This week, we are going to look at one of the biggest games of the 2011 Holiday Season, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure! But first, like I always do, a little history.
Spyro the Dragon was first released in 1998 for the original Playstation. From there he grew into popularity, and had many sequels, and then the series was rebooted into The Legend of Spyro Series, which lasted 3 games, and a movie was also in the works until Activision decided to move Spyro into a different direction.
With the toy company Toys for Bob, they and Activiosn came together and wanted to make a new Spyro game, but of course include toys. There original idea was a much more violent version, with blood. Toys for Bob became frustrated, saying it was not ‘Spyro’, (I mean they are right technically, but isn’t it really Activiosn’ s decision on what is Spyro?) Apparently after that they came together to form Skylanders, which they even admit, didn’t even have to include Spyro in it, but you know add in something recognizable, and people will but it.
After the game was revealed, and the concept of using toys you would have to buy to play the game, plus making it geared towards kids, and Spyro was more of an afterthought, Spyro fans were outraged. I mean MAD! They were even sending death threats to Activision and Toys for Bob, I kid you not. This was in hopes that the huge negative reaction would get the game canceled. Ok guys, I understand being upset about this, especially with how mature The Legend of Spyro series was (or so I am told, never played any in that series), but death threats? It’s a game; it would be like me going into a blind rage because Hollywood made a horrible Live Action Dragonball Z movie. What? They did? MUST DESTORY! (Think of my happy place, think of my happy place) I’m ok; just don’t bring that movie up again.
So the game was released in Mid-October, to nothing spectacular really. In fact the game and toys where easy to find to begin with, and it almost seemed like the game was going to end up being a flop, with would have been a devastating blow to the companies involved. The game had great reviews though. But as the Christmas season came closer, the games, and the figures you needed to buy, were flying off the shelves! Parents and scalpers alike were rushing stores as they opened and cleaning them out. This trend has slowed recently, but it is still hard to find some of the more popular Skylanders. Add that to they have not released all of them; they are coming out in ‘Waves’. The insanity goes further with a few stores having exclusive Skylanders that at the time were going for $100+ on ebay.
So with all this hype, all the buying, is this game any good, or is it just able to advertise incredibly well? Let’s find out.
The game is a simple dungeon crawler, and I do mean simple. It reminds me of the Gauntlet games a lot, which I do miss (MAKE ANOTHER ONE, cause I know the people who could is obviously reading my reviews!). The puzzles are hardly engaging, and sometimes the game literally tells you how to solve it, especially with the pushing turtle puzzles (it makes more sense if you play the game). The levels are very linear, with only a few enabling you to take different routes.
But what makes this game unique from other dungeon crawlers, is you can choose from 32 different Skylanders to play with (As long as you pay for them!) and this is the ingenious part. When you buy the game it comes with 3 Skylanders, Spyro, Trigger Happy, and Gill Grunt. You can complete the game with just those three, but as you go through the game, you collect items called Soul Gems. They unlock special attacks on the Skylanders, and also an in-game advertisement of that Skylander, showing them off. So now the kids go to the parents begging for the awesome Skylander, and boom, millions of dollars.
The worst part of this all, as much as it is geared towards kids, the game is great and easily played by adults, and the game has been praised for that even, causing even more sales. This is marketing at its best people.
So the plot, sense it is geared towards kids, is basic and simple, and escape a few good one liners, not to impressive. The Evil Kaos (voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz, best known as Zim from Invader Zim, but I was surprised to find out also voiced Alpha 5 from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) destroying something called the Core of Light, and causing all the Skylanders to be sent to Earth and turned to toy form (Yes the toys are part of the plot!) So if the ‘toys’ are supposed to be real, isn’t the fact that a company is selling living creatures, stuck in toy form, and forcing people to pay to save their entire world a little dark? I was wrong, this isn’t a kid’s game! This is just sick.
This also cause’s all the Elemental Energies to get spread across the Skyalnds. Now it is up to you, the Portal Master who controls the Skylanders (starting to get a Pokémon feel here), and a unlikely band of nearly forgettable characters, except Flynn the Balloonist, voiced by Patrick Warburton(Best known for, well so many awesome roles) who does have some of the best liners in the game. He reminds me of Launchpad McQuack from Ducktales, which let’s face it, make him far more awesome. Also you will now have the Ducktales Theme song stuck in your head, for hours. This is no joke. Life is like a hurricane, here in Duckburg, AHHH see there it is!
