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 Fresh out of Early Access, the pixelated roguelike Skul: The Hero Slayer is now being vied with eulogies and laudatory comparisons to Hades and Dead Cells . We explain on our fingers what the SouthPAW Games project is really good at.


Non-trivial plot

Skul: The Hero Slayer is one of the rare storyline roguelikes. It is difficult, of course, to compete with Hades and, in general, with any Supergiant Games game in the ability to tell interesting stories, but SouthPAW Games' brainchild has its own arguments. The main character here is the titular skeleton of the Rocks, and his enemies are little people led by "good" heroes who attacked the demon king's castle.

The forces were unequal, almost all demons and undead were captured, and now all hope is only on the Rock. At the same time, one immediately feels that the heroes here are extremely unpleasant personalities, people hunt demons for xenophobic motives, and in general everything is not easy and in many ways not what it seems. There is nothing super serious in the subject matter - on the contrary, the game has a lot of simple, but still funny humor.

There are also enough colorful characters, some of them are worked out just at the level of Hades . We rescue many from their cages or meet on the black market - this is a base where you can heal, buy new equipment and artifacts. So, they not only trade with us - you can communicate with everyone, and this communication is by no means limited to short, empty phrases.

Yes, there is no need to make gifts, as in Hades , for the characters to reveal themselves, but even without this, as you progress through many, you learn something new. And the story itself is really interesting and sometimes develops unexpectedly.

Crazy gameplay with its own "chips" (more precisely, skulls)

In terms of structure, Skul is a pixelated "roglite" platform, and in this sense it is much closer to Dead Cells . We jump on platforms, fight, at the same time making dashes, dodging traps and applying skills. In The Hero Slayer to this is added the need to control their shape when switching between the two essences of the character.

The basic skull gives you initial skills - you can throw it at enemies and instantly be transported to the head. And then you will receive a reward and find a lot of different variations - common, rare, unique. And there will be their own skills - by switching to the werewolf, you will be able to rush at enemies with fangs, demolishing everyone in the way; the archilich's skull will allow you to summon chains from under the ground, causing damage. You can transform into a gargoyle to take off. Or, for example, try on the skull of a thief who throws gold coins at enemies.

You are allowed to carry two skulls at the same time. Therefore, it is important to know well and apply the abilities of each, as well as take into account the unique effect that is activated each time the shape changes (this happens with a "rollback"): someone bounces back and throws three knives at opponents, someone produces a magical explosion, someone turns on the meat grinder mode or releases the cross of darkness, striking all the "light" around.

Skulls can and should be pumped from a spider, who asks for special (and rather rare) bones - they can be obtained for destroying unnecessary skulls (or in locations where doors painted green lead).

Another pumping element is the collection of dark quartz, for which at the base you need to increase the passive characteristics of the character, increasing damage, the chance of a critical strike, the effectiveness of magic, and so on. Also in the market before meeting with bosses, you can heal for coins, buy new equipment or quintessence. The latter is a powerful magical technique that allows, for example, to summon such an ally for a couple of seconds, who will take down half of the reptiles on the map with his balls (magical, of course).

Harsh but addictive hardcore

Despite all this, surviving in Skul: The Hero Slayer is not easy, even in the beginner mode, where the enemies are weakened. Opponents almost always attack in droves, "spawn" directly from the air, create some kind of auras, and even traps all around. Therefore, it is constantly hot here: the smell of burnt enemy meat, piles of corpses, a riot of special effects ... We often get to the meeting with the boss on our word of honor. On the market you can get medical treatment, but not free of charge and often not completely.

In addition, before and after meeting with the boss of each biome, there are several rooms where you, wounded and untreated, may well be killed. Immediately after the market, there are only enemy heroes - very powerful, but not the strongest rivals in the region.

After each of our deaths, the enemies gain experience and become stronger, and we lose everything we acquired through backbreaking work, except for the reserves of dark quartz and those upgrades that we bought for them - thanks for that too.

In general, the game is harsh, but does not cause whining and irritation - on the contrary, everything is fair, because a lot depends on where the user's hands grow from.

Invigorating random

Much, but not all, of course - as in any roguelike, randomness contributes to success or failure in Skul . But in the right "bagels" it is not annoying either, but only heats up the excitement.

Of course, in one playthrough, right after leaving the base, you can get into a location where mountains of gold are around and altars are often found, which, after destruction, begin to restore your health. And in another, you will immediately find yourself in an area where traps and springboard mushrooms are everywhere, and every wrong move leads to landing on spears.

In one race, you will buy or find cool equipment that gives excellent effects - it itself shoots lightning at opponents or, for example, drops bombs when you double jump. Within 10 minutes after the start, you will come across the skull of a unique archilich or dark paladin with cool skills. And in another ... well, in general, there are no such gifts of fate.

But in The Hero Slayer it is implemented in a way similar to The Binding of Isaac , that is, with taste and a sense of proportion. In addition, with any randomness, even unsuccessful, there are chances to correct the situation with your own competent approach.

Excellent pixel art

Hades looks flawless, but Skul 's "regular pixels" can irritate opponents of this art style. However, it was not for nothing that I said “artistic style” - in The Hero Slayer it may not be outstanding, but it is certainly cute and stands out for its detailed elaboration of locations. Together with well-chosen music, this only enhances the positive gaming experience.

Audio-visual and narrative, Skul: The Hero Slayer may not be as outstanding as Hades . But a huge variety of skulls and their skills, the possibility of their transformation provide in some way even more interesting tactics for passing and building builds.

Pros: plot and characters; feature-rich gameplay; audiovisual performance.

Cons: randomness sometimes affects the passage too much.