Reviewed: November 20, 2011
Released: October 16, 2011
Activision is a company somewhat infamous for finding ways to get even more plastic peripherals into peoples’ homes. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure does the same, but in a remarkably clever way. Skylanders comes with a little toy platform called the “Portal of Power”, and three small plastic toys of Skylanders characters. These aren’t just chunks of plastic, though. They’re central to the entire game experience.|
Skylanders looks like your typical childrens’ third person mascot platformer, but when you place any of the 30+ available figures on the Portal of Power, it becomes your game’s new character. On top of that, when your character advances, whether by getting cash or upgrading abilities, your data is saved to a little chip inside the toy. You could play, bring your toy to a friend’s house, and continue advancing your character there. No need to mess with save files or profiles. The best part is that this means it’s completely cross-platform. You can play on the PS3, take your toys over to a friend’s house with a 360, Wii, or whatever else, and play there. The game comes with three Skylanders toys, but there are lots more characters and specialty pieces that you can buy and collect.
Each character has unique moves, and each of them falls under an elemental category. Many areas of the game are only accessible by a Skylander of a certain element, so there’s a definite advantage to diversifying your toy collection. You never have to buy new toys, but if you want to fully explore the game, you’re going to have to buy more or find friends to share with.
The actual game itself is well-developed platformer fare intended for children. Each level you play through is fairly linear, but enjoyable nonetheless. There’s a surprising amount to do in Skylanders. On top of exploring each character’s abilities and going through the main game, you have access to special challenges for each of the characters, story scrolls to collect, legendary treasures, an online component where you register Skylanders with a website and do more there... It would be easy to criticize this game as a cash-grab, but you can’t say the game doesn’t have any substance.
The visuals are bright and lively, which isn’t too surprising for a game aimed at kids coming from a company with deep pockets. The characters are cute and goofy, and the voices sound just like something you’d hear from a Saturday morning cartoon show. The orchestrated music is great, but a bit repetitive. The sound effects, on the other hand, are widely varied and there’s always something new going on.
Skylanders a charming game with a fascinating toy tie-in, but there isn’t much here to offer to older gamers. Kids will absolutely love it, but older gamers will probably be looking for something with more substance. The $70 price tag is a bit of a barrier to entry, and with $20 for three-character packs (or $8 for one if buying them individually), the price can really spiral into absurdity. A full set would cost more than a new game system, and all that each toy really lets you do is have access to a new character. If you have kids or know kids, Skylanders would be a fantastic gift, but if you’re an older gamer looking into getting this yourself, you might want to focus on just the base game.