"I didn’t get onto the Skylanders hype train until the Giants predecessor back in 2012, but once I experienced the action figurine/portal aspect of the game, I was immediately hooked."
It’s difficult to get excited about games aimed at kids. There’s a certain disenchanting stigma attached to them and it’s easy to be dismissive of their typically shallow, dumbed-down gameplay and oftentimes-heartless experiences. There are exceptions of course and the Skylanders franchise in particular stands as a prime example of how to treat games for younger audience. I didn’t get onto the Skylanders hype train until the Giants predecessor back in 2012, but once I experienced the action figurine/portal aspect of the game, I was immediately hooked. Activision’s latest entry takes the series to a whole new level by introducing swappable body parts and makes an already superb kids game even more immersive and diverse.
The starter pack comes with a substantial amount of content that’ll keep you busy for a long time before collecting further figurines becomes necessary. Blast Zone, Wash Buckler, and Ninja Stealth Elf offer completely different gameplay styles and being able to bring back your leveled-up characters from past games makes the entire world of Skylanders feel like it’s continually evolving and expanding. While the Ninja Stealth Elf doesn’t have any swappable parts, Blast Zone and Wash Buckler can be switched at their waist to access special portals requiring dual elements and the combination of their particular skills. It’s a simple idea, but it introduces an absurd amount of possible combinations (up to 256) once you start collecting more figurines.
"There’s a genuine reason for collecting the figurines as each toy stores your gameplay data like stats and purchased upgrades."
It may sound like you’re required to collect every toy in order to get the full experience, but that’s not the case. I was able to get hours and hours of varied gameplay with just the starter pack…and introducing only three leveled-up Skylanders from my previous set expanded the gameplay tremendously. This is what makes Skylanders so unique and special. There’s a genuine reason for collecting the figurines as each toy stores your gameplay data like stats and purchased upgrades. And since it’s very clear that Activision is aiming at making yearly releases, you never feel like your old collections will collect dust since you’re able to use them from game to game.
The new swappable features are really fantastic, but I was personally most excited about the addition of a jump button. Being able to jump had an immediate impact on gameplay, particularly when playing with the more agile figurines like the Ninja Stealth Elf. Traversing the environments is far more engaging and adds a whole new layer to exploration and platforming.
"Skylanders Swap Force may be targeted at a younger audience…but here I am, thirty years old and unable to step away from the game’s alluring personality."
The rest of the game has remained largely the same, which is a good thing. Skylanders Swap Force continues expanding an already successful formula with enough tweaks to justify the investment without stepping too far from its core mechanics. You’re still exploring lush jungles, icy terrains, and desert lands that are treated with charming Pixar-esque aesthetics and you’re still surrounded by an amazing voice cast that gives both the villains and protagonists a magnetic charm. Skylanders Swap Force may be targeted at a younger audience…but here I am, thirty years old and unable to step away from the game’s alluring personality. It will be interesting to see how the franchise carries over to the next generation and whether everyone’s collections will still be usable on the upcoming consoles…but until then, Skylanders Swap Force is another big win and I can’t recommend it enough.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox 360