(Wii U)

Game Review

Skylanders SWAP Force Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

Swap ‘til you drop

It’s no secret that collecting and gaming go hand in hand — how else can you explain the popularity of special editions of games that come with physical content as well as toys and figurines? Taking this into account, it’s no wonder that the Skylanders series has become so popular and successful since its inception just two years ago. Following in the footsteps of those that came before it, Skylanders: Swap Force brings collectable figures to life in an all-new action pack adventure.

Three console games into the series and most gamers know exactly how the Skylanders formula works. By placing character figurines on a USB device called the Portal of Power, players can choose which Skylander they want to take control over. Each character can be individually levelled up to their cap – which has been raised to 20 in this new title – and new abilities can be purchased for the characters as well. Completing certain tasks such as finding all of the items hidden in a stage or using characters from each of the eight elements will still earn you stars that collectively grow your Portal Master level. What sets Swap Force apart from previous Skylanders games is the titular Swap Force. In the lore of the game, certain Skylanders were caught in a volcanic eruption that allowed them to split their bodies in half and combine with other heroes. Anatomical anomalies aside, it makes for a great game mechanic and encourages player creativity.

The figures themselves are connected at their middle by strong magnets, ensuring that losing one half of a character won’t happen nearly as often as most parents might fear. Joining two figures together not only combines their elements and abilities, but it also creates an entirely new character. Combining the top half of water elemental Wash Buckler with the bottom of fire elemental Blast Zone creates the water/fire character Wash Zone, and so on and so forth. Combining Swap Force figures into new characters doesn’t simply allow for more varied gameplay, but it also makes crossing through elemental gates a breeze. Although many of the gates are marked by a single element, some require a Skylander of two different elements to enter. While these gates can be opened by multiple players each representing the required elements, single players using swapped characters can make it through just as well.

Beyond the swapping mechanic, Swap Force plays very similarly to previous console games in the series. While each individual stage encourages a limited amount of exploration, the majority of gameplay is mostly straightforward action adventure with ridiculously fun hack and slash combat. Each stage has a beginning and an end with the aforementioned elemental gates leading to divergent paths. Though these additional paths may take you out of your way to find extra treasures and collectables, they all end up spitting you back out on the singular route towards the stage’s end. There are some puzzles scattered throughout the stages that mostly consist of moving blocks or rotating gears to open gates, but as this is a game focused on younger gamers, none of the puzzles are exceeding difficult. Even with the game’s difficulty increased, enemies become stronger but the puzzles remain simple.

The controls here are standard for the genre, and within that framework they perfectly adequate. Your movement is controlled using the GamePad's left stick with attacks assigned to the face buttons. Everything is tight and responsive, making sure that some of the more intense brawls go smoothly without worry of clunky controls getting in your way. New to the series is the addition of a jump action that allows for both additional exploration on different platforms in stages as well as increased evasive opportunities in battles. Though jumping can't be inserted into your attacks to create more robust combos, the new functionality is a great way to dodge enemies and cancel your own moves in a pinch. Jumping adds a bit of fluidity to battles that simply can't be achieved when all you can do is attack and evade.

The GamePad's touchscreen functionality is put to good use as well, displaying information useful to the game instead of simply copying the on-screen action or showcasing the game’s logo. While in a stage, rather than having to pause and search through menus for character stats and mission information, everything is displayed right on the small screen instead. Tapping through mission objectives is simplified, making it easy to ensure you're on track for stage completion and perfection. The GamePad also supports off-television play — allowing you to play Swap Force entirely in your hands — and it looks crisp scaled down, too.

For those looking to play with a friend or family member, Swap Force features the series standard drop-in multiplayer. The Portal of Power still only supports up to two figures at a time though, so fans hoping for bigger adventuring parties will be sorely disappointed. Rather than enforcing a split screen when two players are on screen, your characters are instead bound together by a translucent tether that limits the distance you can place between one another. This functionality leaves just enough distance between both players that you can easily cover the ground in your current area, but one player or the other won't be able to charge ahead with reckless abandon. Whether intentional or not, this actually forces players to work together rather than compete with one another.

