I want to start off by thanking Activision for sending me a free review copy of Skylanders SuperChargers.
Between my collection and how much I talk about Skylanders, I think I could be classified as a fanboy. So you know that I would have bought the game anyway, but this was definitely a nice bonus.
Skylanders SuperChargers is the fifth game in the Skylanders franchise. With a growing amount of competition in the Toys-To-Life (TTL) genre that Skylanders pioneered, many fans believed that Skylanders would need to find a little something extra this year to stay on top.
I think they may have found something.
The Starter Pack
I think this was a bit of a misstep from Activision this year. Now don't get me wrong, this does not ruin the game, but I believe that it is important for you to understand the situation so that you are not disappointed down the road.
Long-time Skylanders fans are used to having one Starter Pack for consoles and a separate Starter Pack for the Nintendo 3DS.
Since Skylanders SWAP Force two years ago, we have also grown accustomed to a Collector's Edition or Dark Edition Starter Pack. These have been well received and haven't really been a big issue.
This year though, if you're a serious collector, you're looking at an astounding six Starter Packs that will be needed to complete your collection. I think you can see why this is going to be a problem for parents and collectors alike.
Before we even get into the gameplay, I want to take a few minutes to discuss the physical equipment. In this genre I think it's just as important as the game itself.
So let's see what year five gives us.
Last year, for Skylanders Trap Team, marked the first time the Portal of Power had been drastically changed. This year though, the changes are quite drastic once again.
This Portal is quite obviously themed to the new game. It begins with the silver engine block (which also houses the Trap Slot), continues on through the blue-flame exhaust, and end on the black surface somewhat resembling a road.
While this Portal definitely doesn't seem quite as magical as the original Portal was designed to be, it is quite practical.
The new shape allows space for large Skylanders while still leaving room for a Vehicle (as a Vehicle is required on the Portal at all times).
My biggest complaint about the new Portal I admit is superficial, but shouldn't the blue flames light up?
I think that would have been a nice concession for fans and still fit within the theme of the game.
From what I have seen so far, the figures have all been well-crafted and cleanly painted (with one exception on my Deep Dive Gill Grunt).
They have learned over the years and I do not expect to see many of these figures losing arms, legs, or even heads as we have in the past. There is only one joint I'd be worried about (Fiesta's neck) and I still think you'd have to be pretty rough with it to break.
Even though eight of the SuperChargers are re-imagined characters, I'm really liking the new moves, upgrades, and weapons they've been given. They're familiar faces, but they have refreshing new styles of play.
The Vehicles are a very welcome addition to my collection.
By removing the base that the standard Skylander figure has, these Vehicles really do look, feel, and move like a kid's toy.
If they didn't have Activision stamped on the bottom of them, I don't think you'd have any idea that they belong to a video game. I think this also helps to inspire the Toys-to-Life magic that Skylanders was founded on.
The Vehicles were purposely kept on the small side so that they could comfortably fit on the Portal with two other Skylanders. However, they do have some weight to them and are very well constructed (though not waterproof).
In an unprecedented move, Activision has come together with Nintendo to create the first ever Toys-to-Life crossover figures.
This is a cross between Activsion's Skylanders and Nintendo's amiibo, which the fans have affectionate named Skymiibo.
Bowser and Donkey Kong are Skylanders this year. What makes these figures really special is that with a simple twist of the base, you can go from Skylanders to amiibo and back again.
Unfortunately, there is a downside. Bowser, DK, and their Vehicles are only functional on Nintendo consoles (Wii, Wii U, and 3DS).
I'm sure this was a stipulation in the contract that was necessary to make this deal happen with Nintendo, but this is also the reason we have six Starter Packs instead of two this year.
I hope you've kept reading this far because I think I've gotten most of my complaints out of the way already.
After all, Skylanders is not just about collecting figures. Skylanders is a game and in this next section I hope that I am able to convey just why I am still super excited about Skylanders.
Skylanders SuperChargers provides another solid story of Kaos trying to destroy the Skylands (although he has some help this time).
