Skylanders: Spyros Adventures
Developer: Toys for Bob (Wii), XPEC entertainment (PC, PS3 XBOX 360), Vicarious Visions (3DS), Frima (IOS, mobile)
Publisher: Activision, Square Enix (Japan)
Platforms: PC,Wii, PS3, XBOX 360(Reviewed), 3DS, iOS
Genre: Action, Adventure
Released: October 13th 2011
Price: 59.95 (Starter Pack) Here
Spyro was originally conceived as a mature title but wanting to stay truer to the games roots, Toys for Bob decided to come up with something more creative for a younger gaming audience. Thankfully, even though it was emphatically stated that no previous knowledge of the franchise is needed or even encouraged, the famous purple dragon is prevalent throughout in all his fire breathing glory, adding a further element of nostalgia to one of the most FULLY immersive, conceptually brilliant packages I’ve had the joy to play. Skylanders incorporates tangible items into a virtual world in a way that hasn’t been accomplished with trading cards or even advanced peripherals such as guitars (sorry Activision, I love Guitar Hero). Instead of having a little icon in the top corner telling me how many lives I have left, I have my warriors lined up on the arm of the couch ready to go into battle when called upon. It’s a concept that even for an adult will never get old. Additionally, when I now buy DLC it’s in the form of a toy I can physically interact with, not just a new polka dot shirt for my characters wardrobe. You can’t look at Skylanders in its parts; it’s the complete package that makes for such a unique experience.
Remembering that the intended audience is younger gamers, the storyline is very reminiscent of and contains similar magical elements of a modern day fairytale. Skyland was a peaceful place, where the rivers ran clean and all the earths’ elements existed in harmony, courtesy of the ever powerful core of light that kept Skylands fertile and radiated throughout the different lands, keeping the thick and rather unpleasant darkness at bay. That is, until the evil and maniacal Kaos enters the picture, hell bent on plunging Skylands into eternal darkness with the aid of his faithful and demonic minions that attack the Skylanders with no sense of self preservation.
Although the Skylanders are a powerful team with unique powerful abilities and nasty little minion annihilating tactics, they eventually succumbed to Kaos’ summoning of his mysterious beast which destroyed the core, plunging Skylands into darkness, and sending the Skylanders to Earth, where void of their magic they are banished to the life of an inanimate plastic toy. (Sound kind of familiar, well interestingly both Alex Sokolow and Joel Cohen, who penned the storyline for Skylanders, worked on the original Toy Story.) But……………………all is not lost for Spyro and the Skylanders as you, holder of the mighty Portal of power and acting as chosen portal master can weave your magic and assist them in restoring the Core of Light and destroying Kaos forever. Where Toys for Bob have excelled is really giving the player a sense of responsibility for bringing these heroes back to life. They just sit there looking at you, constantly reminding you that their world is in darkness, until you give in and join them on their adventure.
Throughout the journey to restore power to the majestic Core, the Skylanders meet many friends who are vital in the success of their quest. With the great Master Eon reduced to his most basic spirit form by Kaos’ hideous mega super evil secret beast when it destroyed the core, Hugo, his faithful assistant takes on the role of sensei, guiding the Skylanders towards the eternal forces and offering advice in perilous situations. Alongside Hugo is the charismatic Flynn the balloonist, whose constant hitting and wooing of the cat like Cali is cringe worthy but innocently cute at the same time. Cali rewards the Skylanders from clasping her from the bony hands of the drows by offering them heroic quests throughout their journey, further aiding them to level up and upgrade their weapons.
As the Skylanders progress closer towards recovering the eternal forces, they need the assistance of many others bestowed with special skills and powers to see the way forward. Arbo the young sapling who can speak to the seeds, Gurglefin who doubles as a boat chauffeur and my personal favourite, the annoyingly charming and quick witted T-bone, a skeletal bonehead with an attitude but also thankfully an invaluable guide through the underground catacombs of the undead worlds. With friends like these, not to forget General Robot and the Arkeyan Weapons Master, the Skylanders, under your power are in excellent shape to take on the malevolent Kaos and company. That’s all of the story I’m willing to give away, you need to play it for yourself to see the rest.
You know the designers have done something right when you go to your local shops only to be greeted by empty shelves of what once were an army of Skylanders ready to take flight. EBay offered no assistance either, besides revealing a small black market of collectors who had their grubby sweaty hands on rare (any dragon or undead character really) Skylanders that were selling for higher than retail prices, with postage on top. Each character has a unique attitude, and being an army of thirty two, pretty much ensures you will relate to one of them and have a personal favourite in no time at all. I spent most of the game with trigger happy at the forefront simply because I preferred his “style” of weaponry and his aesthetic looks over the others. Some characters are cute, and some (such as the undead) are decidedly darker in appearance and mannerisms. Even the despicable Kaos is a somewhat likeable character, more in the sense of id like to fireball his face but likeable nonetheless as is his sarcastic and slightly more intelligent side-kick Gkumshanks whose job itseems to make sure Kaos doesnt self destruct.