Swap Force does well in taking advantage of the Wii U's processing power to create a visually arresting and enticing experience. The graphical style may slant towards the cartoon-like side of the spectrum, but that doesn't stop this from being one of the best-looking games we've seen on Nintendo's next generation console. From the rich environments to the expressive character animations and majestic soundtrack, the Skylands come to life in ways that make you want to come back for more time and time again. All of the characters — including NPCs — are fully voice acted, adding even more impact to the excellent presentation. This game really does give the impression that you are playing in an interactive CGI film with all of its unique characters and lively locations.

In order to get the most out of this title you'll have to invest in additional Skylanders figures, but it's also true that Swap Force is a huge offering. Exploring each stage to its entirety and following every divergent path opens up hours of replayability, and that's not even mentioning the bonus missions and stages. As you work your way through the campaign and find hidden treasures, extra missions and mini-games become available outside of the campaign. Reaching certain goals in these extras also earn you stars, so anyone bent on becoming the ultimate Portal Master will be spending a lot of time outside of the campaign. It’s definitely a good thing.


Skylanders: Swap Force is the rare type of game that takes all of the elements from previous series entries and improves on them at every turn. Veterans are bound to love this new title, but it also serves as a perfect place to start for those new to the series. With tight controls, dynamic characters, beautiful presentation and incredibly fun gameplay, it’s little wonder that the series has come as far as it has in such a short amount of time. If you’re looking for family friendly fun that’ll last hours and hours even after the campaign is complete, then rest assured that Skylanders: Swap Force is well worth the investment — of course, just how much you're willing to invest depends on how badly you want to collect all of those eye-catching figures.

From the web

Game Trailer

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User Comments (57)



Emblem said:

Is this a kids game or will adults enjoy it too? I love hack and slash games but i want to know just how simple this game is.



Shiryu said:

@Emblem Trust me, this thing is ageless! Anyone should try it and unless you are an adult that feels ashamed to enjoy the simpler joys of life (like a video game), I assure this is one of the most enjoyable video game experiences I ever had in my three decades as a gamer.



wiiuprotacker14 said:

Looks nice!
But i'm woundering if i should pay for splinter cell blacklist on wii u

Is there alot of people or not online!



Yosher said:

If not for the steep price to get the fullest experience out of these, I might've tried this.



Emblem said:

@Shiryu Thanks for the heads up and the video. I think i'll trade in Sonic LW for this when i'm done as my partner really doesn't like it as much as me so aside from a race or two i'm stuck playing it solo. Hopefully we will both enjoy this as the multi-player sounds alot more fleshed out.



Shiryu said:

@Emblem Oh absolutely, this game is one of the greatest two player experiences one can have sitting side by side with another person. I will hopefully get some of my friends over and make some multiplayer videos...



Volmun said:

@Shiryu im realy enjoying Swap Force so far im almost done on the main story (just bort tower of time hedding home naw) theres 1 thing that buggs me witch did in Giants aswell is the lack of swimming like in the 1st game being one of my favrot lvls leviathan lagoon but adding the jump makes up for it tbh



Shiryu said:

@Volmun Don't worry, be on the lookout for "Skylanders: Underwater Realm Adventures" coming later October 2014... maybe.



MrGawain said:

I don't see why Activision doesn't use these figures for other types of games? You could have a Skylanders Racing game, or Beat 'em up, or RPG. That could stop the brand going stale.



LunaticPandora said:

So the general consensus is this is much better than DI then? I must admit I wasn't expecting much from it, but this sounds pleasantly surprising.



rjejr said:

Skylanders 9, Sonic 7. That just seems so wrong.

Anybody interested - $299 Skylanders Wii U bundle at Gamestop in their Black Friday ad. Skylanders game will be $50 instead of $75.



GamerZack87 said:

Fire Kraken (top) + Grilla Drilla (bottom) = WIN!

Can we expect reviews of Skylanders SWAP Force for 3DS and Wii as well?



unrandomsam said:

@Shiryu This should be light years better if you treat its price as the price for it and all its figures. Are the controls on Sonic much different to Generations ? (For me on that learning the controls was much easier than memorising the levels enough to get an A and not making any mistakes).



rjejr said:

@Shiryu - Sonic jumps weird. The game looks like Mario in Galaxy except he moves like DeBlob - more up-and-down bouncy than forward jumping. Just from watching the video I can see the disconnect. Does he ever actually jump forward? It looks like he's running really fast straight ahead but then he jumps straight up and you have to move him forward after he's gone straight up, rather than just jumping forward in the direction he's running.