The writing of David A. Rodriguez (the author of many Skylanders comics) shines through as they really begin to tug of your heartstrings halfway through the game. I only wish they had played it up a bit more.
I was glad to hear many familiar melodies reappear throughout the game, but other than the tunes I already knew nothing really grabbed my attention.
The aptly named Skystones Overdrive was rather refreshing.
I have enjoyed Skystones in all of its previous iterations, but Overdrive really ramps it up.
Although I don't play Hearthstone, I've been told that Skystones Overdrive is basically a simplified version. If so, I can definitely see why Hearthstone has become so popular.
In previous versions of Skystones I would challenge myself to not lose any health, but that is no longer an option in Skystones Overdrive. While I'm still undefeated, the computer has come dangerously close to beating me a few times. This is a welcome challenge.
Additionally, Activision used Skystones this year to show us that they are listening. They do have eyes and ears out in the Skylanders communities.
A number of Skystones shout fan service.
For instance you can collect a Malefor Skystone. For those who don't know Malefor is a classic villain from the original Spyro the Dragon series. Many fans were hoping he would show up in Trap Team, but he didn't. I believe he did show up in one of the recent Skylanders comics which led many fans to believe that he might become the main villain in SuperChargers, but (SPOILER) that didn't happen either.
In any case, my absolute favorite Skystone is Hot Steak.
Those of you who haven't been following SuperChargers since its announcement back in April may be confused by this one.
Shortly before the announcement, some stores put pre-order pages up online. In the description of the Starter Pack, it told us that we would get 1 Vehicle named Hot Steak. At that time we didn't know much about the game. We thought it sounded feasible. Skylanders is a kinda silly game aimed at kids. They could give us a T-bone steak on wheels.
Well, by now you all know that Hot Steak was meant to be Hot Streak. It was a simple typo.
But the point is that someone at Activision was listening to this discussion.
I strongly believe that the Hot Steak Skystone was a late addition purely for the enjoyment of the fans that meticulously process every last detail of Skylanders information they can find year-round.
The way collectibles are handled this year has changed. Typically, in each level you would be looking for three Treasure Chests, a couple of Hats, a couple of Soul Gems, a Winged Sapphire, I think you know the drill.
While all of those items still exist in Skylanders SuperChargers, I can't tell you where to find an one item in particular. All chests contain random loot.
The chests will always appear in the same location, but what you get from them will be different for each player.
Personally, I always liked knowing exactly what was in each level and seeing the items checked off on the final screen. Not really a fan of this new system.
If I had a “Most Improved” award to hand out, it would go right here.
Better Platforming and Jumping
I think we all rejoiced when they introduced jumping in Skylanders SWAP Force, but in the past two games it's always felt a bit unnatural, disjointed, and stiff. That has changed in SuperChargers.
Not only does the jumping feel natural, but they have really put it to good use.
The platforming of Skylanders SuperChargers is the best we've seen to date. While I wouldn't quite put it on the level of something like Ratchet and Clank (one of my other favorite franchises), it is definitely getting closer.
Another common complaint from Skylanders fans is that the characters (especially the gimmick-landers) tend to move slowly. While I believe that the lack of speed was to compensate for the enormous power that they gave some of these characters, I have to agree that it was painful at times.
SuperChargers though? You guessed it. Speed is no longer an issue.
I would actually say that all of the characters that I've played with (old and new) seem fast. While there definitely is still a difference in speed between characters, they all play faster than in previous installments.
The best move here is that Spitfire (a Starter Pack figure) might just be the fastest SuperCharger out there.
More Complex Puzzles
Next I want to thank the designers and developers for letting the puzzle-solving grow up a little. The most common type of puzzle in Skylanders includes some sort of blocks. Typically, these blocks would have one singular path that they can move along and you just had to follow the arrows.
While I understand that they're programming for their key demographic, I think that they're not only underestimating them, but I think it's okay to offer them a little bit of a challenge. That's how you grow.
In SuperChargers, I think they have done this well. The block puzzles still exist, but there is far more freedom in where you can move the blocks which means that you actually have to think where you're pushing them and not just follow the arrows.
