Game Review

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Gotta buy 'em all

There's something magical about a good toy. Be it an action figure, doll, transforming truck, projectile-spitting dragon or a wooden block, it doesn't matter how many removable parts or points of articulation they have once burrowed into your imagination and destined for Great Adventure along with the rest of the toy chest. Your world becomes their illustrious domain: defying the mountainous bookshelf, crashing through the man-eating garden.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure taps in to that spirit of excitement and all-powerful god role thanks to its unique hook that makes immobile figurines on the table spring to life and personality on your gaming platform of choice. Is it all just an elaborate ploy to get parents to spend hundreds of dollars? Well, yes, of course it is, but so are Transformers, Barbie and G.I. Joe. And that doesn't stop them, or Skylanders, from being plenty of good fun.

When talking about Skylanders it's difficult to say where one part ends and another begins seeing as the physical and digital are so intricately woven together and dependent on each other. The premise of the whole soirée puts you in the role of Portal Master, able to summon the titular creatures into their world by placing their plastic figure on the wireless Power Portal. There is some bad stuff happening in their world thanks to a little dorky guy named Kaos (voiced by Invader Zim himself), who ejected the Skylanders into our world where they are trapped as frozen figures. As Portal Master, you are able to seamlessly transport them from our world into theirs through the wireless Power Portal just by placing a figurine on it — up to two character figurines can be summoned simultaneously for co-operative play. The switch is nigh-instant and possible everywhere, which makes it all the more fun to do.

What’s neat about the toys is that your character’s statistics save to the toys themselves via the Power Portal and can be dropped in to any other Skylander game across all platforms — if you have the Wii version and a friend has the PS3 or Xbox 360 version you’re still able to summon your custom Skylander into their game, and all stat gains and gold collected elsewhere carry over back to your platform of choice when you return. Story mode progression does not carry over, however. The game's RPG elements are more deep than they let on at first: what occurs as simple character leveling quickly turns into hours lost collecting gold to buy offensive upgrades, collecting orbs from defeated enemies to gain levels and conquering side challenges improves attributes like strength and speed. Like all good stat systems, it's easy to get sidetracked improving your Skylanders.

Besides new characters, figurines can also add new areas and magic items, but those you will have to buy separately. It works very well and it will be interesting to see where this technology goes in the future, especially considering publisher Activision's grip on the Transformers, Spider-Man and X-Men licenses.

A starter pack of three Skylanders comes with each copy of the game, and the characters vary depending on which platform you get. The Wii version comes with Spyro, Gill Grunt and Trigger Happy. Each of the 30+ Skylanders has their own special attacks, vital statistics and elemental type, so the Wii pack starts you off with a Magic, Water and Tech elemental, respectively. These initial three are enough to get you through the main story mode and explore areas that are only available to Skylanders of these elemental affinities, but if you want to enter a Fire or Undead area, for instance, you’ll have to buy a Fire or Undead Skylander toy. It comes across as glorified downloadable content and the game strongly nudges you to pick up more Skylanders, but unlike buying drab megabytes you get a neat little toy with some neat little chips inside.

Whether you buy in to more figures or not, there’s still a good amount of content in the base set up — and falling down that rabbit hole opens up a slew of extra content. The entire campaign can be tackled either solo or in a much more agreeable co-operative fashion, and the lengthy stages include multiple goals that you in all likelihood won’t be able to tackle in the first go through. In addition, the affair is peppered with bonus challenges and explorative extras, giving the sense that there is always something else left to do — even if that something else is squaring off your Skylander against a friend’s in a competitive battle.

There isn’t much strategy to combat, however, as character’s movesets are limited to a handful of attacks and special abilities. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk attachment feel nigh-on under-used as just about three buttons do anything of significance, none of them letting you jump or dash as is standard in the 3DS version. The game's pace is also a bit pedestrian — not pac_ing_, mind you, that's fine, but it all moves a bit slow, even when you put time into boosting speed stats. Combat is simple but fun in a Gauntlet kind of way: easy enough for younger players to feel competent and diverse enough to keep the attention of a more experienced crowd. Challenge ramps up gently but noticeably, and the overall world is delightfully colorful and bouncy, marinated in a suitably goofy sense of humor.

Conclusion

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a near-perfect conceptual marriage of toys and video games. While wallets may shudder at the thought of throwing down potentially lots and lots of money for the complete experience, what you get out of the box is a well-crafted adventure and world that kids of all ages can be excited about. The Power Portal offers a unique and quite fun dynamic that comes off as a seamless addition, helping cement Skylanders as an innovator in the toy field. Something tells us this isn't the last we'll see of the little critters.

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User Comments (40)

ImDiggerDan

#1

ImDiggerDan said:

Wow, I was expecting this to be a dud. /me now checks out how much the figures are...

Aviator

#2

Aviator said:

I'm not really a fan of buying an incomplete game, and being forced to fork out more money if I want to complete the game.

If I was able to get 100% without buying anything, and they added DLC afterwards I would be fine, but I don't like this.