I got my start in platformers w/ the original Spyro games. Charging forward and jumping into bad guys is what he does.



Shiryu said:

@unrandomsam It's more like "Colours" IMO. The problem is I am not used to playing games that need tight controls with the bulky Wii U Game Pad. I hope they really patch it soon with Pro Controller support.



Shiryu said:

@rjejr Yes he does jump forward, I just didn't use "L" to dash much on this level. You're spot on with that "de Blob" remark.
I too dabbled a lot with the original Spyro's and even if he know doesn't take the spotlight in Skylanders, this game and the 3DS ones are the best thing if you're looking for spiritual sequels.



andregurov said:

My family enjoyed the first two Skylanders' games immensely; we picked this one up last weekend and I am happy to say EA has again crafted a great and very playable game. The figure collecting can be a bit over-the-top, but the graphics, music, and memorable bits floating about in the gameplay really make this loads of fun.



Shiryu said:

@TCJester Skylanders has matured rather well. Infinity certainly has a lot of promise, but we will have to wait (still hoping for a TRON playset on that one, if they do one, I will pick it up).



NorthLightSuplx said:

My understanding is that on the 3ds game one can install the skylanders. Is that feature available for the wii u off TV play?



Volmun said:

@Shiryu lol thatd be a cool adveter pack 8P + just completed it 8D realy good last boss very well thort out realy enjoyed it naw on to tower of time then the colections / time / score atack modes lol



sinalefa said:

This is the kind of game where not even a 9 score would sway me to get it. $75 is way too much money for a game, and same as Infinity, I think the Wii version should be a bit cheaper than its HD counterparts.



rjejr said:

@Shiryu - My 8 yr. old son is getting Skylanders for his birthday in Jan. Then every night after he goes to bed my wife and I will play.

It didn't seem so underhanded in my head.



rjejr said:

So, no Skystones this time? I really liked that card game. I think it's the reason I played this after skipping the first game, it reminded me of triple triad in FF8. I'm guessing they knew that when they made it.



Kirk said:

I'm actually impressed with just how well realized the visuals in these games are.



IceClimbers said:

Good review, but Activision is absolutely silly for releasing this game the day after Pokemon X/Y. Not sure if it was just bad planning on their part or more of that anti-Nintendo bias that 3rd parties have. If it is the anti-Nintendo bias, then you know it's getting bad now that a franchise that sells better on Nintendo is getting its Nintendo sales sabotaged.



Alpha2797 said:

What happened to Spyro? I've never played a Skylanders game before, but wasn't he the main character in the first Skylanders game? Has Spyro finally been wiped off the face of the earth? Don't get me wrong though, I LOVE Spyro games, just not the recent ones...



Will-75 said:

I totally agree with review AWESOME title we have been having a blast with it , people talk about the price of the game being high 75 American dollars but when you are getting a game this good as well the very high replay value to me it's well worth the price I've paid 60 American dollars for games that are garbage and not worth playing .



Shiryu said:

@ljb88 Ah ah, no, no, just a very happy customer and a somewhat sad adult because I can but imagine how awesome this game truly is special for kids of today.



Dpishere said:

I recieved the first Skylanders for free as a gift, and though it was a solid game I wish I would have been able to 100% complete it without having to buy extra characters. It would have been nice for that to be an option, and nothing more. Still this looks like a large improvement over that one, but there is no way I would pay 70+ dollars just for the game, and even more for extra characters. Maybe when it is cheaper I will get it.



JaredJ said:

l have never played a Skylanders game. Is Swap Force a good place to start or should I start with the first game?



Drawdler said:

I liked the game, but I'm really disappointed by the story. Giants didn't really treat you like a Portal Master that much and I was hoping it was just a low and it'd kinda come back in the sequel, but it's not here. If anything, it's here even less than Giants.

I liked the story in SA because it was like YOU were the hero. It gave a feeling of more interactivity, which is what games are ultimately best at, letting you interact with a world. I really miss that, it pushed it from a really good game into a special and unique experience, and that's why I still like the first Skylanders the best. It's also really annoying because the story is a lot of the game. And remember how Kaos used to treat you like a rival? See, it's just little things like this that made us love the series in the first place, now everything feels really dumbed down story-wise, honestly.

