Black Skylands – Preview
Follow Genre: Sandbox, RPG, top-down shooter
Developer: Hungry Couch Games
Publisher: TinyBuild
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Black Skylands – Preview

Good: Gorgeous art, Interesting setting, Original mechanics
Bad: Frustrating details such as angle perspectives, Sluggish controls and lag
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Black Skylands is an original title that brings back the charm of sky pirates in a steampunk setting, with gorgeous pixel art. Developed by the indie studio Hungry Couch Games, it is still in Early Access, but we took its airships for a spin to see if the good reception it received so far was well-deserved.

In Black Skylands, you play as Eva, a young woman, with a pet moth called Luna, who lives in the Fatherlands, a stunning pixelated city in the sky. Her world is a cruel place, with the remains of civilization living in a thousand floating islands. On top of this, they constantly have to battle the cruel creatures called The Swarm. To travel from island to island, and across the open skies, there are airships, on which you will spend a considerable amount of time in the game. Indeed; it is up to Eva not only to learn how to properly commandeer her airship but also how to fight The Swarm and a gang of bandits called the Falcons. She’ll have to learn quickly, as the hope and survival of her people rest on her shoulders.

The premise of this game is interesting and coherent, making you want to explore the open world of Aspya and understand just exactly what is going on. You will find all the information on this post-apocalyptic world in the dialogues between characters, progressing at a good pace (and sometimes in a tone that is just a little bit too brutal for a game with such cute looks). We were quite intrigued by the game’s plot, and wish to see a lot more in the future.

Visually, Black Skyland’s world is endearing and filled to the brim with details that make for a pleasant-looking, retro-inspired game. Beautiful flocks of creatures cross the skies as you go about your business, and islands feel unique, with different looks, different biomes, and different enemies. We were pleasantly surprised with visual prowess of the game.

Sometimes the top-down view will cause some frustration, as you will try to access areas you cannot enter, fail to notice the real entrance; and once inside you forget how you got inside in the first place. Additionally, during shooting, a large crosshair and bullet spread indicator will appear, occupying a large space on your screen. You might see the latter as very useful or totally unnecessary and distracting, depending on your personal taste.

Black Skylands‘ music is atmospheric and fits the whole of the game well, even if it is not very special. However, you will want to pass some time reading the dialogues between characters, as they are indispensable to better understand the plot. Sadly, those dialogues come with typing sounds we found extremely annoying. Thankfully you can turn it off, but to do so you have to disable SFX altogether, which is a little bit of a shame just to mute the ‘dialogue’ sounds.

As far as gameplay goes, Black Skyland is a top-down sandbox action-adventure game with many shooting elements. It has an open world with enough interesting content to explore, mostly via airship, hopping from one island in the sky to another. You will be engaging with airship combat and island exploration while gathering resources to upgrade your weaponry and your ship’s abilities. There is also an aspect of base building, allowing you to change your island by adding different buildings and unlocking new resources.

Overall, there is a lot to do in this title, and most of it is fun and it includes many refreshing ideas. The hook mechanic is one of its most satisfying elements, zipping you across the map, helping you avoid certain death when falling off into the unknown blue and whatever lies below. Unfortunately, there are also many little details that will cause frustration during gameplay – and this is one of those games that is made of the sum of its parts. This means that if some of these fail, the game as a whole suffers from it.

For example, the game controls are sluggish and sometimes fail on you. Add this to the fact that it can be hard to see the exact contour of things, and you’ll have yourself a deadly recipe. Likewise, flying your airship is not as pleasant as we would have liked it to be, with the weapons mounted on the sides of the ship, making it hard to adjust our ship’s angle during combat. Of course, we reckon this was to simulate actual old-school naval battles. During our playthrough, we also experienced some unexpected lag, which can prove fatal during gunfights. This, once again, was quite detrimental to the overall fun factor of the game.


Black Skylands‘ world design is rich and its mechanics are fun and original, making this a title worth trying. Unfortunately, you can tell it is still in Early Access, with many unpolished little frustrating details affecting the overall experience. Still, we predict a bright future ahead for this indie title which is clearly just getting started. Those who love a proper blend of different genres, and a big world to explore, might want to consider checking out the Early Access build. Others, who are still on the fence and may be annoyed by many small imperfections, should perhaps wait a bit longer.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Black Skylands - Preview, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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