Skyhill: Black Mist is a strange game. A groundhog day-esque roguelite that has you replaying levels over and over again in a sometimes tense and other times frustrating alien mystery-filled story, all set within a single giant building complex.
When Skyhill clicks it really clicks, dropping you in its mysterious and sci-fi-infused world with style; graphic novel-looking characters, and a tense, gripping atmosphere and area to explore. I found myself constantly intrigued by what would be around the next corner, of where the monsters might appear next or when a police officer might come bursting through a door hunting for me.
And then I would die.
And now fully aware of what to do or not to do I would go about it a second time…until I would die again…and again and again. This is the loop of Skyhill and at least in my short 30-minute demo I am not sure how I fully feel about it.
It’s a fun and engaging roguelite like it should be at times, but so much of the game, at least in what I played, is made unclear, a truly staggering achievement given the level of tutorials and menus it gives you about everything else.
Yet then I go creeping and sleuthing around the corridors of the building yet again. The hook, the joy of Skyhill lays in that. Lays in simply slowly peeling back the mystery of what is happening, of truly exploring every nook and cranny of the building. I just wanted to go at it again. Because the game is tense. Because the game just simply is good at creating these thoughtful and clever levels. Shades of a Hitman game lay throughout it. Each level serving as a puzzle to unlock.
At the same time though, at least from what I played, the answers never really come. I was given no real insight into what was happening, why the cops were after me, where the aliens came from, or really what was going on at all. I honestly picked up and had to just sorta fill in the blanks as best I could myself.
That’s the thing with Skyhill: Black Mist, it’s an almost jarringly strange game. A mix of highs and lows. Of confusion and excitement. Of wanting to dive into it one more time and constantly being exhausted by the process and mundaneness of it all. The world and vibe they are building lands, but the up in the air never mentioned story and core gameplay elements leave much to be desired.
Maybe Skyhill is simply a harder game to demo, maybe upon playing the whole finished product everything will come into more focus and it will all click with me. Either way, Skyhill: Black Mist produced one of the most confounding, intriguing, and curious games I played at PAX and for better or worse it left me wanting to know more.