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Skyhill: Black Mist

Posted by GG Goblin On July - 13 - 2020

Survival horror in the condominium from hell.

 
Around five years ago, developer Mandragora released Skyhill, a 2D roguelite that involved the player having to escape from their hotel by going down one floor at a time and dealing with whatever nasties were waiting. Well, Mandragora are back, once again dropping the player into the chaos of a Skyhill building. While the hotel of the original has been swapped out for a massive condominium, it is very obvious early on that something has once again gone horribly wrong. Welcome to Skyhill: Black Mist.

 


 
With an isometric viewpoint, Skyhill: Black Mist does a very good job of setting the atmosphere. While there are occasional areas of bright light, the invading darkness and excellent shadows go a long way towards creating an unnerving setting, even in those early moments when the player has absolutely no idea what is going on. In fact, it all starts quite innocently, with the player in their apartment in the complex, discovering that their daughter has gone to a party in one of the other buildings. Even at this point, there is something wrong. It doesn’t take long for the player to discover that their daughter is in trouble, and so they head out to find this party and save the daughter.

 
Then comes the discovery that most of the people in the complex have been replaced by creepy shadow creatures that want nothing more than to attack anything living that they come across. Saving the daughter is going to be more difficult than extracting from a drunken party. Of course, it doesn’t take long for things to take another turn for the worse, with the black mist illness that has presumably infected everyone else infecting the player. So, save the daughter, avoid the shadow creatures and find treatment for the illness. No problem.

 
Gameplay-wise, Skyhill: Black Mist takes most of it’s cues from the survival horror genre. The Skyhill complex is pretty big and provides plenty of different areas to explore, with a certain amount of backtracking to revisit locked areas once the player has the means to gain access. There is plenty to explore and objects to collect, from lore expanding objects, to useful equipment and components for crafting. The crafting system is fairly straight forward, but the lack of things like ammunition dictate how the player will approach their journey through the complex.

 


 
Given the scarcity of certain items, there is an emphasis on stealth, and the player can hide in things like cupboards to stay out of view from the shadow creatures. They can also sneak quite happily in the darkness, although some areas will see sound amplified and potentially give away the players position. Fortunately, many of the shadow creatures are particularly dim and can easily be sneaked past. Some of them have a cone of awareness that the player will have to avoid, which adds to the tension. Alternatively, the player can simply rush past the creatures if they know where they are going and don’t get stuck on the scenery, as most of them tend to give up the pursuit fairly quickly.

 
However, there will come a time, particularly in the presence of the boss creatures that will take a whole different approach, that will require combat. Both melee and ranged weapons are available, although the limited ammunition means that the guns are used less often. Melee does give the chance for stealth kills, taking out an enemy from behind before they even know what’s going on. The enemies are not too difficult to defeat one on one, but can become more tricky if the player gets overwhelmed, so stealth is always the preferable option.

 
Once the player becomes infected by the black mist, which happens quite early on, they will find themselves slowly dying and in need of treatment. This can come in the form of found or crafted items, but is still on the scarce side, which means the player is constantly rushing to find their next treatment. This system almost plays against the whole stealth and exploration side of the game, forcing the player to hurry through areas and take risks.

 
This imposed time limit is not the only misstep that the game makes. While most of the game is solid and works well, being nicely designed and easy to pick up, things don’t always work how they should. For example, the enemies are fairly dim most of the time, but can regularly detect the player even when they are well hidden, such as hiding behind the sofa where they shouldn’t be seen at all, or they completely miss the distraction that the player sets up for them. While these little glitches in the system don’t spoil the game, they can be rather distracting. Also, when working properly, the stealth is really good. However, the game doesn’t make it essential when the player is simply able to rush past most threats.

 


 
Fans of the original Skyhill game will be pleased to see the series continued, albeit with a very different style of game. There are still links between the two, and the air of mystery is enjoyable. For the most part, the gameplay in Skyhill: Black Mist is solid and fun, but a couple of design decisions, such as the imposed time limit, make the game much more difficult to invest in. With an interesting setting, Skyhill: Black Mist has potential, and may be worth a try by fans of the series or survival horror gamers.

 

 ★★★★★★½☆☆☆ 



 

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