I’ve been meaning to post about this. Over Christmas the kids accumulated some gift money which they took to the store to buy various things.
LBO picked up Skylanders for the PS3 and we drove around town looking for the extra figures that are available for it, only finding one. They’ve been sold out since.
LLO bought some Pokemon toys, a Crayola 3D picture kit, Nerf gun refill and a flash light toy.
What is Skylanders?
Well, it’s a video game and figure collection rolled into one. You can use the figures in the game once you collect them. This works across platform – the action figures aren’t tied to any one system so they’ll work on the PS3, Wii, XBox 360 and DS 3d. The item that is platform specific is the “Portal of Power”. This is a small round device that syncs with the console and lets it know which figure (I’m reluctant to say ‘action figure’ because the figures are not adjustable) is on the pad. Further, the figure stores data so if it is your figure that is level 10 and has all his abilities unlocked in the game, it will be level 10 with all its abilities unlocked on your friend’s system too.
This is a fantastic idea on its own, but considering that it is also about collecting, it’s a double win for the kids. Not so much for the parents because it’s the regular price of a video game (comes with the Portal of Power and three figures) and if your kids want to collect all the figures, it will cost about 300$ – assuming you can find them on the shelves.
Back to the game itself. The gameplay is quite simple. There is no jumping (first thing the LBO noted) short of jump pads, so it’s more of a solving the level type of game and less of a jumping puzzle type game. Attacking is quite simple, much in the way of Lego type games, lots of mashing the buttons. The boss fights aren’t overly challenging but seem challenging enough for 6-10 year olds (which is the target age group; they advertise 10 and up, but I don’t see kids much older than 12 or 13 finding it ‘cool’). Some of the phases involve dodging the bad which is slightly different. Each of the areas and figures is tied to an ‘element’: Tech, Magic, Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Death and Life. When you enter an area, it will tell you which element is the most effective there. If you have a figure of that type, you can swap it right there.
That’s one of the cool things about the game, you can swap figures in and out as much as you want so long as they’re not knocked out (they don’t die). Knocked out characters reset on a level change so it’s not like you lost them and have to start over short of starting the level over. You can do this in the middle of a boss fight even. In a way, the more figures you have the more ‘lives’ in game you have. It’s really sneaky way of reinforcing that you want to buy more figures.
One complaint I have with the game is the inability to skip dialog. Some minor parts can be skipped, but not all of them. When the kids are fighting the main boss, losing and trying again and again – it becomes tiresome to hear the villain prattle on over and over.
Short of ‘combat’, the game is focused on discovery and exploring small zones. There are secret treasures, scrolls (with nonsense on them) to read (I think they’re actually read for you) and extra power tokens that you can find specific to each of the figures which unlocks a greater ability for them. These last items also serve as in game advertising for the figures because you have an option to watch a short cinematic showing what that figure looks like in game. Lastly, there are several side zones which are tied to a figure’s element. If you don’t have a figure of that type, you can’t enter these zones. The rewards for these zones are usually a hat which you can put on the figure to have it gain some sort of attribute like increased damage, better armor or faster movement.
As you can see, there is a lot of funneling the kids to wanting more figures. Which I am fine with, oddly.
There are other supplement packs which add levels and give access to magic items but what I really see happening, is carrying the figures forward in sequel games. It’s really a nice money making set up Activision has.
Action figures that retain data.
Video games that use the figures and data.
Expansion packs that add on to those games.
I admit, this is a nice little innovation.
I have to say that the game seems a bit short. The LBO and LLO are already to the last boss so unless there is more after defeating Kaos, it isn’t overly long. There is duel mode and you can run some challenges solo – I tried one, it was actually tricky thanks to a short timer. There are also all the mini areas unlocked by figures of specific element types.
Even TheWife kinda likes the game and asks if I want to play when the boys on hogging the computers.