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PC cover art
|Publisher(s)||Simon & Schuster, Oxygen Interactive|
|Genre(s)||Third-person shooter, action-adventure|
|Distribution||Nintendo optical disc, CD-ROM|
Darkened Skye is an action-adventure third-person shooter video game developed by Boston Animation. It was released for Microsoft Windows and the Nintendo GameCube in North America in 2002 and the PAL regions in 2003. The game was also packaged with Outlaw Golf. Its title character is a young woman named Skye who lives in a fantasy realm searching for her mother. She does not use firearms, but can perform magic using Skittles candies, as well as use her staff as a melee weapon, though it also becomes an energy weapon when used in conjunction with the Skittles.
The game begins on a path in the forest of Lynlora near a village and moves to many settings, such as the gloomy Ogmire Archipelago and the drowned city and dungeon of the same name; Tikniki Swamp, which has a maze and a scene of riding shotgun on a giant turtle which you cannot steer; a fleet of balloons called the Sky Pirates' Camp; the Chinese-style land of Zen'Jai with lava rivers, three dragon lairs, of various elemental affinities, and the Warlord's Palace, which is like a maze; Stone Heath, with three combination-lock puzzles located in ancient stone circles; a multi-story dungeon called the Goblins' Lair; the Bone Lands, which surround a lava lake; a vampires' necropolis called the Gargoyle Cemetery, which leads to a Cathedral taken over by the enemy and a giant collapsed staircase in the Bell Tower; and a skyfull of floating stones leading to Necroth's Realm and his Lair. There is a short puzzle in a miniature village along a stream, called Twell Country.
Skye's overwhelming debility is drowning, so the game involves much jumping over water hazards, especially prevalent in Ogmire. There are also many puzzles of avoiding falling from great heights. It has an arcade sequence of riding a fantasy beast through underground chambers without falling into lava pits or crashing into rock formations.
So that it can be played by children, the game maintains a healthy sense of humor about itself and its design. For example, defeated creatures melt away and it contains no morbid plot elements whatsoever. The vampires merely whisper meaningless taunts and never act like merciless monsters.
One of the aids that the game provides the player is that past dialogue is accessible. Also, it contains a notebook which keeps track of what the player is searching for at any given point in the plot.
The magic system is based on the use of Skittles candy. Skye performs different magic spells by using various combinations of colored Skittles. She can perform non-combat spells like seeing invisible items, firewalking, floating, temporarily nullifying petrification spells, shrinking, reviving dead creatures, creating a protective field, increasing the firepower of the attacks spells, and turning ordinary people into mages (though she will only get to perform that spell on her mother). Attack spells range from light beams, fireballs, iceballs, lightning, confusion, and a spell that specifically destroys undead creatures (the only means to permanently kill a vampire). Skittles have limited, though slowly regenerating, quantities of Mana. When their mana is depleted, no spells can be performed with them and they have a dulled color. They regenerate mana over time, but mana can be replenished quickly by picking up blue power-ups. Available spells depend on the quantity of Skittles Skye collects throughout the game.
Setting and characters
Skye is the only player-character. Besides her, the characters who appear in several settings are a man who intermittently appears to Skye in magical visitations and a little wisecracking gargoyle who accompanies Skye throughout her adventures, floating above the ground by beating his tiny wings or perched as a metal statue on the top of her staff.
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Publisher Simon & Schuster Interactive wanted to develop games based on M&M's given how recognized the candy characters were. While negotiating with Mars, Inc., Simon & Schuster also talked about using Skittles, which would be a back-up plan in case M&M's ended up unavailable. Eventually Mars gave the license to both brands, with the Skittles one being inspired by the assumption that a computer game based on Skittles could make the brand more popular as the confectionary's consumption declined with people older than 20. After the M&M's video games sold well, producer Elizabeth Braswell was asked to develop the Skittles game. While she first refused the job, Braswell eventually decided to work on it by focusing on gameplay and humor. A 300-page script, by lead writer and designer Andy Wolfendon, was written and submitted to Mars, which only asked to change a joke, utterances of "damn" and "remove all the snakes from the game." When Braswell asked for clarification, they said that there could be snake-like creatures, but no actual snakes.
Executive Producer Dale DeSharone stated the game's concepts were inspired by the Skittles television commercials of the "Taste the Rainbow" campaign. DeSharone lead a team of over 50 people in Kiev across two years working on Darkened Skye, working on it simultaneously with M&M's: The Lost Formulas. By the time Darkened Skye was finished, Simon & Schuster considered removing the Skittles association, but the developers already incorporated the candy into the gameplay and in-game text, so it ended up with only no references to Skittles on the box cover.
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Darkened Skye received mixed reviews from critic. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the GameCube version 62.63% and 61/100 and the PC version 62.40% and 65/100. CNNMoney called the use of Skittles in the game as "the most blatant product placement since Chap Stick in those commercials for 'The Mothman Prophecies'."
GameTrailers placed Darkened Skye as number two in their "Top 10 Shameless Licensed Games", behind Chase the Chuck Wagon for the Atari 2600. GamesRadar had the game in their "Worst Mash-Ups" list, while the appearance of Skittles was part of their list of worst product cameos in gaming.
- Dale DeSharone - an unspoken legend, Hardcore Gaming 101
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