When dealing with peripherals, gamers' living rooms are usually cluttered with various plastic instruments, wii-remote attachments, or other add-ons that seemingly take our gaming experience to the next level. Developer Toys for Bob takes this immersion one step further with Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, where the boundaries between toys and video games are basically nonexistant.
To kick things off, this isn't your typical Spyro game, in fact, you can opt to not play as Spyro during the entire story. Confused? See in this game, Spyro is just one of the many Skylanders (32 to be exact), creatures that act as the protectors of ancient lands called Skylands. If trouble were to ever arise, beings called the Portal Masters would summon these Skylanders to fight for them and keep the peace. This is where you come in. The Portal Masters are no more; the last one was turned into a floating spirit head. Also, all of the Skylanders were turned into miniature, plastic versions of themselves and were transported to Earth (conveniently to nearest retail chains near you). With the included USB powered Portal of Power and Skylanders figures, you're able to restore peace to Skylands once more.
How Skylanders works is simple; set whichever figure you want to play as on the Portal of Power and watch it be transported into the game. It's a fairly neat system that recognizes all of the various Skylanders instantly. It also features drop in/drop out co-op, where a friend can easily join in by placing another Skylander figure on the portal as well. Each character also has his own associated items and gold, so whatever items you pick up playing as Whirlwind the air Dragon, for example, will stay with her, even when you switch her out.
The game plays much like Gauntlet. You choose a character and tear through over a dozen chapters as you level up, gain new abilities, and acquire new gear, except with a more kid friendly undertone. Every Skylander starts off fairly weak, but as you go through the game and level them up, they become quite the force to be reckoned with. Besides just blasting away everything in sight, the game encourages exploration, as there are always a few areas hidden away in each level that contain extremely useful items, such as chests with treasure that can be used to upgrade abilities, stat boosting hats, or each character's signature skill. The key to acquiring some of these are elements.
Each Skylander has an association with one of the eight elements. Each level houses a few elemental doors which can only be accessed by a Skylander of that same element. A quick switch to Spyro will grant you access to any magic doors, while Trigger Happy will unlock tech doors and so on. The system is only flawed by the fact that you're essentially required to go and buy at least one Skylander of each element (excluding the ones that come packaged with the game) to be able to access every single door.
Many of the Skylanders do play differently. Sure the game is made up of two attack buttons with an upgradeable third one, but I appreciated that the characters all not only looked different, but possessed varied abilities. Spyro comes with his signature fireball and charge attack, Gill Grunt blasts his enemies away with a powerful harpoon attack or a steady water jet stream, and Trigger Happy is a nimble little guy with two fast shooting revolvers and a golden safe that he chucks at enemies (these all come with the game).
For a game that's primarily aimed at kids, there is quite a lot of content to be found here. Besides the fairly lengthy Story mode, which can also be replayed again to finish all of the side goals, such as completing a level under a certain time or finding all of the hidden chests, there is also a multiplayer mode which pits you and a friend in arena style combat. Not to mention, leveling up all the various characters will take some time as well.
The best part is that you're not required to purchase any of the additional characters. Sure, you won't unlock every single elemental door, and you are limiting yourself to only three playable characters, but the game is still absolutely beatable, and you have full access to all the achievements, as well. On the flipside, there are some added benefits to owning these little guys. Each time you register one in your game, you get another added bonus to your characters, such as 110% Experience Point gain.
You're getting the same content on each system as far as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii goes, except you're obviously getting a much better resolution and textures with the two former systems. That said, the game still doesn't look that stellar on either of the hi-def systems, and looks more like it was a port from the Wii, which is a bit disappointing.
Though the game itself isn't very groundbreaking in terms of gameplay, the tech behind it surely is. It's a fun dungeon crawler that's even better when you have a friend along for the journey. The game never forces you to buy any additional characters, and is just as enjoyable with the starting ones. That said, the additional characters are a blast to play as, and shouldn't be dismissed purely on the basis that they must be bought at a retailer.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]