The game's design is certainly getting better, but between Heroics now gone and leaving little customisation on the figures and very little mention of Portal Masters in the story, this is probably my last game unless TFB adjust these in Skylanders 4. It's just not magical now, I need to keep reminding myself I'm a Portal Master when I play, and I'm not really taking my Skylanders through the trials of those challenges to boost their stats so I care a lot less for all of them. That's another thing I miss, Heroics directly boosted your Skylanders by playing through dungeons with them. It made them feel more alive getting stronger via trials, and it made me give a chance to a lot of Skylanders I would probably have power-levelled and quickly upgraded and never touched again.

Drinking game: take a shot each time an NPC thanks your Skylander when they could/should have thanked you instead, or when Kaos complains about "Skylosers" instead of his adversary Portal Master. You'll be dead less than a quarter in.



TheGreatLord said:

It going to be 10 levels and you get 20 skylanders, they seriously need to put in more levels to attract more people attentions. You also need to pay for more skylanders to make the game more enjoyable. Skylanders Giants was disappointing. It was 16 new skylanders and 16 new levels, and the skylanders don't seem that interesting. I prefer the normal skylanders (first) it was sort of worth collecting them all. Not really worth it now, I found out what huge mistake I have done.



TheGreatLord said:

@JaredJ Just start off from start force, you wouldn't like to be collecting from the beginning, it would be waste if you start from the first game. Just do swap force, but I wouldn't buy it



supremii said:

Could someone tell me, please, whether it is necessary to buy any figurines or stuff other stuff additional to the game?



TheGreatLord said:

@supremii it is a bit to increase the fun of the game, but I wouldn't recommend buying the extras or the game because there are better games out there, but if you want, buy all



kokirii said:

Support Activision this holiday. By CoD: Ghosts and Swap Force on Wii U!!



Daxfactor said:

Question to anyone out there that may know the answer. I bought the exclusiive Dark edition of the swapforce game for my son. Only it was for the wii version. Can the wii version of this game be played on the wii u? I realize that the charachters work with any platform but I m not sure if the wii hardware(portal) is compatible with the wii u?



Drawdler said:

... I still feel the same way I felt about this before (#48), and I think this game has a mediocre story overall... Not just that, but maxing out all your Skylanders is horribly unrewarding in this game, even if the immersion doesn't matter. All you get for doing every Quest on one is 75 HP extra- which is totally irrelevant in Nightmare Mode, where enemies toss out hits that do hundreds of damage each.

Plus, those Quests aren't fun (many involve grinding), and a bunch of them can only be completed in 1-2 spots. If you have a bunch of Skylanders, this means you'll be replaying those few areas with some of them over and over if you want to max them out.

Spyro's Adventure/Giants gave you humongous stat boosts for doing all the Heroic Challenges, which took about the same time to complete as it takes to finish all the Quests in SF. In Giants you get +48 Speed, +30 Armor, +85 Critical Hit and +55 Elemental Power for finishing 50 Heroics on a Skylander, and those boosts are far more significant and feel a lot cooler than a measly 75 extra HP.

After I completed the game, it felt like there was nothing left to do with the Skylanders I had, because I couldn't take them further besides completing the Quests (which I hated). If I weren't such a completionist, I probably would have upgraded everyone by abusing the Sky Diamond, tried them out in fully-upgraded form and never touched the game after I tried everyone, because there would be nothing I was interested in left to do. I wanted to do Heroics in SA/Giants, because even though they were repetitive, it was cool to see my Skylanders have all the stat boosts from them- I think if I played more casually, I still would have played some of the Heroics with Skylanders I like, so that they had better stats.

And I hate all the unskippable dialogue- you can skip a lot of it (although it's kind of slow), but there's also a lot that you can never skip, and it became incredibly annoying. It made it unfun for me to replay levels because I got interrupted by so much dialogue and I either had to wait a second to skip each line or had to sit through it, waiting for it to finish. It's especially bad in Time Attack, which should feel fast, but doesn't when you're interrupted so much. (It was also a huge annoyance when replaying a level over and over to try and get a good time.)

I think it's got great design for the most part, and I like pretty much all the additions, but I think these are major flaws. I just didn't have fun replaying SWAP Force. For that reason, it's my least favourite Skylanders game.
I still played Survival Mode for a while, to mess around with each Skylander's mechanics and figure them out to the finest detail, although there wasn't really anything in the game that pushed me to. And I got bored of that before too long.

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