SkeleTown: The Adventures of Skelly the Skeleton (1.2)

Posted in SHAR: Mod Showcase
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Disclaimer: While I tested for Annoy Squidward, I really had no idea what exactly this mod was and never got a chance to play it until release. This was quite the treat to see!

Got a quick chance to play this last night before heading to bed for work in the morning. Figured I'd be able to blast through it relatively quickly and did - but it was an amazing experience! Let's rib this one apart and see what exactly tickles my funny bone with this mod:

The entire atmosphere of the mod is absolutely fantastic. I'm a huge fan of mods that break away from the traditional Simpsons cast (Annoy Squidward, Metal Arms/Some Law Enforcement, Pickle Mod, Springfield Noire) in favor of original characters or other properties, and a cutesy little horror town filled with skeletons is such a charming and silly idea that works extremely well in SHAR's engine. This is especially true since we had some horror themed elements in vanilla Level 7, which allows for some assets to cleverly be re-used in a concept that still manages to feel refreshing. This also applies to in-game mechanics being pretty decently cleverly repurposed to better match the Halloween theme in a way SHAR never did (bones acting as primary collectibles).

Speaking of assets, the map is really well designed! The map is of a pretty fair moderate size with a fair amount of spooks and buildings, but it's cleverly designed where I don't really feel lost. The buildings are divided into regions and color coded, so each part of the map feels like it has a fairly nice distinct feel. There are also some great setpieces to help make the town feel more alive and so you can better get a sense of your surroundings, like the giant spider prop or the giant skeleton float. If somehow the player does find themselves lost, then Mission Select is always a possibility.

Even then though I've got an amazing giddy feeling just exploring the map. In addition to the props acting as great eye candy, there are a lot of neat platforming sections near those locations. The barn is a fantastic example since its set so close to the lake yet it challenges you with some neat vertical platforming that manages to feel slightly more exciting than climbing the barn in Evergreen Terrace. These areas also aren't really worked into missions. While that sounds like a bad thing when phrased like that, it feels like the player is cleverly rewarded for exploration while not in a mission and gives me the same sense of discovery I had back when SHAR was completely fresh to me. You're not going to experience the platforming unless you really explore, so it feels like these challenges are fun little side quests that play a bit differently from the core of the mod. I had a lot of little 'Ah-ha!' moments when I saw a vent and realized I could platform up there.

Missions are also pretty enjoyable, with my favorite being Do Nothing...but that's solely because I'm a pile of lazy bones. Again, none of them really incooperate platforming which works nicely for a 7 mission mod and allows the optional collectibles to pick up the slack in this department. Each mission also manages to focus on one primary objective, so nothing really feels as if it ends up repeating itself in the short playtime you'll have with the mod. Save for Mission 1, each mission also manages to feel as if it mostly just contains itself to one little section of the map or two, or disguises it in a way where it doesn't really feel like you're traversing the whole map for one measely mission. The missions also ending after said objectives are completed also helps create an incentive for exploring the area you're currently in and gives the player more freedom. Just Garbage Driving, the pumpkin collection mission (sadly I forget the name currently), and One Wheely Bad Skeleton are probably my favorites of the bunch. The sense of speed you get with the Level 7-tier cars and the short nature of the missions means they're pretty fun to replay even if you find yourself struggling a bit.

My only real criticisms with the mod are relatively minor and are extremely nitpicky.

Spoiler
I personally feel as if the final mission (The Big Skellowski) is a little underwhelming. It's not so much that the vehicle destroy objective is recycled, as I think the 'chase' AI gives it a unique flair. Rather I think the issue is that the AI is extremely easy to manipulate and the player having access to a wrench makes the finale feel a little anticlimatic, as fun as wrestling a giant skeleton is. I think it works slightly better in Annoy Squidward's L1M1 since that ends up not being the primary focus but rather the ending to a chase sequence.

I also feel the Flying Skull locations are a bit ehh. They do reward exploration nicely, but I think my biggest issue is that there's a lack of unique areas tailored to them like the Hidden Bones were, or rather they don't feel as engaging to find. Some are just kinda placed in the street and you might run into and destroy one without really even acknowledging it, while others are hidden in small little passegeways. I had trouble finding the very last Skull and my save file currently sits at 19 out of 20 skulls destroyed. Some of this is an issue I have with SHAR as well, but the more open nature of the map can make this slightly tricky to work with.

Some 'goto' objectives also lack a marker on the HUD map from mission to mission, but I assume this was intentional because SHAR's path suggestions were being butts.

Really great stuff all around! Was a great time and I highly recommend giving this mod a shot. Definitely put me in a bit more of a Halloween mood myself.
Some new updates. The 1.0 version of this mod didn't have support for Spanish, French, and German versions of the game. It also didn't replace the halloween/thanksgiving/christmas camsets with the modded skeleton background.
These have been fixed in updates 1.1 and 1.2, respectively.
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