Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers

Lila’s Sky Ark Review

Game: Lila’s Sky Ark
Adventure, Action, Indie
Steam (also on Nintendo Switch, Windows, & macOS)
Developers | Publishers:
Monolith of Minds | Graffiti Games
Age Rating:
US T | EU 12+
US $14.99 | UK £ 11.39 | EU € 13,49
Release Date:
April 21st, 2022

Review code used, with many thanks to VIM Global. 

First impressions are important, and Lila’s Sky Ark gives a very colorful one. You are dropped into a lovingly detailed world which the developers call a “pixel dreamscape.” This world is teeming with bizarre flora and fauna. While running around, you will hear gentle ambient noises, grunts, and twinkling sounds as you break pots into satisfying shards. These first moments are understated, but also promising.

The tutorial unobtrusively informs you which buttons to press as you navigate environmental puzzles. Eventually you stumble onto a town with a banner reading: “Rainbow Ark.” It’s not much, but this will be your base as you navigate through the mysterious world of Lila’s Sky Ark.

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers

A Poetic Mystery

The Steam page claims that you must “unravel the poetic mystery that is Lila’s story.” This is an appealing concept which sometimes works and sometimes falls short. The real poetry in Lila’s Sky Ark exists not in its writing, but its visuals.

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers

Mailboxes are scattered across the world. These act as fast-travel points, but they also reveal bits of Lila’s story. You will find letters near mailboxes and in other locations. In such a rich, mysterious world, these letters are a clumsy storytelling device. They help characterize Lila, but they also compromise the alluring mystery of the world with phrases like: “Boring day. Boring letter. Whatever.” I was far more mystified by the expansive wilderness and quirky characters than Lila herself, who often felt like a stranger.

Friends, Foes, and a Slow Loris

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers

You will meet a cast of whimsical friends and foes throughout the world, including a blindfolded raven, a mechanical slow loris, and a personified version of entropy to name a few. All are constructed from gorgeous pixel art, and many are much larger than Lila herself giving a sense of impressive scale. Even though characters are charming, talking to them often feels like listening to random thoughts rather than piecing together a cohesive story. Conversations circulate around heavy themes like grief, sadness, and oppression, yet none of these themes are fully explored. In most interactions, characters will say something cryptic but devoid of substance. Any attempt to tell a story through interaction is eclipsed by elegant environmental storytelling.

Navigating the Wilderness

Lila’s world is dominated by an empire which seeks to control music by limiting the tone, range, and expressiveness of its inhabitants. Boss battles involve musical instruments and catchy tunes. Like many metroidvanias, gameplay involves exploration, puzzles, and combat, alongside collecting recipes, map shards, and flower petals (extra hit points).

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers
A map of the overworld, including mailboxes and points of interest.

There are four main story arcs as well as a lengthy epilogue. Progression isn’t always intuitive and often involves backtracking. I got stuck more than once, but an official strategy guide is available for download on the developer’s website. This guide is a work of art with vibrant illustrations, screenshots, and hints, offering assistance every step along the way. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for old game guides while scrolling through its pages.

Backpack Combat

Lila’s Sky Ark involves a mechanic that I have never experienced. Instead of weapons or tools, Lila spends most of her adventure using only the items she can pick up and store in her backpack. Information about these items is logged in a compendium, accessible via the map menu. As Lila travels through the colorful dystopian landscape, she will pick up blobby eyeballs, wisps, and waterlings, all of which she can store in her bag and toss at enemies. These creatures also play a role in environmental puzzles.

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers
The compendium.

I applaud the developers for coming up with such a fresh idea. Lila’s backpack/compendium combines elements of monster collecting with item management. There were some combat sequences where I went through almost everything in my backpack, throwing pots, boxes, wisps, and eyeballs at my opponents, but generally the game is quite generous with items, ensuring that you always have a steady supply. While this is a fun mechanic, I’m still not sure how it relates to the game’s overall themes. Why would Lila overthrow a musical empire with blobs?

Musical Moments

Have you ever had a moment with a game where the soundtrack just clicks? Think: Undertale or Death’s Door, where the perfect glimmer of notes suddenly strengthens your resolve. Lila’s Sky Ark has a moment like this for me. It came while fighting a string quartet on an airship. The purring, upbeat strings accompanied a pulse-pounding battle. After a few unsuccessful attempts fending off the entire string quartet, I began timing my movements with the music and memorizing attack patterns. These synchronized sequences feel like a duet between the player and creators, an immensely intimate and even heartening experience that reminds me why I play video games.

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers

The soundtrack composed by Gerrit Wolf is both sparse and masterful. It effortlessly shifts between atmospheric and intense to reflect underlying themes. Paired with the visuals, it creates stirring moments that I won’t soon forget.

Lila's Sky Ark LadiesGamers

Conclusion: A Real Pixel Dreamscape

Lila’s Sky Ark has many qualities of a masterpiece; the music is beautiful; the visuals are delightful, but it fumbles with its writing. If Lila’s Sky Ark is a poem, then it’s not a cohesive one. I still don’t know how I feel about Lila or her story; however, I had fun while playing it, and I know I will be listening to the soundtrack for many months. This game is undoubtedly a labor of love. If you want to get lost in a colorful pixel dreamscape, then you’ll feel right at home with Lila on the Rainbow Ark.

Final Verdict: I Like It A LotI like it a lot

We love to hear from you!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.