One of the most fascinating things about indie games is the way new developers can draw inspiration from classics and run with it in new directions. The top-down action adventure genre pioneered by the legendary Zelda games served as a model for a number of later titles, like Arietta of Spirits. Even though it goes well beyond the blueprint, Monolith of Minds’ Lila’s Sky Ark retains that sense of discovery.
“Lila’s Sky Ark” follows the titular Lila as she battles evil forces on a weird and surreal world while simultaneously grappling with her own mysterious past. As a whole, the game focuses on adventure, with some combat and puzzle solving thrown in for good measure. Lila’s quest will bring her face-to-face with a slew of bizarre and entertaining characters, reminiscent of ToeJam & Earl.
A big part of the appeal of Lila’s Sky Ark is how beautiful it looks almost every time. Character models range from Lila’s little frame to some enormous models, all of which have a retrowave color palette reminiscent of Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between’s color palette. The design of Lila’s Sky Ark, despite this restriction, is incredibly diversified, incorporating sadness as well as the customary exuberance.
An key part of this is Lila’s Sky Ark’s ability to explore several levels of its game world. With its acid-washed Secret of Mana look and feel, the game’s surface area is reminiscent of that game, yet the player is never far from an entrance to the deeper underbelly. Both worlds must be understood and mastered by the player via the use of the many abilities and talents acquired throughout the course of the game.
Lila’s Sky Ark has a wonderful soundtrack to go along with its beautiful visuals. Several notable melodies that merge synthwave with traditional chiptune video game music help bring the player closer to the evocative environment of the game. In one particular boss battle, the music is linked to the action in a way that isn’t quite as strong as the music in games like Everhood.
While Lila’s Sky Ark may appear to be an abstract and absurdist piece of fiction, the prose is actually rather brilliant. As amusing as the game’s primary characters are, though, gamers who dig deeper will discover that there is much more to the game than just the bespectacled super computer Doctor-Father-Sir. A considerable amount of narrative is revealed in the game’s Epilogue in a manner similar to that of Undertale.
The gameplay, on the other hand, is a little more sophisticated. Lila’s Sky Ark contains several excellent adventure tasks, such as repairing a giant sky computer or relocating queen bees between colonies to control the atmosphere. Contrary to popular belief, combat in the game is a mixed bag. While boss fights are exciting, players may choose to avoid normal foes until they are absolutely required.
Lila’s Sky Ark’s controls can be a little unnerving at times, thus this is part of the reason. If you’re trying to evade faster enemies, dodging and jumping (when enabled) may lag behind, especially if you have to switch platforms. Getting struck by Lila causes her to lose her throwable weapon, which causes players to have to scurry to pick up thrown things. This is a small flaw, but it makes the game more frustrating.
Consequently, Lila’s Sky Ark is a wonderful game to play when it strikes the perfect balance of cerebral thought and abstract design. A few weak spots, mainly in combat-heavy sections that do not lead to the game’s final boss fight, but it is still a lot of fun and filled with secrets.