culprit, because you don’t know which boss you’re facing each time. If you get a bad order on top of bad upgrades – you’re going to fail and feel like it’s unfair in the process.
The more I dove into Skelly Selest, the more I found to enjoy. What started as a frustrating 2D action game evolved into something much more than that, to the point I ended up beating every mode with every character. I was thrilled that I could create the type of play style I wanted, and that it worked as well as the next. Linking together upgrades and speed running levels came naturally, and I was sad to see the content end after tackling the final challenge. There is a hidden depth to the gun/melee system, even if the melee combat doesn’t always click as it should. Despite some truly unfair moments with unlucky upgrades, I appreciate the variety that Skelly Selest offers… even if none of it is particularly original.
Score – 7.5/10
*Reviewer spent roughly 8-10 hours beating the game in all modes with all characters, and unlocked all of the achievements. Played on Xbox One X. Paid full price for purpose of review.