Review

The Legend of Skye Review - a forest of flaws

Nostalgia gone too far

Kieron West

Review by Kieron West

Published on Sat Jun 08 2024

As a child of the early 2000s, the point-and-click games of my childhood weren’t exactly the genre’s founders. Mostly made with Adobe Flash Player (RIP) and hosted on sites like Newgrounds, the foundations laid by Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, and buddy detectives Sam and Max (to name just a few) became a springboard for adventures that could be more experimental with their graphics, stories, and even mechanics.

I still look back at those flash games fondly for their great variety, even if my child-sized brain wasn’t always great at actually solving their puzzles. Nowadays, despite having never played the 90s classics, I’ve heard enough to know about their lasting legacy - the trickiest puzzles, great-for-the-time graphics, and most outlandish plots. For every anecdote about characters being great, you’ll hear one about needing to call a hotline to get clues or a puzzle being so obtuse it got its own wikipedia page.

The Legend of Skye is a game released in 2024, with that release date being the only modern thing about it. The game rides an ever-growing wave of nostalgia for those pioneers of the 90s, but can it deliver a good time, or is it destined for a wikipedia page of its own?

To me, the best part of point-and-click gaming in the current day is seeing how developers build on those games of the 90s, 2000s, and 2010s. Games like Edna and Harvey impress me by providing unique dialogue for every possible interaction, Memoria and Primordia impress me with their stylish art, and The Legend of Skye ignores 30 years of quality-of-life improvements.

The first thing you’ll notice is that huge box taking up half the screen, and that’s where my issues begin. While most games will give you three ways to interact with every object, The Legend of Skye gives you nine with very little justification. When the game begins, you’re told to ‘right-click to use the most common verb’; this usually translates to looking at something for an inane line of dialogue, then rolling your eyes and arbitrarily selecting ‘pick up’, ‘open’, or ‘pull’. As you can imagine, it gets quite tiring to be told ‘it’s closed’ when right-clicking a door.

Explicit puzzle spoilers ahead!

It wouldn’t be such an issue if these excessive options were used for creative puzzles. Alas, most are the standard ‘combining items to use on objects in the environment’ type, without the accessibility option of highlighting all interactable objects. At one point, I was tasked with inflating a pool float and excitedly used the ‘talk to’ option thinking Skye would blow air into the thing, but she said ‘I have nothing to say’ and we left it at that. Disappointing.

Basically, the system does too little to justify its existence. By my count, ‘Close’ was only mandatory once and ‘Give’ was literally never used at all. With some of the other options interchangeable, what’s the point of having so many when half are arbitrary?

The flaws in that system are only felt after a few hours of play, so let’s rewind. Skye, a druid from a primitive village, is warned that King Finn’s deforestation is getting extreme. Without intervention, his wizard’s black magic will replace the forests with a huge amusement park, so our heroine must use her druidic ingenuity to save the village’s shaman and, indeed, the village as a whole - all while avoiding pineapple on pizza.

‘Pay close attention to dialogue and everything Skye says’, the tutorial declares. Makes sense, right? She’ll hint at things you need to know, and then it’s your job to put it all together for those ‘a-ha’ moments that are the entire point of this type of game, right?

Nope. Skye says she won’t break a spider’s web or directly harm animals because of her ‘druid principles’, but goes on to boil a worm alive and turn a toad into a bomb. One fellow druid says their tribe maintains a balance, but what’s the point of Skye being a druid if she can’t talk to animals or have it impact the plot or puzzles beyond set dressing?

If you’re more into puzzles, there are several, starting out good and gradually declining as their logic gets increasingly hard to follow. Imagine my frustration when one puzzle directed me to send a paper boat downstream and recover it before it reached a certain point. Easy enough! Except, no, the game wants me to put a coin in the boat and fish it out with a magnet attached to a fishing rod, with zero dialogue to nudge me in that direction or reason why Skye couldn’t just grab the boat or use her reach-extending poker to redirect it, as she’d already done several times already.

Annoyingly, some puzzles are solved just by having things in your inventory. I try not to pick up excessive items, so was stumped by a character requesting money, only for them to suddenly want the mushrooms I arbitrarily had in my inventory later on. Naturally, the character never mentions mushrooms.

Without resorting to a walkthrough, you’ll wander from place to place mashing items together without ever really knowing why. I’m well aware that most players approach these games knowing that puzzles are everywhere, using anything they find on everything they see accordingly, but it feels like the puzzles were designed with that in mind, with solutions like those above making no sense or not being alluded to by the characters.

Skye only throws away items what feels like once every hundred years, too, so you’ll end up rifling through the two-rows-on-screen-at-a-time inventory more than necessary. There aren’t any achievement-only items, but it’s another time waster in a game full of them.

Beyond its puzzles, The Legend of Skye has apparently become allergic to quality-of-life inclusions. Am I just impatient, or do we all love sitting through slow walking animations every time we want to visit somewhere new? Has the developer not realised that an overwhelming majority of these games - even those trying to be retro - let you double-click to instantly go to a new area?

Maddeningly, it seems the creators do agree with me, at least partially. In the city, there’s a button that returns you to the front gate, but that begs the question - why isn’t that an option in every area?

I should stress that the game does have its redeeming qualities. While the animations have an era-appropriate rigidity, the art shines with its great use of dithering to match the style of older games, and there were a few jokes that got a genuine laugh out of me. I also thought Skye’s tiny sprite zooming across the world map was charming, and a clever twist on the usually tired maze puzzle trope made it one of the game’s best brain teasers.

As difficult as it was to write low-spoiler hints for a game that has some of the most bizarre puzzles I’ve ever experienced, it’s clear that The Legend of Skye is made for a particular kind of fan. The beauty of those 2000s-era flash games I grew up with was their variety, and above all, I’m glad that their legacy has endured. Here’s hoping the 2020s can hold on to that and provide something for everyone.

Puzzle Difficulty

High

Puzzle Satisfaction

Frustrating

Story

Inconsequential

Overall

Only if you loved the 90s!

About the author
Kieron West
Kieron West

Kieron has written video game guides since 2018. As a game designer and completionist, he understands video games on their deepest levels and loves helping others see everything that games have to offer. He even makes games of his own under the name WestyDesign.

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