October 27, 2011

The Real Toy Story

Lasting First Impressions of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure from Activision

Skylanders_Logo_Final This is definitely just a kids game, I told myself when I first heard about Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.  Well, I was right, but what I was not prepared for was how much fun this game is even for an adult.  Activision has created something here that definitely has the potential to grow wings and carry on for some time to come.  Knowing Activision, this is precisely what they’re banking on with this new foray and twist on the classic Spyro legacy.

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, and let’s get this out of the way early, is not a Spyro game.  Spyro the Dragon has a part to play in the game as one of 32 available characters, but that is as far as this goes to being an actual Spyro game.  Activision is simply, at this point, using the Spyro name to help players understand that this takes place in the Spyro universe and to bring back fans of the original Spyro games.  Once those fans, and new fans alike, find themselves enthralled in this new world, I’m sure the Spyro name will be dropped from subsequent titles.  I say that with high hopes that this will not be a onetime excursion as this game and the concepts around it are worthy of years more play.

986  Activision Lifestyle Photography

Skylanders is a very unique game. Included with every copy comes the “Portal of Power”, a toy platform that plugs into the console or PC and ‘teleports’ the available Skylanders toys into the game.  Each starter kit comes with the game, a Portal of Power and three Skylanders toys.  Each of these toys, used in the game, will remember all their items and upgrades that you have obtained for them and and then be transported over to a friend’s game or onto another platform intact for use in co-op play or PvP Battles.  Think of Pokemons but with actual action figures to collect for use in the game.  Or raising your own Chao on the Dreamcast‘s VMU.  Who hasn’t dreamed that their toys were alive ala Toy Story? Well, now they are through the magic and mystical Portal of Power.

I thought the concept of this game was fantastic and was eager to see it work.  I never imagined it would be as fun as it turned out to be.  Playing through the first few sections of the game was simple, unadulterated joy and using the action figures to swap characters in and out of the game is an enthralling excersise.  Each of the available characters contain one of eight different elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Magic, Tech, Life, and Undead) and the game is designed with secret areas that only specific elemental characters can gain access too.  Specific areas of the game also provide additional bonuses to your character if it possess a particular elemental power.  This is wonderful as it allows the player to continuously level up several characters at a time and, of course, entices players to buy more action figures to “collect them all”.  While you only need to have one of each element (8 characters) to experience the full game, I’m sure many will want to collect more than that.  I’ve already gone out and purchased more characters so I can experience the game to its fullest.

Battle Enemies

Skylanders is very much a linear platforming game.  Since it’s designed for children aged 6-12 it’s not overly difficult but it is still a joy to play.  For the kid in all of us, this game provides a fairly laid back and relaxing experience.  Graphically, it’s not overly detailed, and the XBOX360 version doesn’t look like much more than a Wii title, but it doesn’t need to be as it still delivers all the fun and excitement it intends to. Complete with enemy battles, puzzles, exploration, mini-games, PvP, co-op play and, of course, the care of leveling of your own action figures, this game has it all.  My only complaint is that, being presented as a 3D platformer, there is no camera control and I am constantly wanting to use the right stick to look around.

Each character you own also comes with a code to bring it to life on the web version of the game over at Skylanders: Spyro’s Universe online (at the time of this writing, however, this site was very unstable and I could not get past the registration screens).  While I have not experienced it myself yet, I understand that the Portal of Power for your console will also work on the Online game allowing you to transfer your leveled up characters into Spyro’s Universe for play online.

Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure was written by Academy Award-nominated Toy Story feature film writers, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow so the story is slick, inviting and full of wonderful humour.  Patrick Warburton lends his voice to a character named Flynn and infuses his usual charm that just makes you love his character.

After my initial hour playthrough, I found myself coming home wanting to play more and took my daughter out to buy more action figures.  She wanted to buy some for herself since the included three were now part of my game. She turned to me at the store before she bought the toys and said, “What if I don’t like the game?”  “You will,” I told her and I was right.  She was immediately hooked and was eager to play for “just a few more minutes” before bed last night.  Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure aimed to capture the hearts of young kids by giving them the ability to “Bring Your Toys to Life”.  I’m sure they didn’t count on capturing the hearts of the big kids too.  I truly hope this idea catches on and this franchise doesn’t end here.

Activision, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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