Beating a game before ever learning what it’s called is a great way to measure just how quickly I finished Forward to the Sky. The upside was the fast download time. The downside was the anticipation of what a game could offer with just around 400mb. However, this puzzle platformer had a decent sized bite despite its small size.
Forward to the Sky is focused on story first. The whole objective is to gather crystals that hold the history, memory, and details of what happened to a witch that’s hiding in a tower. Though the concept of releasing story based information is all well and good, it’s less fun when it’s extremely predictable.
You are a young princess (too young, to be honest) that takes it upon herself to see if the legends of the witch are true. Villagers have always claimed that a witch had taken over the sky tower, a structure that harbored crystals until it was mined almost clean. Shortly after, a baby was born that could… produce crystals… somehow… When the villagers saw the child as a threat, she took refuge in a large crystal-like cave at the top of the tower. There she became an “evil” witch — ensuring no one could prosper from any more crystals.
There are large pockets in the story that remain unfilled. Who exactly was the princess? How was this crystal baby born and how can she produce them? If the princess had an aircraft, why didn’t she just USE it to get to certain destinations to receive the crystals, rather than run around trying to solve obscene puzzles?! I know there wouldn’t be a game if she did that, but if that’s the case, a floating device which makes the player question why they are potentially wasting their time shouldn’t exist.
The one thing more troubling than the gaps in the story is the combat system. I understand that if you are swinging a sword, then you may not be able to jump or dodge because there is already an action taking place. However, when this little princess is swinging a sword that’s longer than her and taking her sweet time doing it, she is left open for many injuries. Every click that sends your sword swinging, no matter how fast you click, is being registered, but not at your pace. I could click three times in one second, then sit back and wait as she takes her time attacking. This is most problematic when, in mid combo, an enemy does something I wish to dodge. You cannot cancel your attack to do so. There is also no real blocking — you either dodge or get slammed.
The game makes up for troubling combat with the odd puzzles it presents and the goal of gathering crystals. Though they are not hard, the puzzles are thought provoking, with small sections here and there that allow you to ‘exploit’ the way a puzzle is designed. For example, at one point a boulder is presented to you with the intent that you walk on it, guiding the large rock into beams that give you damage otherwise. Some beams, however, are horizontal and higher than the boulder. The risk is getting hit if you don’t jump or walk around it completely (provided that you can).
The time came that my death was imminent. Every zap almost knocked me off the boulder completely. My first reaction was to hop back on the middle, highest point of that rock, and take the abuse until I got through it. My accidental discovery was that I can make the rock move even if I’m standing angled lower on the rock, completely missing the threatening blue beams. It’s good to be a short, little princess! (This may have been the actual way you complete the puzzle. We’ll never know!) The story and crystals go hand in hand; so if you don’t collect all of the crystals, you don’t get all of the story. Though the tale is easy to understand, the credits remind you that perhaps you didn’t find everything possible.
As we learned from Alphadia Genesis, I am a stickler for dialogue. It is the epitome of any story driven game and can make or break interest with ease. Despite the naivety of the princess, neither the dialogue, nor voice acting was that bad. Though I could figure out the plot immediately (blame the years of reading and playing games) I’m sure quite a few players would be intrigued and curious to the end. Even I didn’t see a certain story arc coming. The conversations between the princess and witch while going through the puzzles was just enough to connect the dots, while still leaving you wondering. It also could be used like a map, the dialogue only popping up when you are going the right way or doing the right things. This came in handy for me more than once, as you are not provided with any directional help. “Going up” really isn’t an option, despite the title.
“Pretty games” are in the eye of the beholder. Some people cannot play classic Mario due to dated graphics. To enjoy graphics, you have to understand what you are playing. With Forward to the Sky, I knew I was going into a game that was inspired by anime and Japanese related games. Knowing that, the graphics did not disappoint. The princess is a cute, little girl with puffy, light coloured clothing, making cute, exasperated noises while running around a very pretty, mildly detailed, castle-like tower. Your character, the princess, may not be the most clean-cut sprite in the game, but you forget about it when you witness the cute little skeletons trying to kill you. It is easy to tell that heart went into the details of the game and it screams “Anime Inspired”.
It’s not too surprising that, being successfully inspired by Japanese culture, the music and sound are very pleasing. Background music was fluent and blended well with the actions taking place. The princess is just like female Link when she attacks, making distraught “Eh”, “Ha”, and “Ya”‘s when swinging the large sword. Again, the voice acting isn’t bad either. Though the dialogue is only between two characters the entire time, those two female characters portray curiosity, weakness, and pain very well.
Though I only spent a whopping hour and a half on Forward to the Sky, I didn’t feel like one minute of it was a waste. Between the puzzles, the humorous failed attempts, replayability, and story, eight bucks on Steam is well worth the tiny, but fulfilling adventure.
Forward to the Sky was reviewed on PC via Steam. Review copy provided by Animu Game.