This weekend was meant to be a full on gaming weekend where I was meant to run through 4 different games for reviews early this week, however Skylanders destroyed my plans for the weekend.
When I first brought Skylanders home on Thursday evening and showed my kids (7 and 8 ) they were just giddy with excitement at seeing Spyro., Trigger Happy and Gill Grunt and wanted to dive straight into the game.
Seeing as they are the target market for this game I saw this is a good start for the game but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the beginning.
Skylanders is no ordinary console game but is rather based entirely around a set of action figures. You buy the original game and it comes with the game, a portal and 3 action figures being Spyro, Gill Grunt and Trigger Happy.
The action figures themselves are really well made and while my daughter was a little disappointed that she could flap Spyro’s wings the rest of the construction is very solid indeed.
There are also another 12 characters available to buy from the stores in this first wave with many more expected to come further down the line. Each character has it’s own special abilities and is based on a certain elemental power.
For example Spyro is magical and is very fast, Gill Grunt is water based and has a great attack but is slow and Trigger Happy is from the engineering class and has some awesome weapon upgrades.
You’ll need certain classes to get into certain areas of the world through portals that you’ll find scattered around. You cannot entirely complete this game without buying at least 3 more characters, 1 for each of the elemental classes that you don’t have.
When the game starts you are led through an opening montage explaining where you are and what’s going on. The basic story is that the Skylanders are the protectors of the land and have been blown off the land and have landed on Earth and it’s your job as portal master to get them home to save their world.
Once the opening sequence is completed you are prompted to place a character on the portal and this is where I was first amazed, my daughter stuck Spyro on the portal and instantly the game picked up that the statue was on the portal and warped him into the game through a little splash screen. She then changed her mind and simply took him off (the game pauses) and put Gill Grunt on and he was quickly warped into the game.
The portal mechanism is fantastic, it’s simple, efficient and incredibly quick.
And then she was off actually playing the game which thankfully doesn’t disappoint either. You are faced with the basic action gameplay of attacking bad guys who are scattered throughout the level to proceed to the end of the level. You start with 2 attack options per character but as you level up you can unlock more attack options and more powerful upgrades for your existing options.
Last night I was playing as Trigger Happy and unlocked the mini gun upgrade, Where he pulls out a mini gun and pretty much mows everything down in front of him.. it was awesome.
As this game is designed with the younger audience in mind it’s not surprising that you’re not going to be seeing blood and guts but rather when you destroy someone they explode in a mini shower of glowing orbs which you need to collect to level up and also a few jewels that you collect for money.
As you progress your character levels up and becomes stronger and I’m still trying to confirm if it grows a little, it seems to but I’m not sure if that’s just an optical illusion to be honest.
But what is incredible about this levelling up is that the characters level and upgrades isn’t stored in your console but is rather stored in your character itself. Which instantly makes them a valuable collectors toy for kids where you can swap your level 9 Spyro for that incredibly hard to come by character that has no name as yet.
Or you can take your level 9 Spyro, from your Xbox 360 edition, over to your friends house to help them overcome a particular hard boss battle on their Wii.
Yes the characters are entirely cross platform and can be used on any of the available platforms which are Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, 3DS and PC. How the 3DS version works is still a mystery to me but apparently it will. I’m guessing it’s going to be via the barcoded cards that come with the characters but how you’re going to level up your character via 3DS is beyond me.
So back to the story, the idea is you are saving your world from KAOS, the evil leader who is little more than a child with an inferiority complex and who is a great bad guy leader for kids to see. He’s not going to be giving them nightmares and at the same time they can see that even bad guys aren’t all bad.
The game progresses through levels with a central area being used as your post round safe place. It’s here you can upgrade your weapons, chase sheep and compete in heroic challenges.
Heroic Challenges are single player only and are exceedingly difficult. Where you will need to kill 100 chompies in 1 minute or find 5 ghost paintings in 3 minutes. I failed on the first one at my first try and the wife was abysmal at the second. My eldest has slowly been completing the challenges while my youngest is still a little overwhelmed by them.
If you don’t want to do the challenges you head back into the world and try your hand at a level, the level’s are fairly large and will take around 10 minutes to complete each if you’re not looking out for all the secrets and collectibles. Each level consists of a bunch of bad guys, some very clever little puzzles that you need to solve and a few bigger bosses to take down.
Every now and then you enter a boss battle with KAOS where he’ll throw some difficult puzzle waves and characters at you to complete. The difficulty level is just about perfect with these levels not being overly difficult or easy and a fair few of them led to my kids coming to ask me to help complete them.
I don’t actually know how long the entire game will be, or at least this first part as I’ve been banned from the Xbox for now and the girls have played for around 8 hours I’d say already and are about 40 through from what I can tell.
They’ve already insisted we go out and get some Life, Earth and Fire Skylanders though so that we can go back and complete the portals that we’re not currently able to enter and while the money side of this equation obviously worries me the fact they are so excited about the game is something to behold.
I also completely forgot to mention Skylanders supports the best drop-in / drop-out co-op that I’ve ever experienced. To join a second player all you need to do is add a second skylander onto the portal and you’re good to go. If you want to stop then you remove your Skylander and hit the button marked to drop out. It’s that easy and Skylanders is definitely made for 2 players with the amount of enemies and puzzles required to be completed in the levels.
Another multiplayer option is a head to head mode where you simply fight each other. Obviously this will start coming into it’s own as you rank up and want to test your skills against your friend.
And last but not least you are also going to be given the option to purchase World Items that will open up new areas in the game for you to explore. I haven’t experienced this part yet so I don’t know if those parts are in the game already and just locked or you’ll download new maps from inside the items. Either way it’s not hard to see that Activision are planning on releasing world items moving forward to expand the game and keep you hooked.
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is lining up to be the absolute must have toy this Christmas season and if you’re looking for something to keep the kids busy you while you and wife tuck into the eggnog then I strongly recommend grabbing Skylanders now before it’s sold out.
Megarom’s official pricing for Skylanders is as follows
- Starter Pack – R699 (This is the one with the portal and includes 3 Skylanders)
- Single Skylanders – R129 (I’ve already seen them for R99 at Makro)
- Triple Pack – R249 (3 Skylanders)
- Adventure Pack – R249 (World Item, Skylander, 2 usable items)
Barring a few invisible walls and getting stuck on corners for a bit the gameplay of Skylanders is great. It’s a nice mix of puzzles, action, platforming and the rare first person shooting moment. Not to mention the RPG elements of levelling up and buying upgrades
Design and Presentation: 9.3/10
Skylanders reminds me heavily of Kameo and the bright colours and large levels are great. We’re not talking Rage graphics here but for a kids game it’s fantastic and would score an 8 by itself but add in the incredible design and presentation of the statuettes and it’s pushed over the 9 level.
It’s not incredibly cheap but when you can get a decent lengthy game and 3 characters for R699 it’s not bad at all. The replay value is incredibly high and the ability to expand your story for a reasonably low cost is likely to keep this at the front of your gaming collection for a long time to come.
Overall Skylanders receives the highest review score I think I’ve ever given. I really was blown away by the technical quality of the game and even more so by how much the age appropriate audience absolutely loved the game.
You get sucked into the world of Skylanders and it’s incredible.