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Skul: The Hero Slayer lets you swap skills by swapping skulls, is out now

A stab-brawler. A stabrawler.

Maybe you miss Hollow Knight, or you're dead tired of Dead Cells. Then Skul: The Hero Slayer might appeal. It's a side-on stabrawler roguelite that's just left early access in which you can swap skulls to swap skills, and also lob your noggin at enemies. It's nice, from my brief play of it, and there's an announcement trailer below.

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Skul is a game in which you technically play the baddies, hence the "Hero Slayer" title. But really the heroes are human jerks and the skeletons mostly just want to be left alone. Plus Skul, your character, is cute as a button. He's cute in every one of his forms. You'll switch out his head for a wolf skull that let's you move quicker and cause damage while dashing, or a minotaur skull that let's you damage crowds of enemies with a ground-pound (just as the minotaur did to Theseus), or a jester skull that let's you chuck knives. There are a bunch more, dished out at random between areas.

I've been playing Hollow Knight recently, in fits and starts, and was surprised by how tanky Skul is by comparison. You're an agile little fighter with a dash, and the ability to teleport to the position of your skull after it's thrown, but you can and will take a lot of damage while fighting high numbers of enemies simultaneously. A lot of the game seems to be about gradually unlocking upgrades and learning better crowd control to deal with the high enemy counts in each little level.

The game has been in early access since last year, when Steve played it for our since departed Premature Evaluation column. He enjoyed it, while finding it too reliant on RNG at the time.

All of which is to say that in this unbalanced early access version, Skul doesn’t flow nearly as well as it could. Drawing a weak skull early on for example, or simply a skull you don’t enjoy using, effectively scuppers any given run from the outset – it feels like roguelike poison to be dealt a bad hand immediately after respawning. And the rewards you’re unlocking as you accrue your purple points are so incremental as to be barely noticeable, adding tiddly percentage points to your attack power or millisecond decreases of cooldowns at a time.

If you've been playing and think it has improved in the development time since, say so in the comments. I'm curious, because I enjoyed its opening minutes.

Skul: The Hero Slayer is available from Steam for £15.50/$16/€13.43.

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