A few days ago, there was a giant launch event for Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure here in New York City. New York Knicks superstar Amar’e Stoudemire was the guest of honor. Amar’e does tons of work with kids and he even played finished Super Mario Bros. as a kid. So I listened when he sat down and told me, “This game is cool because it’s both a toy and a game. If your friend has a 3DS and you have an Xbox (360) you can still play it together.”
|SKYLANDERS: SPYRO’S ADVENTURE
Activision for 3DS, Xbox 360, PC, PS3, Wii. Rated E10+ for Cartoon Violence.
Replay Value: 8.8
Overall Score: 8.8
Pros: A deep world, action figures store your powers, action figures work on other consoles.
Cons: No online play, a few camera angle issues, dialog can be corny.
Combining a toy with a game is a good idea that might put new life into the Spyro series. That’s why I gave it a Boys’ Life E3 award back in June. But now that it’s out, is Skylanders all it’s cracked up to be?
Let’s find out. When you start with the console version of Skylanders, you’ll get a couple of movies telling you about this magical land that floats high in the air. You’re introduced to Master Eon, the wise old Skylander with a British accent who looks after The Core, the power source for this bright and happy country. Well, it used to be bright and happy.
When a hooded evil creep called Kaos brought his dark cloud over the land, Spyro and his gang tried to fight off his minions. And they did well. So Kaos went to Plan C and blew up The Core. Now, it’s up to you to restore calm to this peaceable kingdom.
EXCITING AND FUNNY, BUT CORNY
The story can be exciting and funny, full of tornadoes and weird monsters like Chompers. But it’s corny, too. Some of the things the characters say are just too dorky. And they sometime repeat themselves, yammering on about how you’re going to save them constantly.
Still, there’s so much to the story and game, you block this out as you play and level up. Skylanders isn’t really a platformer. It’s an action adventure with some role playing game elements. So as you get more powerful, you’ll get some kooky things, too, like a pot that’s a hat. And your weapons will get stronger, too.
If you’re really into exploring, the game will take a longer time to complete. So the replay value is high. But as you search the nooks and crannies, the camera angles sometimes block your vision. This doesn’t happen as you move through the main story. Mainly, it happens when you get obsessive and go hunting for hidden treasure chests and goodies that aren’t easily seen.
PORTAL OF POWER
But the big bell and whistle for Skylanders is that the game comes with three action figures. Each one has some intricate features. For instance, the three-inch Dark Spyro has red eyes with black pupils, white fangs and silver horns and wings.
Each of them has special abilities. For instance, the blue, fish-like Gill Grunt shoots water and can go into special areas like rushing waterfalls that are forbidden to those without water powers.
Also included is a Portal of Power that lights up. Plug it into the console. Boot up the game. Put your action figure on the platform. With a magical whoosh and some bright colors onscreen, Spyro is in your game. Over 30 other action figures can work with the game, too, if you choose to collect them all. It’s pretty darn cool.
Additionally, if you have the action figures that come with the 3DS, you can take them to your pal’s house, even if he has another format like the Xbox 360. All of the powers you’ve accumulated from playing the game on the 3DS are transferred as you play on the Xbox. These are smart toys that remember!
CHALLENGING IN A GOOD WAY
So how’s the game itself? At first, you think things will be easy. Shoot a few Chompers, collect the booty in treasure chests, move some turtles around to reach protected areas, and level up. But that’s just early on. As you go through the game, it gets harder. I was actually stymied for a while at a pretty difficult puzzle that asked me to move a bunch of square stones in exactly the right way to get to a portal. And if that’s in the first few levels, you know it’s going to get more challenging (in a good way).
Here’s a special note on the 3DS version. The game looks impressive in 3D as the towns in the sky come to life. The game doesn’t have the deep beginning and dialog to the story that’s on the console and PC versions. But the upside is, it gets you into the game more quickly. I also noticed that you have more powers right away, like the ability to jump and double jump.
Finally, the 3DS platform is powered by batteries, unlike the other versions which use the energy from the console. But some powerful batteries are included. (Yet why they added a screw on the bottom to put in the batteries, I’ll never know. It should just have been a latch. You have to find a screwdriver before you can play!)
Overall, this is a fine reboot to the Spyro series. The characters have so much personality and the world is so lovingly created, I bet there might be a TV show or movie based on the game sometime in the not-so-distant future. It’s a game that everyone can pick up and play. But it’s also one that takes some thinking to master. I’m not going to say it’s the perfect holiday gift, but it will be a really good present to have. And the 30 action figures? Some of you are going to want to collect all of them. I know you’ll be sending in questions about how to get past certain areas in Skylanders soon. Rest assured that my thinking cap is already on!