The Skylanders franchise has come such a long way in such a short amount of time. Since the action figure-fueled series first came to life in 2011, it's become an instant best-seller for Activision and the developers at Toys For Bob, between the all-ages adventure within the games themselves – the original and last year's Giants sequel – and the interactive figures you could switch out at any time. Some of these toys even glowed for a greater effect, like the Giants characters that added an extra bit of oomph to the game.
Now another year has come around, and that means we're getting another Skylanders game to keep us busy. This time around, the developers at Vicarious Visions are stepping up for a new adventure called Skylanders: Swap Force. It'll still support the original characters and equipment (read: interactive portal) from prior games, but it throws in an interesting new element – interchangeable characters with top and bottom halves.
The adventure is about on the same level – you're once again travelling from level to level and taking on evil creatures both big and small – but, as before, you can change who you're battling with by placing a figurine on the portal. With the new Swap Force characters, however, you have multiple combinations you can use. For instance, take Washbuckler, an Octopus pirate with a liking for pistols. You can actually take the top half off of the figure, replace it with another character, Free Ranger, and place him back on the portal. Now, you have the bottom half movement capabilities, but a totally different setup for offense with the top half – yep, Freebuckler
Not every combination will be as successful as the whole character's natural skill set, but it's fascinating seeing the 256 different combos that are possible with the new figures you buy. 16 new standard characters are being introduced, along with eight new Light Core characters that glow on the portal once they're put into position. And, as always, you can use your older Skylander figures, since their talents won't go to waste. (This includes both the original game and Giants.)
Swap Force has an expanded universe that picks up where the first two games left off. As before, you can access certain areas with special characters, cleaning up on loot left behind by enemies or completing a certain challenge – like ascending a wall using gravity boots – to earn special rewards. However, this time around, Vicarious Visions has added a vital new feature to make them even more accessible – you can jump. That's right, we finally have a Skylanders game where the characters know a thing or two about verticality. Huzzah!
Though the game doesn't go too far out of bounds in terms of Skylanders presentation, Swap Force certainly looks pleasant, with a good amount of in-game variety and cute animations to keep the kids happy. The Wii U version is still the most accessible out of the bunch, as the stats for your character read out in real time on the GamePad display. However, the other versions look just as good, and you can once again challenge friends in cool battle arenas once two characters are on the portal. Let's see who the toughest Skylander is, shall we?
With the ability to change up characters however you wish, returning features that made the series such a hit to begin with, and, hey, the ability to actually jump somewhere, Skylanders: Swap Force is likely to make a killing on the game market when it arrives later this year for multiple platforms. Even with Disney Infinity offering its fierce competition, Activision is assuring there's still plenty of room for these guys to run.
Even without their original legs…