We got a full year of play out of each of the previous Skylanders games, which is great compared to other games where we can zip through it in one or two months max. We are Skylanders veterans in our family, but you don't need to have played any other Skylanders games to jump in and enjoy the heck out of this newest offering from Activision, Skylanders Swap Force. It's called "Swap Force" because the "swappers" (not all characters are swappable, as there are regular characters and lightcore character that light up on the portal and in the game). But the "swappers" are characters where the top and bottom are connected by magnets, giving you the ability to make new combinations by taking any top and putting it on any bottom, for a new character! This aspect is SUPER-thrilling to the kids, and they have been counting down the days since last year when it was announced.
The game itself, if you have not played it, involves chapters (levels) which are in different areas of Skylands, a magical realm full of exciting characters, presents, magical keys, hats that give your character special abilities, amusing but tough enemies and bosses, puzzles and mini-games along the way, secret areas and beautiful scenery. In Swap Force, which is the third in the series of Skylanders games (Skylanders Spyro's Adventure was the first, and then Skylanders Giants was the second), the Swap Force characters were tasked with protecting the magic in Skylands. Well, technically they protected the volcano that supplies the magic in Skylands, but one day a huge eruption from the volcano blasted them into two pieces! Now, as in all Skylanders games, you get to be the "Portal Master" and choose which Skylanders to put on the magical portal (that comes with the game and plugs into your game console) to save Skylands.
There are 16 swappers, giving you a total of 256 different combinations. But, at about 15 bucks each, you don't have to worry about getting all 16. The starter kit comes with two swappers, Blast Zone and Wash Buckler (plus a new version of the character Stealth Elf, which is way cool too). We decided to buy only two more swappers, at least for now, and that gives us 4 swappers with a total of 16 combos. You can ignore the marketing and, well, call me frugal, but after going through two previous years of spending a small fortune trying to collect all of the Skylanders, we made a budget and decided we would get the starter kit and two additional swappers, plus one light core character. Everything else they want can go on Christmas wish lists. It is somewhat of a parental mini-game to track down highly sought-after and rare characters that are released in very limited edition, and even in limited stores (the big stores that carry the Skylanders characters have their own "exclusive" characters that are only available in their particular stores).
One thing that is really important to know for choosing which additional characters to get is that there are eight different "elements" in Skylands. An element is basically the area of specialty for that particular character, or for that particular geographical area of Skylands. The elements are: Fire, Water, Earth, Life, Air, Tech, Magic, and Undead. If you have a character for each of the 8 elements, then you can access special sections within the game that need that elemental character to enter.
A HUGE bonus to the Skylander line of games is that you can use any of your characters from the two previous Skylanders games and play them in the current Skylanders game, Swap Force. So if you've played Spyro's Adventure or Giants, hang onto those characters because you can use them in this one, which helps with having the different elemental characters to access the special sections in the game.
Portal of Power? It's a round pedestal connected by USB to your console. It lights up and looks really cool, and you can put your Skylanders on it to send them into Skylands to play. (ahem, I mean, to SAVE SKYLANDS!!) You can put up to 3 items (2 characters and a magical item) on the portal at a time, and it's a lot of fun to watch them join the game, with their own amusing catchphrases. The Stink Bomb swapper says, "Clear the Air!" The swapper Grilla Drilla says, "If there's a drill, there's a way!"
We love to play it in two-player mode, it's cooperative play, and a lot of fun. Adults and kids alike in our family enjoy it.
Difficulty setting: You can choose between Easy, Medium, Hard, and Nightmare levels of difficulty, which makes it adaptable to all ages. My youngest likes to go all the way through on Easy, then try the other difficulty levels for sections of the game. The Hard and Nightmare levels make it fun for the older kids and adults.
Experience: I can't believe I didn't mention this earlier, but one of the biggest perks of playing Skylanders games is that each character stores its experience, upgrades, power-ups, gold, and other data right in a chip in the base of the Skylander! So you don't have to rely on your game system to hold all of that, because each character stores its own data. Guess what? This means that when my son went over to his friend's house to play the Skylanders games, he could take his characters over, and still have all of his upgrades, etc. on them. They have had a blast bringing their boxes of characters back and forth to each other's houses to play...and it doesn't matter what gaming system they have, either. We played on our Wii, but his friend had the Skylanders games on his Xbox. How amazing is Activision to have all this worked out? And Vicarious Visions is the inventive developer.
New to the Swap Force game is that the characters have the ability to jump, which really opens up all kinds of new possibilities. Jumping isn't just for the new Swap Force characters, but somehow the game developers made it that all of the previous Skylanders from the previous two games now have the new ability to jump as well
The graphics are gorgeous, the cut scenes are beautiful and fun to watch, and it doesn't take long to get the hang of playing this very very fun game.
I highly recommend it, and my only caveat is you may want to budget from the beginning. I helped my kids figure out which swappers to buy so that they would have one from each element. Of course, we have our last two years of Skylanders to use as well, so if you are new to Skylanders, I definitely recommend a budget. It's important to mention that these games are very kid-friendly, and you won't find anything disturbing or violent in them that would scare a child. That's one of the reasons we love it.
But honestly, my friends, this game will provide tons and tons of enjoyment....in addition to the gameplay on your console, there are also online games that go along with it, as well as apps that are part of the franchise. I mean it when I say we got an entire year of game play out of each of the previous two Skylanders games. We are a gaming family, and Skylanders is absolutely our favorite game of all time. Get one and jump in! You won't regret it.