Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Skylanders Swap Force Review

The other morning I woke up early to get in on a "pre black Friday deal"...whatever that means. Walmart was selling some stuff pretty cheap, and among it was Skylanders for the PS4.

I am vaguely aware of Skylanders, but always disregarded it as a thing for a younger generation...plus I know how slippery of a slope stuff like this is, and I didn't want to go spend hundreds of dollars on Skylanders figures only to beat myself up for it later. But, for $37 (half off) I figured I'd get another game for my PS4 and try it out. Theres going to be a significant lull until inFamous comes out, so why not? The starter kit included 3 figures, the "portal", and the game.

I was concerned I wouldn't be able to get much fun out of the game with only the figures they provided...I was wrong. I got ~4 days out of the single player game, but had to skip a lot of the "side quests". I was thinking about going for the Platinum trophy, but it requires finishing the games score-mode challenges, which I'm pretty sure means I need to do all the side quests in each level. Fortunately, the game seems fun enough that I'll probably buy the older games (and some required older figures) to see what they have to offer.

I'm not quite sure why, but I always assumed Skylanders was a "party game"...something like Raving Rabbids or Warioware for the Wii, or Viva Pinata Party Animals for the 360. I thought it was just a mindless collection of simple mini games. I was pleasantly surprised. Skylanders is more of a platforming beat-em-up. I can't speak for the previous two games, but this one seemed like it was definitely aimed at an all ages audience. Don't expect any Zelda level puzzles from the game, and the path is fairly linear, but I never facepalmed at lame dialogue. The voice acting is actually a very strong point for this game. The main character (the one that isn't your army of Skylanders figures) is voiced by Patrick Warburton (you might not know his name, but he's in EVERYTHING. Joe from Family Guy is probably where most of you will know him from) and the villain in the game is voiced by the guy who did Invader Zim - exactly AS Zim. The voice actors flow very impressively. There are no hiccups or obvious "reading lines" tones. Very well done.

The game looks very impressive on the PS4...but it is a launch title, so thats probably all I'm going to say about the graphics...other than that everything looks very crisp and bright. There is a vast array of enemies (although many are variants of other enemies) with 2-3 being introduced every single level. They attack in a variety of ways, most of them pretty different from the others. I played through on Normal, and I found the final boss to actually be fairly challenging. I was down to my last (of 3) Skylanders...and I know that to beat it on the newly unlocked Nightmare mode, I'm probably going to need a few more figures. Everything is paced pretty well, and you can choose to distract yourself with side missions at every fork in the road. Successfully completing these side missions unlocks a stat-boosting collectible to be applied within the game.

The level environments changed significantly from chapter to chapter, and it never felt bored or repetitive. The in game NPCs are all unique to their worlds, and will bring older gamers back to that of Spyro the Dragon (which this series is loosely associated with.) I'm not sure exactly where the similarities are, but even my mom (not a gamer at all) walked by at one point and said "hey, this reminds me of Spyro!", so they must be fairly obvious if she was able to see that after years and years of me not playing a Spyro game. Each place you travel to keeps the game feeling fresh and exciting, and I was always interested in what was coming next.

I'm a little sad I waited this long to get in on this Skylanders thing. It was very fun, and I definitely plan on revisiting it with some more figures. I'd like to eventually get the Platinum trophy for all 3 of these, so I'll be revisiting some of the previous games as well. While I've read that this is definitely the most polished and best installment in the series, it was enough fun to make me consider the older ones. Whether you have kids or just want to have a less stressful fun afternoon, this game is worth a play. I'm not sure I'd pay full retail for the experience, but at the $37 price tag it was well worth the gamble. I'd definitely pay $60 for the starter set, and if you keep an eye out (especially this time of year) you can get some great deals.

I'm not being generous by giving Skylanders a solid 9/10.

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