Addictive and sleep depriving, it your kid doesn’t show maximum levels of immediate excitement and throw at least one tantrum when told to goto bed, please take them to the closest professional help. Don’t get me wrong, given the identical game played through with one core character, and this title would be nothing short of average. Sure, there are a multitude of levels to make your way through with a mind boggling amount of quests and challenges outside the main mission to complete, but it would still fail to hold its audiences interest for long without that extra magic that are the Skylanders. The sheer variety of different characters available ensures a different approach will be taken by every player and adds a unique form of replayability to the game.
Each character has two weapons, primary and secondary, both of which can be upgraded and transformed into over the top quirky and often humorous prototypes of mass destruction. My little Trigger Happy, which ran around screaming “mine, mine” while collecting goodies, was well endowed with two golden pistols which transformed into a turret machine gun as well as golden bomb boxes which upgraded to exploding money bags of doom.
As well as having unique weapons and abilities each character is assigned an elemental force, that being Earth, Air, Tech, Magic, Water, Life, Undead, and Fire. Herein lays the concept that binds the whole ideology of Skylanders together. Throughout each level players will encounter varying different environments in which one particular elemental force will outshine all others. I initially thought a fire Skylander would be more effective in a water world, but it seems the Skylanders are harmonious with their own environment drawing power from it to fight off Kaos minions. On this note, minions are a must; they are just so cool and obedient like blind mice in a room full of traps. Players will be prompted when there is a change in elemental force power so they can strategically plot their path through the masses of enemies waiting to keep them away.
Each level in Skyland is a treasure pot of sparkly magic goodies that gleam and tinkle, beckoning you to pick them up. Defeated enemies explode into collectable orbs which are used to level up your Skylander and allow for further upgrades. Treasures within Skyland come in many different weird and wonderful shapes, from gem adorned rings, diamonds and coins; everything is brightly lit and entices the player to collect more. Although working as a team to defeat Kaos, Skylanders (like most dragons) are like Scrooge McDuck with their gold, and will not share it among themselves. Each Skylanders wealth is theirs and theirs alone to spend upgrading their armoury.
Skylanders, despite their immense magic abilities and power, have a limited life span that is very quickly drained when backed up in a corner. As they level up they do become more powerful but eventually will need to rest and allow another Skylander to take the reigns for a while. Throughout their journey the Skylanders will find many tasty treats to snack down on, ranging from pretzels and cheese through to various candies and everyones favourite, multi layered cake, perfect for energising Portal masters and Skylanders alike.
Despite the gameplay being quite simplistic in nature for most mature gamers, the content is perfect for a younger audience and the controls and concepts in puzzle design are a good training ground for younger gamers not quite ready for the perils of more powerful enemies. While being fairly consistent in difficulty across the whole game there were specific parts that would give challenge even to more avid younger gamers. Specifically the boss battles with Kaos, which are frantic and in many instances left me with three very despondent and exhausted Skylanders resting on the floor. In reality the more Skylanders toys you invest in the more lives you have to play with as I never had the chance to see a figure rest as the parts when more than one were needed usually drained the life from all three of them, thus sending you back to the start of the chapter. Regarding the boss battles, be appreciative that you do not have to do the whole level but only the boss.
Aside from the main mission of restoring the Core of Light, there are many other in-game puzzles and quests to embark upon. Cali offers heroic quests throughout most of the game, and there are various locked doors scattered throughout the worlds that require unlocking. While being the same puzzle on all doors, it does at least increase in difficulty as you move further into the game. Every world also has Portal gates which can only be entered by a Skylander matching its elemental lock. These gates reveal pathways to rare treasures, scrolls and medallions all of which are invaluable in unlocking new character features and abilities. Speaking of medallions, although your Skylander can upgrade his weapons, there are still some super destructive powers that can be unlocked via medallions located throughout the various worlds. When you find one it reveals the new power and what character it relates to, even giving a little preview of its destructiveness in action. If you look hard enough through Skylands you will also find various humourous helmets to adorn yourself in for protection and of course, good looks.
Players can also team up to fight against Kaos, and the game features the ability to be able to drop in and out whenever you want. Additionally players can take their characters to a friend’s house and irrelevant of what system they are playing on can use their Skylanders in battle, complete with all their items and upgrades. Skylanders can also be used in battles against each other as two players go head to head with their respective armies.
There were a few minor glitches such as the wrong name coming up occasionally on Skylanders, and I’m not sure which character the items I collected went to but aside from this, there was nothing major that detracted at all from the experience in any way.
You can’t really ask for much more when it comes to a kids interactive form of entertainment than Skylanders. Everything about it screams “enjoy me”, and in this respect it certainly does not disappoint. Even the over the top language used in-game and throughout the review such as “super duper” and mega destructive is ultra appealing to children and draws them closer to the characters. Although the addition of a difficulty setting would have been nice, it is aimed at a young audience to which its appeal would be immense. It’s not about playing the next kids game, it’s about taking control of the game in a physical way that binds the player to the storyline and builds a relationship between them and the characters, something Skylanders delivers on all accounts. Its not even about playing this particular game which was evident as after completing the main game i went out and bought four new characters and didnt even care what game i was playing them in, i was just excited to unlock all their new abilities and portal gates.