XCWarrior

#4

XCWarrior said:

When the right Christmas sale hits with this, I'll pick it up. The fact its like gauntlet means its a game my wife will play with me, and that makes it worth a purchase.

SpaceKappa

#5

SpaceKappa said:

My wife and I have been having an absolute BLAST with this, and honestly it's our pick for Game of the Year so far. It's THAT much fun in co-op. We've already been back to the store several times to buy more figures and can't wait until the second wave hits next week (as it contains characters we're dying to play with, like Warnado and Hex).

You'd think this game would just be a cash grab, but the production values are just so HIGH. The story is written by the writers of Toy Story and the music is done by Hans Zimmer, who you probably know from the Pirates of the Carribbean movies.

It's a SUPERB action-RPG and playing it in co-op makes it so much fun. I honestly think everyone should play this; it's just too good!

Wheels2050

#7

Wheels2050 said:

While I find the idea intriguing, at $90 to buy the starter pack and an additional $16 for figurines (going by eBay) it's not something I'd currently consider putting my money down for. I have a feeling Activision has priced themselves out of the market for a lot of people.

Hell, I could go grab an entirely new game for the price of a new figurine. Unfortunately, that kind of value (or lack thereof) just doesn't cut it for me.

Having said that, if the price was lower I'd probably at least give the starter pack a crack!

LeasTwanteD

#8

LeasTwanteD said:

Not a fan of the figurines at all. It's cool that you can take your stats to other versions of the game though.
If Activison one day decides to put out a complete version that doesn't require any gimmicky toys i'll be supporting it in a heartbeat. (Assuming it's not more expensive than your regular Wii game.)
Even if the whole toy set was dirt cheap one day i don't think i could get it because i don't want to encourage other games to rely on this gimmick.

Shiryu

#10

Shiryu said:

Love the game, can't wait for the rest of the figures to be released.

Unca_LzStaff

#11

Unca_Lz said:

I love how some people dismiss it as a rip-off and haven't even tried it yet. That is called hypocrisy! B-)

Dodger

#13

Dodger said:

@Iz I wouldn't say that in this case. The game looks really good but I don't think the Big N themselves has released any individual game that would be worth that much to me. Metroid Prime Trilogy is the closest and I would rather just get Metroid Prime 3 for $10. My parents got Wii Fit Plus but the balance board is a neat piece of tech that can be used for other games.

I just don't see how saying that $90 plus more for add-ons is too much for an 8 out of 10 game even though you haven't tried it yet is hypocrisy. Saying it is a rip-off might be a bit harsh but I really do agree. Cool idea, good looking game, price tag that instantly puts any thought of getting this game out of my mind. If a Mario game was like this and cost $100+ to play then I wouldn't buy that either.

BulbasaurusRex

#14

BulbasaurusRex said:

@3 According to the review, the main campaign is still 100% beatable with the starter pack. Just think of the extra areas and items available with other figures as part of the DLC.

The prices sound reasonable in the U.S.: $70 for the Wii starter set and $8 for each extra figurine (which, don't forget, also double as traditional action figures). I'll be getting it eventually.

NiaLovesNinty

#15

NiaLovesNinty said:

I'd buy this game if there was a DLC version. The toys look cool and everything, but I'm honestly quite sick of peripherals. I don't like to have extra junk sitting around my house lol.

Aviator

#16

Aviator said:

@BulbasaurusRex The thing is though, the game has 7 different types or something and plan and simple, if you haven't purchased an extra character, you cannot beat the entirety of the game you bought, without having to buy anything else.

Wamtu

#18

Wamtu said:

Okay, so it's a good game. But I see no reason to get it, considering there are plenty of good (much cheaper) games already out, and I'm betting several other new releases THIS MONTH, like, oh, I don't know, Sonic Generations, Super Mario 3D Land, Rayman Origins, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword...

FonistofCruxis

#19

FonistofCruxis said:

This sounds like a massive rip-off and this article does a good job of explaining why its such a rip-off but I doubt I'd get it even if it wasn't as the characters look too childish for my liking and some of them look really ugly too, especially the ugly redesign that Spyro has received.

GamerZack7

#20

GamerZack7 said:

That review is spot-on, John! I received this as a birthday gift from my bro last week, and I've been making my way through the main game mode any chance I can pry myself away from Pokemon SoulSilver, Ocarina 3D and my Avatar DVDs (it's not easy trying to play/view four new things at the same time unless you have the Four Sword!)

Every time I play the game with my current line-up of recruits, I become completely immersed in the experience, swapping back-and-forth between champions as I remove one figure from the Portal of Power and slam down another one. I also like the fact that the Portal itself glows a different colour for each element when you first place down a figure (orange for Earth; cyan for Air; green for Life; white for Undead; red for Fire; blue for Water; purple for Magic; and yellow for Tech). It's a nice touch that adds to the immersion involved.

