Originality is hard to come by, so I at least respect attempts at doing something new. Sky Tourist is just that sort of game. It’s a physics-based vertical scroller similar to endless jumpers, but with some significant twists. As intrepid tourist, Petey Pendant, you’re not jumping, but taking a dual rocket-powered sight-seeing tour through the galaxy.
The crux of the game is the unique control mechanism. On the left and right side of the screen, Petey has a rocket. A rope connects them and Petey is connected to the rope. Move the rockets in perfect tandem and Petey stays in the middles of the screen. Move one rocket higher than the other and he starts to slide down the rope in the opposite direction. It’s a simple idea, but a few issues really complicate things.
As expected, there’s no shortage of obstacles to avoid using this rocket-rope system. In general, Petey must slide right and left to go through gaps between platforms. If Petey gets caught up on any of the scenery, the rope starts to break. It only takes a few seconds to cause the poor guy to fall to his doom, but understanding what exactly constitutes a death-dealing obstacle can be a huge source of frustration.
There are rotating, windmill-like gates to push, blades of death to avoid, blocks to push, and other obstacles both creative and mundane. At times, the game feels too sensitive about what can break the rope though. Indeed, we found some spots that looked obstacle free and still ended up breaking the rope. For the most part, just getting to the exit isn’t really the main challenge. Collecting all the shiny blocks is where the real meat of the game lies. These shimmering souvenirs are hidden all over the level and frequently in devilish to reach places.
Since the game moves at the player’s own pace, you can take your time to catch everything. The three-star grading system relies on not dying, collecting all the blocks, and reaching the goal, and it’s nice to see a game that doesn’t simply race the clock. There are 25 levels in each of the three different worlds, but the difficulty level tends to ramp up a bit too quickly at times and the game frequently felt a bit too over sensitive and unforgiving.
It’s undeniably charming to watch though. Sky Tourist has a wonderfully retro and stylish look. The graphics have an almost 50’s-era sci-fi motif and look terrific. The catchy soundtrack is excellent as well, and the quirky look, complete with detailed alien backdrops, really helped endear the game to us even when it was driving us nuts.
Though the controls never felt quite natural or spot on, Sky Tourist is undoubtedly taking a unique approach to otherwise familiar ground. The terrific look is memorable and creative, the control mechanism is intriguing, but the wildly varying difficulty level and controls prevent the game from truly lifting off to the stars.