Even as Skyhill’s [official site] protagonist books into the eponymous hotel, it’s clear that all is not well with the world. The penthouse suite, he’s told, comes with the best in biological protection, which doesn’t mean a gratuity pack of condoms concealed in the fruit bowl and champagne welcoming gift. World War III is happening, y’see, and there are all sorts of nasty weapons primed to launch. And that’s just what happens – a biological weapon hits the city and the chap you control is the sole survivor. Time for a turn-based trek through one hundred floors of hell.
I’ve been playing the demo of Skyhill today and every time I die, I shut it off and wonder if I’ll ever bother to go back. Half an hour later, I try again.
It’s a slot machine, essentially. Each floor of the hotel has three rooms – the elevator entrance and two suites, one at each side. The contents are randomised and you’ll be hunting for bits and pieces to combine so that you can make weapons, healthcare, tools and meals. You don’t have to figure out ‘recipes’, the crafting menu tells you what you need to make every unlocked item, and along with your inventory there are only two essential stats to keep track of: health and hunger. The latter drains as you move and can be converted into health by returning to the penthouse (either using the stairs or the elevator, which is only available on certain floors, where the doors are intact) and sleeping.
Because each floor is so small, there’s no real sense of exploration or freedom. The route from floor 100 to floor 1 is essentially one long corridor and each new room is another pull of the slot machine’s handle – will you find the final item you need to complete the weapon you’re trying to build or will you run into a mutant? Combat, like everything else, is turn-based. You can aim for torso, limbs or head, with each having its own range of possible damage and chance to hit. Another slot machine.
There’s some control, mainly in when and how to spend the few resources you have, but Skyhill randomises its tower and then leaves you to yank at that lever, hoping everything will line up just right and the coins (and meds) will come tumbling out. And maybe that’s fine, as long as you know what you’re getting into. Thematically it’s quite strong, with agreeably dopey post-apocalypse tropes sprinkled around in the notes and tapes you find along the way. There are hints that a TWIST might be coming but since the demo stops around floor 80, I cannot confirm.
I’ll probably go back to it later tonight. It’s a perfect podcast game – one to play while the brain feeds on audio from elsewhere.
Developed by Mandragora, Skyhill is coming October 6th to Windows and Mac.