After you obtain all of the Element Energies, you slowly rebuild the Core of Light. Once you have completed that, you can have a face off against Kaos himself, where he sits in a chair, summon ‘dark’ Skylanders he summoned earlier in the game, and uses a Hydra, that adds more difficulty to the battle, but using its magic? (You know instead of coming down and eating the Skylanders, it stays in the background and use’s magic. *sigh*, villains can be really stupid sometimes). After you finally defeat Kaos, he is then sent hurdling towards Earth, turning him into a toy just like he did with the Skylanders. And there is NOOOOOOO way he can come back to be an antagonist again (Spoilers: he confirmed for the sequel!)
I was pretty light on the plot because well there wasn’t much to follow. There were scenes but nothing beyond; you did this, now go here! What is interesting though, the game has a lot of lore in it, and I really enjoyed that much, and it even hinted to ‘Giants’ that use to protect the world, and shocking enough, the sequel that was recent announced is called Skylanders: Giants.
Even with a weak plot, at least for older players, it doesn’t take away from the game too much. Each level has Soul gems, Legendary Treasures, Treasure Chest and more to discover, and you will need at least 1 of Each Skylander Element to 100% the game (Magic, Water, Tech, Fire, Life, Undead, Earth, and Wind). Each level has different areas only a certain Element of Skylander can enter.
Beyond that you have the ‘Adventure Packs’. This is working like the DLC for the game basically, although far more expensive (and yet we still buy them). There are 4 in total, each one containing a new Level to play (in the form another toy you place on the Portal), a new Skylander exclusive to the Adventure Pack, and then 2 items you can place on the portal to help you (Like making two swords appear and slash around you, or a healing potion). Each one is $20.00 apiece.
So this video game not only has you buying the game, extra characters and Adventure Packs, is it all really worth it? That is difficult to answer. Logically, no. The game itself is not too long, and I have heard of people beating the main story in a few days, and then 100%, as long as you have 1 of each Element of Skylander, isn’t to difficult. The Achievements for the game, if you’re playing the 360 or PS3 version, aren’t hard ether. The most difficult one is to beat Kaos without switching out Skylanders. It took a few times, but again not difficult after boosting up your Skylander to the max level. There isn’t even Achievements for getting all the Legendary Treasures, only 10 are needed for the Achievement. Is this game TOO focused on kids, and too easy?
I think games geared towards kids (and well a lot of games really) are almost too easy anymore. Look at the old NES games, some of them were brutally hard, and still geared for kids.
The game, as one would expect has multiplayer. Alright, awesome, 4 Skylanders at once, and what? Only two Skylanders at once? Are you serious! Yes I find this to be one of the greatest flaws in the game. I’m 100% serious, it’s a 2 player game, not four. When was the last time you played a 2 player game? The portal can support 4 Skylanders at once as well, and if there was the problem, make the portal bigger! If it’s from a technological standpoint, I would have invested more into making it happen! Even the sequel is said to only be 2 players as well. If it was from a technological standpoint, why not just do online multiplayer. Then each players is using 1 portal and 1 Skylander, and poof, fixed! And it’s not like Activision doesn’t have experience in online multiplayer. They spend each year putting out the same Call of Duty game.
Hmm looks like this was a little bit of a short review, oh well it happens. So let’s wrap this up. Where does Skylanders: Spryo’s Adventure stand? The game play is solid and just like classic Dungeon Crawlers, and is easy to pick up and hard to put down sometimes. The lack of expansive multiplayer seriously I think holds the game back, and would increase replay ability in my book. For the most part the side characters are forgettable, except Flynn, and your Skylanders never even talk really or have real interaction with the character.
Kaos is a likable villain. He’s rather funny and the voice actor really show’s his personality in him, even to the point of seeing his past character in Kaos, which really works well, and that’s good, cause it could have been a bad way to present it, but hey it worked and we love it.
I would rate this game an 8.5, a solid B. The game is easily addictive and even buying the Skylanders is just as. You will desperately want more levels once you completed the game (and you will get it once the fall hits). Normally I don’t get frustrated with issues on multiplayer aspects, but for a game like this, I think they really missed the mark.