Game Review

Skylanders SWAP Force Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano


There is a common and unfortunate trend in video game development in which a great game is released on a home console, and then a vastly inferior version — or spin-off — is released as a portable title. Recent victims of this phenomenon include LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins and Sonic Lost World. While these shouldn’t be considered terrible ports, as they are mostly unique titles on varying platforms, it is safe to say that they aren’t up to snuff with what can be expected from the console counterparts. As you’re currently reading a review of Skylanders: SWAP Force for 3DS, you’ve probably already figured out that it’s the latest game to join the ranks of these other ill-fated colleagues.

The first thing that needs to be said is that no, Swap Force on the 3DS is not a terrible game. It may be flawed and much less fulfilling than the Wii U game of the same name, but it stands as a fun and ambitious platformer nonetheless. Using the same figures and formula as previous Skylanders games, SWAP Force allows you to take real world character figures and place them on a device known as the Portal of Power in order to use them as playable characters. To increase the portability of this peripheral-based title, it allows you to import all of your figures into the game and leave them logged in. Rather than having to place a figure on the portal and wait for them to load in each time you want to use them, once your Skylanders are imported into the game, switching between them is made simple by tapping the console’s touchscreen. Even the game’s characteristic swapping mechanic is performed on the lower screen, so creating new characters is streamlined as well.

Swap Force plays just as well as any 3D platformer on the 3DS should, with tight controls and precise collision detection in both movement and combat. Most of the combat involves button mashing with no emphasis on perfecting combos, but it’s undeniably fun to wipe out a horde of baddies with a levelled-up Skylander. Unlike the console release, the 3DS version of Swap Force has a strong emphasis on platforming rather than combat, leaving long stretches of stages without much action at all. Characters can still be levelled up and acquire new attacks, but with fewer brawls and the inclusion of a double jump, it opens the environments up to more adventure than action. That being said, the stages here feel even more linear than they do in the already straightforward Wii U version, offering fewer elemental gates to explore.

The campaign is divided up into 19 stages that span across seven different worlds. The environmental themes vary from world to world for unique-looking locales, but they all tend to feel the same once played. If you’re just playing through the campaign without venturing off through too many elemental gates, then the game can easily be completed in less than five hours. Its lifespan is extended by offering incentives for multiple runs through each stage, such as more stars to increase your Portal Master ranking and varying hats to collect, but this mostly feels superfluous and tacked on in order to lengthen an otherwise shallow experience. The campaign is fun while it lasts, but the stages are hardly original enough to truly warrant multiple plays from any gamers who aren’t over-obsessed with collection and completion.

Designed entirely as a single player experience, it’s a disappointment to see a complete lack of multiplayer here, whether it be co-op in the campaign or simply friendly combat in minigames. Despite the lack of any form of multiplayer gameplay, there is still a connection with other SWAP Force players on the 3DS through the console’s StreetPass feature. Should you pass another person playing the new game, their most recently used Skylander will become available in your game to play for one stage. As this character is very temporary, there is no way to level it up and increase his or her stats, but this does work as a good way to test out new figures that you might be interested in adding to your collection, assuming you can get the hits.

While all of the character models are designed well to compliment their real-world figures, the overall visual presentation here is a letdown when the console’s trademark 3D is turned on. Not only does everything have a graininess to it with jagged edges and visible pixels, but the frame rate also drops noticeably, causing choppy environments and character movement. It’s also apparent that the 3D effect does absolutely nothing to enhance the overall experience. There is minor depth added to the stages with the 3D on, but it mostly just slows down the frame rate and creates a frustratingly small sweet spot in which the action can be properly viewed.

If you do go ahead and decide to pick up Swap Force for 3DS, do yourself a favour and plug a pair of headphones into the console at least once. For as outstanding a soundtrack as this game boasts, the 3DS’s tiny speakers don’t do it any justice. The sound effects, on the other hand, can be a bit grating after a while, but a quick adjustment in the options menu will put the music volume at the forefront, adding an additional layer of splendour to the otherwise drab experience. When the soundtrack is the best thing a game has going for it, there should be absolutely no reason to let it go to waste.


Skylanders: Swap Force for the 3DS is a game that was clearly made with the best of intentions, but it ended up being bogged down by hardware limitations and a shortfall in content. While still a very worthy addition to the Skylanders lineage, it falls flat when compared too closely to its console counterpart. It’s undeniable that series fans will love playing as their favourite Skylanders in this new story, but it’s a hard sell for genre fans looking to jump in. If you own a Wii U then you’d be better off sticking with the superior home console release, but collectors seeking a straightforward platforming adventure could do much worse.

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User Comments (15)



unrandomsam said:

I consider the models used by Disney and Skylanders the almost worst intentions. (None of the reviews ever include cost calculations and for the amount they end up costing they should be night and day better than any other release).



Pokefanmum82 said:

That's not true. If you go to IGN they tell you how much the game costs including all the figures you need for this game. My son is getting this game from my dad for Christmas. I like being able to play these kind of games on my XL over home consoles. I wish people would stop comparing handheld games to the home console version. I personally loved Lego City Undercover on the 3DS. And I'm sure I will love Sonic Lost World 3DS.



