The Skylanders are back for another adventure, and this time they can jump. While your wallets recover from Disney Infinity entering the toys-meet-games phenomena, Skylanders is back with customisable figurines joining those from Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants.
The Swap Force figurines allow kids to swap the top and bottom halves of the game's toys thanks to discrete but very strong magnets to create their own characters. There are more 250 possible combinations, including the core characters.
Avid collectors of Skylanders can use the figurines they already own in Swap Force with the added ability to jump and an increased level cap. It might sound negligible, but the capacity for characters to jump opens a world of new possibilities — although it does add an element of difficulty for really young gamers still struggling with depth perception. With jumping comes basic platforming that, while fairly guided, isn’t quite as smooth as games that are built to be a part of the genre.
With 16 new "swappable" characters and 24 core and “lightcore” Skylanders to collect, there are now over 100 toys compatible with Swap Force. It’s little wonder the Skylanders toys continue to outsell all other action figures in Australia — they’re more popular than Spiderman, Transformers and Star Wars figurines. That makes it one of the most expensive games on the market, but returning players will already own a posse of adventurers, and the mandatory $99 Starter Pack includes three characters — two of them are swappable creating two more characters — and the new Portal of Power. The old base is incompatible with the new characters, so upgrading to the new portal is a must.
Skylanders: Swap Force is still the undisputed king of bridging the generational gap between gamers.
Skylanders: Swap Force brings a funny new story full of energetic villains and loveable allies, but it’s physical toys coming to life that’s always been the allure of Skylanders, and Swap Force add an even deeper level of engagement.
The beefcakes from Giants overpowered the original figurines, at the expense of speed and agility. The Swap Force toys rather ingeniously allow players to craft their own characters and play, more or less, with the type of Skylander that best suits his or her unique style.
There some restrictions, of course. The elements return and only certain types of Skylander can pass through clearly identified gates, and some types excel where others struggle, prompting players to swap the character on the Portal of Power. It’s as easy as lifting the character currently sitting on the base, replacing it with a more suitable element type, and carrying on your merry way where you left off. Some gates combine two elements, encouraging players to either swap two characters together, or put another Skylander on the portal and engage co-operative play.
Ripping the torso off a pirate octopus and combining it with the jetpack legs of a fiery robot to craft a devastating warrior is commonplace in the world of Skylanders (but the reverse, a robot crawling around on tentacles, is terrifying). Reliving that now as I articulate the insanity of a child’s imagination has me slightly perplexed, but Skylanders has always thrived in its ability to enthral kids with a vibrant world full of creatures that normally would never meet. Pirates and robots go hand-in-hand with flying skips and another incarnation of Patrick Warburton.
The ability to jump opens exploration and tidies up general movement. For the first time, Skylanders feels like it’s offering full control to explore every nook and cranny as you collect everything shiny insight.
Combat will feel familiar to Giants devotees and targets the youthful market that may well be delving into their very first Skylanders adventure. There are no complicated combos to remember or skill points to assign. It’s a simple system based on using a couple of buttons to dish out close, mid-range and charged up attacks. There’s a deep roster of enemies to tackle, all of them tastefully bested with the aura of victory rather than the implication of murder, earning basic experience points monitored under the massive health bar at the bottom of the screen.
Beyond combat, exploration presents the most content of any Skylanders game. There’s an abundance of optional missions hidden behind elemental or puzzle-based doors; although the latter come with a rather annoying mini-game that keeps rearing its tedious head. You could bash through the main campaign without bothering to notice the side missions, but they’re a necessity to extract value, especially if you invest in more $15 toys outside of the starter pack — something you’ll need to do if this is your first Skylanders game.
The only side effect is the extension of already length missions. Swap Force precedes missions with a hilarious cut-scene to progress the story, which is also a great time to pause or quit. The missions tend to drag on for a while, and even more so if you’re wandering into optional areas. Little kids may love the engagement, but Mum and Dad might not as bedtime approaches.
Speaking of parents, siblings and legal guardians, Skylanders: Swap Force is still the undisputed king of bridging the generational gap between gamers. It’s designed for two players to place Skylanders on the Portal of Power and co-operate through the adventure together — but if one is called away, jumping back to single-player is as simple as removing the toy from the base.
Co-op has been refined as a more connected experience. Money gathered in Swap Force is shared between players, which means it’s no longer a competitive battle to see who can score the most loot, which is used to upgrade elements on either the top of bottom half of Swap Force Skylanders at upgrade stations during missions — and buy hats. Sharing is caring, and Swap Force’s split kitty balances the accomplishments between siblings when one is more experienced than the other.
Skylanders: Swap Force is the best yet, with a hilarious story, plenty of new features and an engaging point of difference as it asks players to fork out plenty for up to sixteen new swappable characters. Most importantly, Skylanders: Swap Force is plain and simple fun that kids and parents can enjoy together through a colourful new adventure.
@Olly said: I've never really played much of Skylanders...
Anyone played Disney Infinity and Skylanders? how do they compare? because i like the idea of collecting the figures lol but Disney Infinity i thought was dreadful, there was just nothing to the gameplay...
@DaveCage said: great review, playing through it myself at the moment, was wondering if anyone else had noticed the increased level length, first one with all optional areas (that are actually accessible at launch) clocked in at just over 32 minutes, but I did enjoy the level
the graphics increases was also quiet noticeable which is great