on March 5, 2012
Skylanders...good god, where do I start with this thing? My initial reaction to seeing the game in stores, with the dozens of figures on the shelf, was that it was just a fad and the kind of game that had little content, and was more of a way for the developers to make money rather than have a good game that we'd all be talking about. Well, after Christmas came and went 3 months ago, what is it that's STILL sold out everywhere? That's right. Skylanders figures. Even right now, you're lucky to find even the most unpopular ones anywhere more than a day after a shipment arrives. My daughter wanted this game not really based on how it looked in the commercial, but just by the characters she saw on the figure chart that was given out as a promo item. When the game went down in price a bit, I decided to get it for her birthday, figuring that if she didn't like the game, it wouldn't be a big deal, and that we'd be better off not shelling out the money for figure after figure.
Hoo boy, that was not the case.
Not only is Skylanders a fun game that doesn't treat kids like idiots and hold their hand through every part of the level, but it's one that you can enjoy with your children if you have two controllers. How many games these days have good co-op features that don't involve the same tired war gameplay? Yes, the whole buying individual figures for characters is a little lame, but look at it this way- where you're spending a few dollars just for a character or level for any other game, here you're at least getting a cool little toy that your kids can play with too. Do you have any idea how much I would've loved to have had a figure of Liberty Prime when I bought the Broken Steel DLC for Fallout 3 a while ago? Anyway, the game doesn't force you to have any more characters than the 3 you start out with. But you will be needing one of each type in order to access everything in the game. Each level has an area that can only be opened with a certain type, but let me stress again that you do NOT need to do these areas. What's cool is that each elemental type has 4 characters, all ranging in designs from robots to dragons to human-like creatures. You're bound to find at least one for each type that you'll like, and the best part is that while there -is- a kind of tier list for the game, there's really no such thing as a bad Skylander. All of them are fun to play as in their own way!
The game is easy to play, since it's a standard action dungeon crawler. You run around smashing open treasure chests and barrels to get money (used to upgrade your character's attacks), defeating enemies to gain experience, and can find various hats in the levels to boost a stat or two. The main plot involves a short, evil dude named Kaos who wants to control everything, just as most villains do. You, the person holding the controller, are a Portal Master, and it's your job to send a Skylander into the world and make everything right, defeating Kaos and his minions, and finding special items needed to restore the world.
The Portal that comes with the game works great and is way faster than I expected. As soon as you take a figure off of it, the game goes to the screen telling you to place a Skylander on the Portal, and once you do, it shows the character you selected, and they're zapped right into the game where you left off. It never feels like a chore to change characters, and I'm glad that they got things down with this whole Portal thing. I've yet to have any problems with mine not recognizing a figure or having any other problems. Both my daughter and I love playing the game together, or as a single player game, and collecting money to upgrade attacks. Each Skylander has two paths they can take for improving their attacks. Spyro for example, can continue to upgrade his fire breath, or upgrade his fire charge attack. Which is better? Well, both are good, but it's up to you to pick one. And if you don't like what you picked, you can always reset your Skylander and start from scratch.
I'd say that kids from the ages of 4-10 will probably get the most out of it. The only 'hard' parts in the game involve puzzles, but they're fairly simple. And if they get tired of the main game, there's a Versus battle mode they can play as well, with different modes. There's even a Challenge mode in the main game where you have to complete a certain task, using whatever character you want, and once you beat it, a certain stat will get boosted. If you want to have a really strong Skylander, taking care of these Challenges is a must.
Really, the only complaints I have are that the Portal tends to go through batteries like they're going out of style, and that it's annoying having to sit through Kaos' stupid ramblings of 'Doooooooom' over and over when going back through levels to get 3 stars on each one. I had enough of hearing jokes like that in high school when Invader Zim was popular with the Hot T...I mean, goth kids, and they'd constantly quote it, and not being able to skip over these scenes was irritating. But at least with the battery problem, you can take care of it by getting some good rechargeables. Also, for some reason a lot of the character's voices don't match up with their speech, especially Kaos'. Heck, some characters speak without even moving their mouths. That's just plain weird. Aside from these problems, the game's a blast. The graphics are good, the soundtrack has some memorable pieces, the voice acting is above average, and it's fun going through the levels with all the different Skylanders and seeing what each character has to offer. One quick thing though- it's odd that the game has Spyro's name in the title, and yet they never say his name once in the game, since you can play using whoever you want. You're always referred to as 'Skylander', and there's no talk about Spyro's previous adventures. Look at the game's box- he's not even front and center! He got bumped aside by the Skylander many consider to be the best in the game. Ouch.
We've had the game for less than a month now, and we're up to 11 Skylanders, all of which are getting about equal playtime, and I have to admit that even I get excited when I see a new one on the shelf at the store. Buy this game now! And get ready for the sequel coming out later this year. Hopefully they raise the level cap and add online play...