Shiryu said:

bought it anyway because of the figurines, have yet to play it, but I might do so somewhere down the road... after I finish Zelda LTTP 2 , probably.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

@Pokefanmum82 but you should be able to understand that this compairson is plain neccessary when the game is obviously multiplatform.
The 3DS version is barely mentioned in commercials at all, but still the dev's do nothing to inform you about the cut content, missing co-op or anything different from the home console releases. NintendoLife informs sceptical people about the games' quality and draws compairsons to the other versions. This is vital information for some people and as such an important part of a review.
This wouldn't be as much of an issue if Activision actually cared to market this game differently or as a separate game. But they make it look like the 3DS version provides equal quality and content, which clearly isn't the case.
And a similar case applies to LEGO City: Undercover - The Chase Begins.
The game was only marketed with upscaled cutscenes, so some people would expect it to have similar quality to the WiiU game, especially since it was released later, but not much later.

I can see how it bothers you, since those games are still good in their own regard. But the dev's market their games as if they made the console version for handhelds without a sign of quality difference, so they're kinda asking for it.



Captain_Gonru said:

So, with the character storing mechanic, what prevention is in place to stop someone from, say, buying a figure, leave it in the package, scan it in, and return it?



ACK said:

My family was very fond of the past two Skylanders on 3DS. The original might have even been better on the handheld.

Not clear how this compares to those, but since the console game is made by the team who made the previous handheld versions (incorporating the jump and more dynamic camera angles those two games enjoyed), it serves that Swap Force on 3DS isn't up to par.



sdelfin said:

If by common and unfortunate trend you mean the way it has always been, then I agree. There are plenty of examples of cut-down or reworked games on portable systems based on console versions. Look at the Gameboy, Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket, GBA, DS. It's no trend. It's one of the main reasons portable systems exist.



Hale-Bopp said:

Adding to this unfortunate trend, is publishers releasing trailers without ANY 3DS game play footage whatsoever. I scoured the internet for a good length of time just trying to find video of this particular game, even days after release and STILL couldn't find anything. It's like they just don't want you to know how bad of a rip off these games really are. Various big publishers have absolutely proven without a doubt that they have no real interest or passion in making a quality product for the 3DS and that really bums me out.



GamerZack87 said:

The one thing that this article didn't mention in enough detail is that the 3DS version is a completely different game to the console versions, wih its own unique plot and areas to explore, as well as a brand-new villain exclusive to this version. Couple that with the fact that the 3DS version comes with two different SWAP Force characters, as well as an exclusive Volcanic Eruptor, and it offers an added incentive to pick up both versions.

In any case, even though I'd likely prefer the console version, I don't currently own a Wii U nor would I risk a defective copy of the Wii version; therefore, this version will have to suffice until then. It's at the top of my birthday list, along with a bunch of the characters!



Slayer said:

It's always either the DS family or the Wii family. Oh well.
I hate to say it, but I might not get this. I have a feeling that I'll beat it, put it down, and practically never play it again.



Drawdler said:

@Captain_Gonru Absolutely nothing, actually. Load them in- and, done. All you'd need to do is go to the store with your 3DS, the game, and the Portal of Power. You can level your toys up, and then update your Spyro with his levelled-up stats, but the game isn't very fun to do that anyway, IMO. (For the record, I really don't advocate doing this.)

I agree a lot with this review. I'm really disappointed in this game, still, though. The biggest problem with this game(besides the many glitches I've run into): it's simply no fun to replay, due to a combination of the factors the review mentions, and in Skylanders- where the content mostly comes from replaying the game with new characters- that's a big issue. I would say avoid it until it at least goes on sale.

Also, I thought I would bring up that I loathed the slow pace of the game. It has a very "laggy" tempo to the level design, I think(one of the biggest points that makes it boring to replay). For instance, the pointless dialogue from NPCs during the level, the lock puzzles... They don't really feel like they add to the gameplay, just pad it out. Makes it boring.

I think n-Space tried WAAAAAYYYYY too hard to emulate aspects of the console version, and build a game similar to that. But they fail to realise the 3DS can't handle that. And IMO, the way it came out, it just feels half-baked and not very good.

I'm a Skylanders nut, but I won't return to it any time soon. The main game (with the starter pack) will probably last a few hours, I think you can get about 20 hours out of it if you have all the Skylanders needed for it and go for 100%. Don't recommend picking this one up unless it becomes super cheap soon, or if you're already a fan and want another way to level up your Skylanders than plain grinding(in which case, I would still advise you wait for it to drop in price).



mayhem13 said:

I always preferred the 3DS versions of these games to the console versions. But since the Swap Force added jumping to the console versions. Alot of what made the 3DS versions better is now gone. I liked the old school Playstation 1 3D platforming style which is what made the 3DS Skylanders so much more fun then those jump pads the consoles had, with those gone, this loses a little bit. Though it is nice that you can keep the skylanders permanently without needing the figures. In case you ever want to sell the figures but keep the game. That's cool I guess.



M0rdresh said:

Bought the 3DS version of Swap Force, my first Skylanders game.
Bought Spyro's Adventure & Giants too at reduced pricing, never to late to start I guess. Quite handy the new Swap Force portal works with the previous two games.



M0rdresh said:

After two days of playing, I found this to be a very fun game. Some remarkable platform gaming is to be found. I'm afraid the above review does take a bit to much into account how it compared to the console version, while it is clearly intended to be a standalone version.

I consider this a plus compared to just offering a mobile iteration of the console versions. Definitely an 8/10 in my book, maybe a 7/10 for this where the glass is half empty instead of half full.

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