“Play as RacketBoy or RacketGirl, guardians chosen by the Capybara Goddess to save your galaxy from the paws of a destructive tyrant genius.
Unable to attack by yourself, you must strike enemies’ attacks back at them, turning the battlefield into an explosive space tennis battle. Fly your way through hordes of ducks, cat-sandwiches, fluffy bunnies, space-tennis-robots and even BANANAS in this unexpected and unique adventure to save the galaxy!”
It’s a description that just begs you to try the game out – how on earth can you say no to the Capybara Goddess? I actually read it after trying out the game, so I got the pleasant surprise of opening up Sky Racket with no idea what to expect, and being greeted by a deluge of magic, colour, and ridiculousness. I love nostalgic graphics and colourful games. They remind me of my childhood, and even now it’s an aesthetic you’ll commonly find in some of my favourite media and around my apartment. The game just looks so energetic and enjoyable from the beginning – I fell in love with looking at it.
Like many great indies, Double Dash Studios’ new release took root in a game jam, with the theme being “Arcade.” Sky Racket describes itself as a “shmup breaker” – a shoot-em-up spliced with the traditional block-breaker games most of us remember from the simpler days of gaming. For those unfamiliar, block-breaking games usually involved ricocheting a ball back and forth, like a one-sided game of tennis. You have items to break, and have to move quickly to keep bouncing the balls back and forth until the stage is cleared.
Sky Racket leaves a lot out in terms of story. You’ll get a few sentences here and there, and there’s a general storyline, but it’s pretty forgettable and not too detailed. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m bothered by that – as much as I love a good story, I’m more into mechanics when it comes to games like these. An awesome story is a great bonus, but it’s not what I’m looking for. I want to enjoy the physical action of playing.
Sky Racket’s main mechanics revolve around dodging and hitting, which is why sometimes it can get a little frustrating that the characters have surprisingly slow movement speed. Maybe I’m a little spoiled by fast-moving games, but I’m used to beat-em-ups and block-breaking games both moving at a quick pace. It’s part of the addictive joy of it all – you get into the feel of fast movement and learn to be quicker and better each time. Sky Racket can sometimes get tiring when you see an attack you want to smack back, and react quickly, but are just physically unable to make it across the screen.
That flaw aside, I found the gameplay to be a good mix between cathartic and difficult. In the first couple levels I thought it might be too easy, but I was soon set straight when I saw the list of goals after each stage – clearing the stage is just one thing to do. The player will also be tasked with various challenges, including destroying all the blocks in a stage (a task I still haven’t managed). As you increase in levels, more and more chaos is thrown into the mix. Objects will come faster, and there will be new interactive complications – like cats that cling to you until you shake them off, and bursts that completely distort your surroundings. It’s a challenge, but the fairly static stages help players to learn and improve if it’s too challenging the first time.
Most of all, I loved the varied, colourful stages, and unique bosses (though I do have concerns about the giant banana with tentacles). It reminds me of all the things that called out to me from the shelves during my childhood, and that just always made me happy to look at. Paired with music that makes you want to dance in your chair, it’s a great callback to the nostalgic memories of arcade-style fun and classic games.
Overall, Sky Racket features a nice mesh of gameplay styles (even pinball!) and an excellent aesthetic, which makes it pretty enjoyable to just sit down and start playing – especially if you want an experience where you don’t have to pay attention to tons of intricate details and can focus on perfecting your technique. There’s a lot of fun here, wrapped up in a gorgeous, smooth-playing package.