Warlords for the Atari 2600 was one of the first games I ever really played for hours. It’s basically four-player Breakout with walls that you each guard, and inside each wall is a little thingy (who knows what anything was back in the age of Atari art?) that you need to protect at all costs. The goal was to take out everyone else’s central piece before you lost yours, and it was super fun! I always wondered why there wasn’t an indie game that captured that same mechanic and turned it into something new.
Then I discovered Skorecery, and I FINALLY found it: a game that felt like Warlords 2.0 and doesn’t require a console that’s over 30 years old to play. Skorecery pits 2-4 players against one another in a variety of game modes, running around the screen to catch the ball and chuck it at your foe’s runes.
Developer: GrappleHook Games
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by developer
Interface: Two DualShock 4 controllers
Available on PS4
Skorecery drops 2 to 4 players in a close-quarters arena battle to destroy each other’s Runes. Master the powerful and mysterious orb to devastate opponents. Run, jump and flip gravity to out-maneuver foes. Unleash unique spells to ensure victory.
On Skorecery’s website, the words “seconds to learn but hours to master” are written. That absolutely couldn’t be any more accurate! The game is incredibly straightforward: there’s one ball and your job is to grab it and hurl it at your opponent’s skull-shaped runes. You can freely run around most of the area, jump, cast spells, and even reverse your own personal gravity to get to the ball first or block your opponent’s shot, but that’s it!
The game has four game modes: quick play, exhibition, goaltender, and shootout. Quick play is a two-player version of exhibition that randomly sets your team colors, while exhibition allows you to actually select your team colors and change spells and characters. Shootout is the same as well, but you’re given a limited number of shots rather than letting a winner be decided by the last person standing. All three of these modes have various layouts for your runes, and we found all of the layouts fun in their own ways. Staggered was the most fun: each team has one set of their runes covered by the other team’s runes, so there’s an added strategy in which runes to go after first. If you expose your own runes, your opponent will have a much easier time wiping you out, but going for your blocked runes requires some crazy trick shots. Finally, goaltender has runes pop up around the screen one at a time, and the first one to hit it with the ball gets a point. This is the only timed mode; after 3 minutes, a winner is decided by who has the most points. We really enjoyed all of the modes aside from shootout; I managed to shoot all of my shots while my gal still had 3 shots left, so I basically just jumped around trying to block her until she finished the game.
Then there are the little things. It’s cool to be able to select your team’s color, and even cooler that your PS4 controller light actually changes to your team color! There are also several spells to choose from to alter the game, and loads of options to make things even crazier. For example, my gal and I both had trouble grabbing the ball; it just seemed like it didn’t work half the time. But hey, there’s a solution: make it so that you don’t have to grab the ball! With the Knar’s Kurse turned off, even touching the ball changes it to your color and can destroy runes. But with so many options, it was weird that there are only two “characters” you can choose from. This is far from a big deal, mind you, since you have a circle around you that shows your color anyway. Finally, I couldn’t be more grateful for how easy it is to set a game up. You just choose your mode, select your character, spell, and play! If you want to play with the exact same setup, just press a single button and you’re good to go. If you want to mix things up, it’s still only a few button presses to set up a completely different match.
I’ll admit, the first thing I thought when I fired this game up was, “Oh, there are no bots…”. I was the only one available to play it at the time, so it meant all I could do was go through the same tutorial over and over or go into practice mode where there’s zero challenge. I LOVE when competitive games have bots; it means that not only can I play the game by myself, I can play with my gal against them rather than just against her. I can also see how adding more players would add a lot more chaos to the game, and a lot of that is missing with only two players. Heck, even if the bots were awful, I’d be more than happy to play a 4-player free-for-all like Warlords. Sure, those bots were pretty horrendous, but beating three other players is a challenge anyway! There’s also no online multiplayer, meaning that you’ll need to find 1-3 other local players to game with.
With that said, my gal and I both had fun. We laughed and cheered when we won and we cried out when we had a great shot blocked. Her mom even commented at one point that, while she didn’t know what I’d write in my review, she knew we must have liked it since she heard us the whole time. It’s also a simple enough game that I can easily see my preteen nephew enjoying it, and when it releases I’m excited to see groups of people streaming it or posting videos of crazy matches. Being able to ask people who aren’t typically into gaming to play a game “like Pong” is a super easy invite, and that certainly doesn’t hurt either.