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Skullgirls Review: Viciously Compelling

The Good

  • Looks gorgeous
  • Intuitive control system
  • Plenty to sink your teeth into
  • Fast paced fighting

The Bad

  • Can get expensive
  • Bit sexist

Conversions of well known arcade or console fighters are a fairly common thing on the App Store and Google Play. The problem lies in the fact that few of them are particularly great conversions. All too often, controller based options are awkwardly switched to touch screen controls, and it all feels too messy and uncomfortable. Skullgirls defies that trend, proving to be a great beat em up.

Starting out, you’re guided through the intuitive control system. This isn’t like your regular beat em up. There’s no virtual joystick or buttons here. Instead, a tap on screen inflicts one blow with repeated taps invoking a flurry of attacks. Two swipes upwards commits you to a throw attack with holding your fingers down performing a block. It’s the kind of stuff that soon proves instinctive and easy to remember.

There are some buttons available, mostly relating to special attacks, but you’ll always feel in control here. As well as that, swapping your fighter in and out in a form of tag teaming works well too. Really suck at fighting games? A form of fighting cruise control is also available at the tap of a button. In no time, you can watch the game do its thing for you, albeit with less finesse than one would expect from a real player. You can always interfere and pick up the slack.

There’s an impressive amount of depth going on here. While battles are brief, you’ll feel like you’re doing far more than just punching a couple of times. The special moves and blockbuster attacks are particularly cool to watch. That’s compounded by Skullgirls’s delightful visuals that show off just how gorgeous hand-drawn 2D animations can look. On my iPhone 6s, it never paused for breath either.

At its heart, Skullgirls is actually a mixture of a 2D fighter and an RPG. Besides fighting your way through numerous different characters, there’s also plenty of room for improving your fighter through levelling up and evolving them. Each time you fight, you work your way towards levelling up once more. You can dive straight in, using acquired currency to upgrade certain parts of your fighter. Want to focus on defense? You can up your health in no time. Or you can choose to be a hard hitting warrior that doesn’t take return punches so well. It’s all down to you, right down to which new special moves you unlock.

This is also where Skullgirls’s freemium underbelly shines through. The game is free to download, but you might have to buy a few in-app purchases if you want to unlock new fighters or buy new talents. The former is conducted randomly meaning things can turn pretty expensive after a while. Of course, a premium price point would have been better, but Skullgirls feels mostly worth this sacrifice. Assuming you don’t go too nuts with your purchases.

That’s helped by the fact there’s always something to do. Besides the story mode, you can compete with other players in Prize Fights, thereby unlocking new fighters that way. You can also join in with Daily Events, or simply work on your combo honing via the Training mode. Skullgirls is a rich game when it comes to always offering something new to do.

While some might be a little dismayed by the somewhat sexist approach to female characters and the clothes they wear, this is mostly a fighting game that rarely misses a beat. Finally, fighting game fans have the ideal game to take on their daily commute.