UK-based developer Ground Shatter's debut title comes in the form of SkyScrappers – a vertically-orientated brawler that sees two or more combatants fight their way up a crumbling tower and attempt to navigate all sorts of falling clutter as they do so. It's a fresh enough twist on the genre's often infamous auto-scrolling stages, with the uppermost player deciding the pace at which the camera pans up – inflicting a significant amount of damage upon any stragglers that are slow enough to get left behind them.
If merely jumping away your opponent's health bar isn't quite quick enough for you, then you can always just pummel them into submission if you're willing to get up close and personal about it. Each playable character comes equipped with a different weapon that they can pull off some basic combos with, but none of them feel especially different considering that you'll always be fumbling within arm's reach of one other anyway. It's also possible to claim victory by reaching the building's summit before anyone else does, though it's unlikely that you'll ever make it far enough to witness this happen in larger matches.
This blend of fast paced action and skilful platforming isn't poorly executed by any means – in fact, the release feels rather intuitive in the way that it controls. Having said that, four-player rounds are likely to become too chaotic for them to seem fair at all, and this is only made more frustrating while playing against AI controlled enemies that aren't impacted by the sudden change in scale.
It's a shame, then, that you'll be forced to participate in one of these skirmishes every time that you reach the end of the somewhat arduous arcade mode – a seven-part slog spanning a digitized world map, akin to something that you'd expect to find in a Street Fighter game, which, incidentally, SkyScrappers ham-fistedly borrows a lot of its presentation from. To make matters worse, these final bouts require you to win four seperate rounds before you can come out on top, which means that you've really got to play things safe if you want to win.
For those simply looking to knock heads with a few pals, the multiplayer mode enables you to do just that, along with the option to throw a couple of bots into the mix, too. There's also a selection of stages to choose from, but this isn't a huge point of interest considering that each map is just a reskin of all the others. The same can be said for the sky scrappers themselves, as none of them particularly stand out among their peers – either in their gameplay mechanics, or their individual personalities.
While the outing clearly doesn't try to make anything special of its cast, it does put forth a number of 'skits' for your viewing pleasure, as well as giving each of the four protagonists – yes, there are only four of them – a closing cinematic upon the completion of their respective arcade run. The writing in these instances isn't flat out terrible, but the humour often falls flat, and the bizarre absence of any finalising full stops in the text does nothing to aid this. In general, dialogue comes across as being so lifeless and dull that we can't help but wonder if the title would've benefited from even the most standard of voice acting talents – if not the exclusion of its script altogether.
What's more, the visual and audio stylings on offer aren't much to write home about either, though it must be said that they're far from unpleasant. The artistic cohesion of the release is at least competent and well realised, and the accompanying score can actually be quite catchy, given the right opportunity. After all, who doesn't love a good bit of MIDI slap bass in their video games?
Now, with that of the way, let's address what is perhaps the single most offensive thing about the product: its price tag. Keeping in mind that SkyScrappers boasts a measly character roster of four, has little to no diversity in its core gameplay and level design, and features a rather barebones selection of two whole playable modes to indulge yourself in, you'd be forgiven for thinking that its asking price of £17.99 is just a little overbearing. In fact, we'd have to agree with you. Yikes.
With an intriguing core concept and solid presentation, SkyScrappers isn't an especially bad game – just a ludicrously overpriced one. If, by chance, you can afford to snag a copy, then you're in for a fun little tussle – just don't expect it to be one that'll keep on giving.