Reviewed: October 29, 2011
Released: October 16, 2011
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure on the 3DS is a brilliant game. From its challenge-laden platforming maps to the clever ways it integrates the Skylander figures packed in with the game and sold seperately, there's a lot of thought that went into making what seems like an initially simple concept into a relatively deep, well-rounded experience.|
Taking place in the eponymous Skylands, where a dark force has imprisoned its guardians, Skylanders puts you in the role of a Portal Master, capable of summoning a variety of heroes, each with their own unique abilities that helps them in navigating the levels and fighting enemies. You summon these heroes by placing their figures on the Portal of Power, a device that comes packed in with the game, and which communicates with the 3DS via an infrared signal.
While the use of plastic figurines initially seems like a tacked-on gimmick meant to push the game's boosters, it's worked into the game's fabric well enough to be an integral part of Skylanders' personality. Each level has alternate paths and challenge areas only accessible by heroes of a certain element, while each individual hero gains new powers that differentiate them from the pack as you play with them. Ranging from Stealth Elf's ability to become invisible as it runs and drop damaging decoys when hit to Dark Spyro's ability to fly over enemies' heads and bomb the area below himself, each of the figures brings quite a lot to the table. Even better, none of the extra figures are even remotely necessary for finishing the game, making full engagement with the whole 'buy new figures to unlock new characters' gimmick entirely optional.
The game's levels are all rich in color, with floating archipelagos full of hanging aquaducts and spinning islands and bright mines laced with monsters and mine cart rails just scratching the surface of what's in store . Tasked either with reaching the end or collecting a certain number of experience pickups, the levels begin as leisurely affairs, quickly picking up in pace as the game's big bad comes after you, giving you a timer to escape the level before he destroys you.
The levels aren't particularly challenging, with no instant death from falling off platforms, and enemies that can be handled relatively easily. Death can be bought off with a handful of experience pickups, the jumping puzzles are fun but not too rough, and it all seems like a bit of a walk in the park. However, additional challenges pad out the levels, giving something extra to shoot for or a reason to retry a given stage once you've finished it. Ranging from enemy and item hunts to avoiding damage or health pickups, these challenges add a bit more to a fairly simple game.
It's hard to get around the fact that Skylanders is a game for kids. From the toy-driven expansion scheme to the bright, friendly colors and music, there's not a lot in this game to appeal to the Dead Space or Gears of War crowd. But for gamers of all ages willing to embrace the game's aesthetics and kick back and have a good time, Skylanders is the 3DS's first great platformer, and well worth taking for a spin.