Even with this freedom, I believe that all the puzzles have still been designed so that you cannot move the blocks into a position where you will not be able to solve the puzzle.
Improved Level Design
Finally, I want to take a minute to recognize the Level Designers.
This is by far the most complex and diverse group of levels we've ever seen in a Skylanders game.
No longer are you just running down a hallway with an Elemental Zone on your right and a cave with a Winged Sapphire on your left. The levels have definitely gotten wider giving you multiple paths and more secret areas to discover.
I don't want to ruin too much for those of you who haven't played the game yet, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by all the differing styles of play that these new levels give us. I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Obviously there is one more feature that will instantly make SuperChargers different from any other Skylanders game you've played.
There are Vehicle sections scattered throughout each of the levels. Some are for Land vehicles, some are for Sea vehicle, and some are for Sky vehicles. Even better, any Skylander can drive any Vehicle.[box]NOTE: The Sea and Sky sections are ALWAYS optional. Understandably (as they want you to buy more vehicles) they often make it seem like you “need” to go that way, but you don't.
Sometimes it's as simple as following the main path past the Sea/Sky section, but other times it's not as obvious.
Keep an eye out for alternate paths, doorways, and even people to talk to. They can all help you move forward without accessing the Sea/Sky areas.[/box]
The vehicles handle surprisingly well. Personally, I have the most trouble controlling the Sea vehicles especially when I'm not just headed straight down a racetrack. But I've gotten better over time and I think the handling with grow on most people the more you play.
These Mods will not necessarily be for a Vehicle you have in your collection, but you should be able to find some that are useful to you. The Mods not only alter the look of your Vehicle, but they will change stats like Top Speed, Acceleration, Handling, Armor, and Weight.
Then using Gear Bits (Gold for Vehicles) you collect in the game you will be able to upgrade your vehicle's Shield and Weapons.
Not impressed yet? Did I mention that there's a full on racing game included with Skylanders SuperChargers?
Yep. That's right. In addition to the main Adventure Mode (which I hope you've gathered by now I think is much improved from years past), you get a full Racing Mode which could almost be a separate game in its own right.
With the base game you get six race tracks (2 Land, 2 Sea, 2 Sky). You can race on these tracks alone or with a friend locally in split screen mode. You will also have the ability to race online against up to three other humans (and four computer players).
These tracks are all very well-designed and play well online as well as offline. This isn't something they added as an afterthought. These are high quality tracks.
If you find that you like racing, but want more options, I highly recommend picking up one or more of the Action Packs. The Trophy included in this pack will unlock two more tracks and a few new Modes which I outline in this video.
As I mentioned briefly while talking about the racing above, Skylanders is now online.
Not only can you race online, but you have the ability to play co-op Adventure Mode with a friend online.
This is something fans have been pining for over the past few years. So it will be interesting to see just how much it gets used in the coming months.
People always want to know what there is to do after they complete the main story.
There may not be a dedicated Arena Mode or a straight up Battle Mode, but there's still plenty to do.
Have you beaten Nightmare Mode? The Bosses are definitely a challenge here. If you don't have an army of Skylanders, this will take you a while to beat.
Hugo, Tessa, and Kaos have daily activities for you. Buzz has some interesting challenges personalized for each Skylander. There are SuperCharged Challenges for each SuperCharger and their Signature Vehicle and there are also separate challenges for Vehicles of each element in the Skylanders Academy.
Combine all that with the online racing and really there is no end to what you can do.
Overall, I think Skylanders SuperChargers is a fantastic entry into the Skylanders franchise.
I could tell you that I give it an 8/10, but since I haven't rated any of the other games, that really means nothing to you. So let me put it this way:
For the past four years I have always stated that the original, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, was the best game in the series. It had the best story, the levels were just the right length, it wasn't trying too hard, and it was the game I've replayed the most over the years.
With Skylanders SuperChargers out now, I think I have to change my answer.
There will always be a few things I don't like, but SuperChargers did a lot of things right and I am going to have a lot of fun playing it. I hope you will too.