Skylanders FTW!! xD

ueI

#21

ueI said:

Sounds like a fun game, but I think I'm too old to spend hundreds of dollars on toys I'll only ever play with once.

zapdinos

#22

zapdinos said:

Skylanders is a great game and for those who oppose the figures and actually purchasing them you (and excuse my language) are idiots. You want dlc and at the end of the day your still spending almost the same amount of money to supposedly extend the game. This is no different than dlc, do you really think that dlc is brand new content? No it's already built in the game, all the files are in there just blocked off for the moment so when they do release it, it's simply opening that section of the coding. And as for the hardcore comment no game is really hardcore as long as fifthteen year olds play and adults act like them. I'm simply saying it's great game and buying figures is the same as if you bought dlc. Really there's no difference if you actually look at the facts and not what you are told.

TLink9

#23

TLink9 said:

Toys for Bob still makes games, I thought they were going out of business.

ueI

#24

ueI said:

@Zapdinos: I can't speak for others, but I don't really support DLC. Sure, I may have bought some in the past, but my point is that I don't think I should get more. Before somebody mentions that these figures can be used as physical toys, I already have plenty of those. They can be pretty expensive and I don't get much out of them.

BulbasaurusRex

#25

BulbasaurusRex said:

@17 Zapdinos is right. If there are extra levels as traditional DLC in another game (with which you said you had no problem), then you can't beat that game 100% without buying the DLC, either. The main story is beatable with just the starter pack, so thare's no difference between buying extra figures to unlock the extra areas and just directly buying access to those areas with DLC, except you get more cool action figures this way.

Hey Jon, about how long does it take to play through all the areas that are available with the starter pack? If it's already a pretty lengthly game with just the initial purchase, that may convince some people who are worried about the price.

JonWahlgrenAdmin

#26

JonWahlgren said:

@BulbasaurusRex: I'd say expect around 10 hours of "normal" play, i.e. taking the time to do some of the side stuff and not trying to critical path through. It's beefy, and the more characters you pick up I'd say add an extra few hours each if you're interested in leveling them up. There's certainly a lot of game here if you're willing to explore.

BONUS EDIT: Another way to look at it is that there are eight elemental types and you start off with three. If you get both the Wii and 3DS versions (they're different games and cross-compatible) you get five elemental types and only need three more. There are also extra environments that are pretty lengthy, and you can use your Skylanders on the free PC/Mac browser game too.

So no, you don't have to buy all 30+ figures to get the "whole game," but if you want to explore 100% of the environment you'll need to pick up the types you're missing.

mike_fantastic

#27

mike_fantastic said:

My wife says I can only have ONE additional figure. ARE YOU SERIOUS?! Judge me, all of you. I want em!

:)

Aviator

#28

Aviator said:

That's not what I'm saying at all @BulbasaurusRex. When I buy the game, I want to be able to complete the game I bought, as it is to 100%.

Adding DLC that isn't incorporated into the main game I'm fine with. Those are two different things.

Pixel-Perfect

#29

Pixel-Perfect said:

That actually doesn't sound too bad... that sounds like something I would have obsessed over as a kid.

SteveW

#30

SteveW said:

Great review, I would have given the Wii version a 9 though (since the 3DS version is an 8) because the portal functionality is so much better with the Wii version, you can swap characters at any time rather than having to start over and replay the level with a specific character.

BulbasaurusRex

#31

BulbasaurusRex said:

@29 So, do you just not like DLC that consists of extra areas/levels? The extra areas in this game are just as seperate from the main campaign as any other game that has extra areas as DLC. The only real differences are that we're aware from the game's release that these extra areas exist and that you're often reminded of that fact while playing the game.

Henmii

#32

Henmii said:

That wasn't necessary. — TBD

Nice review and nice score! Still not sure if I'll buy it though!

Zing

#34

Zing said:

It appears the only people who make negative comments about this game are the ones who have not tried it. This game is not just "for kids". This game is not a "rip-off". The game is pure joy. Buy it, hand your girlfriend a controller (you do have a girlfriend that plays games, right?), and prepare for the game of the year. You will wish the game did have future DLC, so that you could buy it to prolong the enjoyment.

Dodger

#35

Dodger said:

Just thought I would mention that I saw the Wii starter pack at Sam's Club for $55 so you might want to check your local cost club if you want this game. That brings it down to about the price of a normal wii game not counting extra Skylanders. There are still other games I want first.

Worth checking your local cost club sometimes anyways. Sometimes they have deals on new games that are way better then most used game stores. They are weird. Sometimes they sell games for more or exactly the same as other places, sometimes for around $5 to 10 less and sometimes they sell a game for a really low price.

ShinyGold

#36

ShinyGold said:

Oh Yeah i Finaly Got Camo Warnado And Ignitor Ive Waited Six Months For Camo To Come Out It Was For $19 Of amazon

denpaguy

#39

denpaguy said:

I think i know a way to share the skylanders without buying them, just photograph the DOWN Side of your skylanders and upload it to Nintendo life or something so other people van print them or something an use them in the game by laying the printed images on the portal of power ( sorry for the bad english i posted this post on the iPad and Our iPad has auto correct )

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