Black Skylands Review

Take to the skies in this action-packed steampunk adventure.

Have you ever wanted to fight off enemies and sail the skies in a decked-out airship? Of course, you have! Fortunately, Black Skylands satisfies that craving and more in this new picturesque, pixelated world. Developed by Hungry Couch Games and published by TinyBuild, Black Skylands captures everything exciting about top-down action-adventure platforms. This game is out now and appears to have all the components of a great indie hit.

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Customize The Fathership and Journey Through Aspya

In the world of Black Skylands, humanity has moved past the Earth. The new world of Aspya consists of pieces of land floating amongst the clouds like islands. Like Avatar: The Last Airbender, the various factions of people lived in harmony before The Kain’s Falcons came. You play as Eva, a young girl hellbent on destroying The Falcons and avenging her deceased father. You’ll discover more about the world as you travel the skies in your father’s old ship, aptly named “The Fathership.” Naturally, there’s more than meets the eye in this mystical aerial world. You’ll uncover clues as you build up your airship, unlock and customize new items, and discover all the fantastic islands awaiting you in the clouds.

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For 2D sprite games, I feel like the devil lies in the details. Poor animation or gameplay mechanics can disintegrate immersive gameplay. However, the developers went above and beyond in their attention to detail. The team mentions that they were inspired by various genres, from sandbox to open world. You can tell how the developers incorporated those differing characteristics into gameplay. This game has a ton of adorable and unique features, from filling up your gasoline canister to the way Eva’s hand holds up your map. It’s impressive that this is Hungry Couch Games’ first major release. It’s easy to see how much time and consideration they’ve built into the world. You would think that more developers would hop on the classic steampunk/aerial ship atmosphere, but I’ve found that few effectively encapsulate the aesthetic like Black Skylands.

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Another interesting gameplay element is the degree of item customization. Most top-down shooters that I’ve played don’t focus heavily on customizable items, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth here. The player can upgrade nearly everything with things you find along your journey, from various guns to The Fathership itself. The vast customization options further incentivize the player to explore new crafting items, as you never know how a particular piece may benefit your stats.

The one thing I found a bit challenging was navigating my airship in battle zones. Due to the camera’s position, it can be difficult to see where enemies are located. Sometimes, I didn’t realize I was in battle until I was caught up in the middle of it. While this isn’t too problematic, it’s an issue I often experience with the inherent camera restriction of top-down shooters. With that being said, Eva’s attacks and the ship itself are easy to navigate. In addition, the streamlined UI and simple controls make for a game that’s not challenging to pick up but immersive enough to keep you playing. Overall, I highly recommend checking out this hit indie adventure, and I’m excited to see what other games these developers may announce in the future.

Black Skylands is out now on PC in early access. You can find it on Steam. A planned release for Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One will come in the future.

Allison Wheeler

Allison has been playing games since before she can remember and talking to people about them for almost as long. She's a big fan of indies and RPGs, but will play through just about anything. When she's not petting foxes in Ghost of Tsushima or sailing through the Great Sea in Wind Waker, she's probably trying a new recipe or taking a walk with her dog.
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