Not quite a race to the bottom.
Picture this: You’re out on a business trip and decide “you know what? It’s time to splurge a little bit because I’m worth it!” You rent the penthouse suite at the top of a luxurious hotel, and sit down for a nice evening to yourself. That’s when the bombs drop, the mutants fill the streets, and danger fills the air. Now you’re on the 100th floor of a building with no food and a long journey down ahead of you. Do you think you can make it to the bottom? This is the central premise behind Skyhill, a survival horror roguelike with a real emphasis on the survival aspect.
In Skyhill, you take control of Perry Jason as he attempts to make his way to the ground floor, scrounging up anything and everything useful he finds along the way. Throughout his journey Perry can discover audio tapes that will fill in some of his story, and will even receive text messages from other people in the building that imply something strange may be happening that even the player is not aware of. These small bits of story are honestly more confusing than they are interesting with the game trying way too hard to imitate the plot of other horror franchises, most notably Silent Hill (if you can believe a game with a main character named Perry Jason might be trying to pay homage to Silent Hill in some way).
While the story is lackluster, Skyhill does manage to pick up a little slack with the gameplay. As stated before, Perry starts in the VIP suite on floor 100 and must make his way down floor by floor. For every room Perry enters he loses one point of hunger, and once hunger is gone he begins to lose health instead. Hunger can be replenished using various food items that can be found, which can also be combined to create a more effective food item as you upgrade your suite’s abilities. Health can be replenished using your usual collection of medkits and bandages, or by sleeping in your bed and spending hunger. Skyhill also features your usual survival crafting system that allows you to build stronger weapons, other crafting materials, medical supplies, or even upgrades for your top floor suite.
For the most part Skyhill is your usual survival faire, but a few notable flaws did affect the experience on multiple occasions. The translation leaves much to be desired, with a number of noticeable errors that are tough to overlook. While it’s never so confusing that you can’t tell what they meant to say, misuse of words like “overdue” instead of “rotten” or “intoxication” instead of “food poisoning” tend to be jarring especially when trying to read quickly. The random generation for item and enemy locations can also be slightly unfair at times, with enemies that can poison you located in areas devoid of the materials you need to craft an antidote. Poison does not go away on its own, an antidote requires a vial of mutant blood and a bottle of antibiotics but the balance of how often certain items show up can sometimes be so skewed that one or both of those may never show up at all. At one point during a run I found myself poisoned and carrying 10 vials of mutant blood, but not a single bottle of antibiotics until the poison eventually killed me.
Fights are not all that interesting to watch or play, but make up for it in the moment to moment tension and risk assessment required when it comes to engaging an enemy in the first place. Each floor is comprised of three rooms, and under most circumstances you cannot see what’s in a room until you’ve entered it. If an enemy is encountered in a side room the player may simply choose to leave, though this will open them up for an opportunity attack from behind. Enemies encountered on the center staircase must be killed in order to progress. This turns the game into a series of difficult choices, do you attempt to conserve health for the mandatory battles or do you charge in headfirst hoping to level up your stats before you find an even bigger enemy? The player can also find and repair elevators throughout the building as they go, allowing for faster travel up to the bed and crafting table of their VIP suite. Doing so will cost crafting material, but repairing these elevators is vital if you wish to succeed as most items can only be crafted while in the suite.
Skyhill is not the most impressive survival game I’ve played, but it still manages to have its charms. While the story and translation may be lackluster, the art is still charming and it manages to shove a large amount of replayability into such a small package. A successful run may take you no more than around two hours, but you’ll likely find yourself going back for another crack either with different perks or on a higher difficulty just to see how far down you can get. Seeing the numbers slowly tick down as I went made me truly feel like I was progressing, even as each floor was functionally identical to the last. If playing a game over and over until you’ve figured out every secret and strategy is something that you enjoy, Skyhill is one you should at least give a glance.