App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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I really want to like the mobile release of Skullgirls. It's a fighting game with beautiful animation, cool characters, fantastic music, and a great sense of style. Under its glitzy surface, though, Skullgirls proves to be a pretty hollow fighting game with a frustrating free-to-play structure.
To be clear from the start: this version of Skullgirls is not simply a mobile port of the original Skullgirls fighting game that released on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Instead, it's more akin to something like the Injustice mobile fighting games, where the controls have been super streamlined down to a few gestures and buttons to execute moves.
The game provides a few different modes to get in some fighting action (Story, Daily Events, and Prize Fights), but they all more-or-less boil down to a pretty standard fighting game setup. Your team of three characters faces off against another team of three, and the last team standing wins.
If you look at screenshots or even watch video of Skullgirls, it's an impressive sight to behold. It looks exactly like its console counterpart and animates extremely well too. It's also got a nice, jazzy soundtrack that gels well with its uniquely quirky, 1940s, art deco aesthetic.
As slick as Skullgirls might look though, I really wish that its fighting was a bit more involved. The swipe controls allow for a rock-paper-scissors-style combat system that works, but feels pretty barebones compared to a fully-fledged fighting game.
I might be ok with Skullgirls being a more streamlined version of the console games if it weren't for the game's free-to-play structure. To advance in Skullgirls, players must unlock and upgrade fighters through Relics, which operate a lot like gacha-style games like Monster Strike. It's possibly you'll unlock new characters from opening these relics, but it's more likely that you'll get duplicates of fighters you own, who you can then fuse into your existing fighters to make them stronger.
While I don't usually have a problem with gacha mechanics in other free-to-play games, the idea of fusing characters together to make them better feels wrong when applied to a fighting game. Fighting games are supposed to be about some semblance of balance, where all characters have a shot at taking the other down, even if some are slightly more capable than others. Introducing upgrade mechanics to this design completely wrecks this balance and lets players just grind out characters to power their way through the game if they want. The only real upside here (if you can it that) is that you don't have to worry about facing off against other players with higher level fighters than you, since Skullgirls has no multiplayer to speak of.
The bottom line
Skullgirls is a flashy-looking game that is pretty miserable to actually play. It's combat feels a little too simple, and your success seems determined more by lucky Relic rewards than skill. Add to this the fact that this is a fighting game with no multiplayer component, and there's very little reason to actually pick Skullgirls up.