Reviewed: October 24, 2011
Released: October 16, 2011
Itís been a long time since Iíve played or even heard the name Spyro. The lovable purple dragon was my go-to platformer on the original PlayStation and now he returns in one of the coolest peripheral based games Iíve ever seen since Guitar Hero. Activision and Toys for Bob have come up with what could be the biggest thing since Pokemon with the release of Skylanders: Spyroís Adventures for PC and Mac. Spyro isnít alone though as he brings along 31 of the coolest looking friends to aid him.|
I have to say that Iím totally into what Activision and Toys for Bob have done here and I hope with the proper marketing that it all goes well for them. I know Iíll be spreading the word. The concept for Skylanders is that you use incredibly detailed miniatures, that could easily be mistaken as swag for the uninformed, and a pulsating faux stone portal with a healthy dose of fourth wall interaction to rescue a troubled world. Itís up to your child (or you) to become a Portal Master and stop the evil Kaos from wrecking the Skylands. Each miniature comes alive almost instantly as you place it on the Portal of Power, and you can use them to explore, smash destructible items, and defeat any enemy that gets in your way of saving the this magical world.
Each character included in the starter kit as well as all the other available or soon to be released characters controls the same with very fluid controls via the default keyboard and mouse setup. You can even share the experience with the family or friends by hooking up a second input like a gamepad to your computer. I do like how you physically interact with locked doors by pushing your mouse forward and opening chests by shaking your mouse left and right.
The world of Skylanders, after the opening movie and tutorial level, is based around a central hub that grows as you progress further into the story. Youíre tasked with rebuilding a destroyed elemental core to drive away Kaos by collecting elemental objects of power as well as things like giant propellers to get you to the next area. While weíre on the subject of elements, itís the foundation that all the miniatures are based upon.
In a clever design, there are a total of 32 different characters still being discovered around the world, or rather your local retailers, to collect and aid you in your quest. Now each of these awesome creatures is aligned to one of 8 different elemental sources, such as air, water and even tech and magic. There are areas, some secret, in each level of Skylanders that are inaccessible if you donít have a Skylander of the right element, so itís a sure bet that youíll want to pick up at least 5 more of these miniatures like I did.
It is entirely possible to complete the story with the three included characters of Spyro (magic), Trigger Happy (tech) and Gill Grunt (water) though there is more to Skylanders than meets the eye. There are areas within each level that tailors to certain elements and gives the proper characters an added boost. So if you encounter a primarily water based level then you can expect that Gill Grunt or the available Zap will be the go to character as he will dish out more damage.
For those that plan on catÖcollecting them all (sorry that quotes taken) you can conveniently use the miniatures while they are still in the packaging. The game also allows you to rename your favorite characters as well as reset them in the future for selling or trading purposes. Though I am more of a completionist than a collector, I wholly plan on fully completing each level including the speed runs required to finish each level under a set time. So if youíre like me then be prepared to shell out at least $8 dollars per miniature or up to $20 on additional triple packs or location sets which include unlockable new areas including a pirate themed location. Sure it may be a ploy to spend you or your parentís money this holiday, but the in-game previews via collectible abilities will give you a visual taste of what some of the other characters can do.
Families and friends will undoubtedly want to join in on the fun so the folks at Toys for Bob have you covered. You can simply plug in a second controller and put another miniature on the Portal of Power for some coop action through the single player as well as an additional face-off Battle Mode. This is where things get interesting in Skylanders for a couple of reasons.
The first is that Skylanders: Spyroís Adventure features some RPG elements, mainly in the form of being able to level up your Skylanders and purchase abilities. Abilities can be earned by cashing in gold found by destroying items around the levels as well as exploring the special and secret locations. While the game is marketed primarily to kids there is a nice level of character customization with their powers. At a certain point players must chose between developing one of the two main powers on a character. So for instance, you can choose to focus on Stealth Elfís Blade attacks or her Scarecrow Decoy abilities.
The second thing, and this is the truly exceptional part, is that as you play the story your progress, gold, and collectables such as hats are stored right on the miniature somehow. I donít know how they accomplished this but itís wickedly cool. The other part is that the miniatures are completely non-system specific. You can use your leveled up characters on every version of the game which included the Wii, 3DS, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC/Mac consoles. Those same characters can even venture online with the browser based Skylanders: Spyroís Universe with a parentís permission. You can use your Portal of Power after a minor driver install or use the included web codes with each character. Here you can show off your collection, and play mini-games, such as a smaller version of the zeppelin shooting from the real game as well as a tower topple mini game.
I have to admit that Skylanders: Spyroís Adventure features a pretty solid visual experience. Most of the game is bright and cheerful except for the dark yet cartoonish evil moments. The finely detailed characters are identical to their physical miniatures and their animations are fluid. I noticed some lag occasionally in a few parts of the game but for the most part itís a visually pleasing experience. I really like some of the extra details that they added to Skylanders both in and out of the game. Depending on which character youíre using the portalís lights and certain things like the torches on your hub location will change to that elements color. The score for Skylanders is quite charming and blends perfectly with the visuals and sound effects. I love the voice acting, especially with the recognizable voice talent of Patrick Warburton (Hoodwinked) as the comedic role of Flynn, ace balloon pilot extraordinaire. Heís absolutely hilarious and fits in perfectly with the rest of the cast.
Skylanders: Spyroís Adventures is definitely a unique experience that is perfect for families and is sure to be the hot item this year if it takes off like I think it will. The game is fun though a little easy at times, but given the target market, that's to be expected. The hero challenges and completionist goals can definitely add some playability to the experience and the ability to use your character on every version of Skylanders makes it one of the most versatile experiences Iíve ever had the opportunity to enjoy. You can have plenty of fun with Skylanders: Spyroís Adventure for PC right of the box and look forward to the new locations available as they release this holiday season.