Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure Review
Game: Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure
Developer: Toys For Bob
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Nintendo Wii and 3DS (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
With Christmas not too far away (sorry, but you all know it’s true) the rush to find the “must have” toy this season is well under way. It’s not often video games feature on that list, but with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, Activision are definitely in the right ball park – including some high quality toys and a “portal of power” with the starter pack. But does it warrant inclusion under the tree this year?
STORY: In Skylanders, you will play the role of the portal master, with the power to switch out up to 32 different characters to actually control during the game. The Skylanders have always protected the Skylands, but now an evil overlord has frozen them and sent them to earth, which is where the player comes in. By placing the Skylander toys (3 come with the starter pack – Spyro, Trigger Happy and Gill Grunt) one at a time onto the portal of power (also included with the starter pack) you can bring them back to life and take control of them to battle foes and bosses, all whilst solving puzzles. Of course it isn’t very deep, but it’s aimed at 7 year olds, and as such is full of character, life, humour and charm.
GRAPHICS: As mentioned, Skylanders is a charming game and this comes across very well through the visuals. The best comparison to make would be to the Ratchet & Clank art-style, very bright and shiny with plenty of silliness in the character’s expression and actions. Each Skylander has two attacks, ranging from Spyro’s dash attack and flame shot to Gill Grunt’s water cannon (think Mario Sunshine), and these are animated with love and care.
Skylanders is a top down isometrically viewed game, and brought back tremendous memories of the very first ToeJam & Earl game, with the puzzle aspects and daft, over-the-top characters. There’s very little to complain about visually here.
SOUND: It would seem that accidentally, there has been a nod to the parents or adults playing the game, as Patrick Warburton plays one of the lead NPCs in Flynn. For those of you that don’t know, Patrick also plays Joe Swanson in Family guy, and this gave me a familiar voice to hone in on, which is a clever move. Flynn is essentially your guide to the game – he thinks he’s fantastic and tries to take credit for every heroic deed the Skylanders do, whilst trying to “get the girl”.
Aside from that one voice, the rest are exactly as you would hope for, including Spyro himself. The soundtrack is suitably colourful and the rest of the sound effects are well designed and – crucially, with a game aimed at a younger audience – never get on your nerves, even if you aren’t the person playing.
GAMEPLAY: As mentioned, the starter pack comes with the three Skylanders, the portal of power and the game itself. You control whichever toy is on top of the portal with the left stick and they will attack in whichever direction you are heading when you press either of the two attack buttons. There isn’t a hugely difficult control scheme to figure out, and the two attacks are in fact double-mapped so you can either use the face buttons or triggers – there isn’t even a jump button to complicate things, instead you’ll get to higher points by using magical springboards to jump, yet again reminding me of ToeJam & Earl – again, this is a very good thing to be reminded of.
At any point during gameplay you can switch from one Skylander to another by simply removing the current toy from the portal of power (powered by USB on the console) and replacing it with another. In fact, you’ll have to do this as some areas of the game are only accessible with a water-type Skylander, or a magic-type Skylander, or…you get the idea here. Be prepared to have areas locked off to you unless you purchase additional characters – quite early on I found an area only accessible with an Earth-type Skylander, which doesn’t come in the box – as a parent be prepared to hear “Can you buy me that one?”. This isn’t a negative though, not really. Just know that going in this is a very…Pokemon affair, and you may well be engulfed with the “Gotta catch ’em all” mentality, but this is purely a testament to the quality of the actual game.
As much as Skylanders is a top-down isometric shooter, it is also a puzzle game. You might find yourself needing to access an area but cannot do so because it is blocked. These puzzles are mostly simple affairs that most children can solve (move blocks in a certain order to get around them), but they provide a welcome change of pace to the constant shooting that is otherwise ever-present.
On top of this there are also challenge areas which task you with doing things like rescuing 6 prisoners within 2 and a half minutes. These are quite taxing at first, and bare repeat attempts. Indeed, the challenges were surprisingly difficult compared to the rest of the game. There is also a levelling up system which is dependant on money collected (every enemy drops some form of cash, in varying amounts, and you can smash up parts of the environments like barrels too) but this money is only available for the character that collected it. If you’ve been playing as Spyro for 2 hours, don’t expect to be able to upgrade Gill Grunt, and far from being frustrating this actually forces you to play as multiple characters, and experiment a bit – getting the most of out those extra Skylanders you will almost certainly purchase. The levelling is fairly simple though, you’ll have three choices and can upgrade attacks, weapon strength – that type of thing.
All in all, there’s little to complain about when playing Skylanders. Yes, you could argue that it is a bit easy and yes, it may be questionable to lock areas away until you’ve purchased new toys, but there is plenty to play here already, and the three bundled Skylanders will get you pretty far in terms of adventure and fun.
LONGEVITY: Due to the fact there are 32 available toys to buy, there’s a hell of a lot of game here. If you are bored, just switch toys on the portal of power, and you’ve a whole new character to play as with new powers and a new upgrade system to explore, and the more characters you buy, the more adventures you can have. The truth of the matter is that an adult (who is old enough) will be strongly reminded of ToeJam & Earl and will find that the game is maybe too easy. Children though will probably never get bored of the colourful, funny characters and will keep playing for a very long time indeed.
VERDICT: If you are the type of person to baulk at add-ons for a product, then caution needs to be advised. There is plenty to enjoy about Skylanders, but be prepared, once you have experienced it you will almost certainly want to grab more of the toys. However, if you do let it grab you, this is a fantastic title that all ages can enjoy, albeit on differing levels.