Skylanders Spyro's Adventure Review
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On 11/02/2011 at 11:59 PM by Chessa DiMola
After the excitement of the toys has worn off, kids will be left with a forgettable game.
Best suited for elementary age children with friends that also have the game.
When Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure first showed up at my door, I was giddy, to say the least. Being a huge Spyro fan for years and having an obsession with collecting all things video game related, this game seemed more than up my alley. Admittedly, my first impressions of the game were positive; it captured the vibrant look of past Spyro titles, and the goofy characters captured the series’ charm. The first few levels were strangely linear for a “Spyro” title, but I merely attributed this fact to being part of the tutorial and introduction. However, two hours in, I realized that this game had absolutely nothing to do with the little purple dragon, and was disappointed to see that his only reason for being there, was to form a familiar foundation.
So the game used Spyro’s name in order to attach some sense of familiarity and quality to the game right off the bat; big deal, it isn’t like developers haven’t done that before. However, if you are one of the many who anticipate purchasing this title based on the fact that you just might get the next greatest Spyro game since the original trilogy, just abandon those dreams right now and do yourself a favor. Besides the beautiful landscapes and silly characters and humor, there are no correlations between Skylanders and other Spyro titles; other than Spyro himself whose fierce appearance makes him look like some dark and unnatural version of his former self, resurrected from the grave.
While Skylanders is very loosely called an action title, it is more specifically similar to a loot-based brawler (like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance), in which players fight along a linear path collecting power-ups and treasure by the boat loads, which they can spend to improve their character. The only problem with this is that Skylanders is an incredibly watered down version of this sub- genre.
Now of course the natural retort is, “But this game is intended for children for goodness sakes.” Please. The target age audience has been playing Pokémon for years, and believe me, if they can handle all the intricacies of a modern Pokémon title, Skylanders is going to be a laughable walk in the park.
The gameplay is as mediocre as it gets. Players control a Skylander throughout a bunch of different worlds, walk along a linear path, use one of four attacks to kill unbelievably weak enemies, get stopped mid-level to have an obnoxiously long, sleep-inducing conversation with some character, brawl some more, open a bunch of crates and chests for loot, collect a bunch of power-up stuff, and then return to the hub world to listen to more unending conversations until they finally make their way to the next level. Thankfully, players can go through the game with another individual, which makes it a bit more enjoyable, but also makes an already unchallenging game mind-numbingly easy.
Had this game embraced the genre a bit more, the gameplay could have been more well-rounded and fleshed out to an acceptable degree. As it stands, running and tapping a button is all players will be able to do (other than walk at a snail's pace), especially at first. Although players can level up their characters, the end result doesn’t feel particularly significant, leaving purchased upgrades or findable items to be the only noticeable source of stat increase. These stat upgrades, purchased power-up upgrades, special moves (unlocked after finding an item called a Soul Gem, and findable hats (which increase particular attributes when worn) could have all been really useful - adding depth and allowing players to further customize their character in terms of their desired strategy – if the game was even the tiniest bit challenging. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Skylanders really doesn’t have anything to do with the game itself, it’s all about the toys; all 32 of them.
What parents will get when they buy the Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures Starter Pack, is the video game, three figurines, the Portal of Power, and a game that is only partly playable. This is due to many sections of the game being blocked off since only certain types of Skylanders (there are eight main types) can access it. As such, parents will need to go out and purchase MORE toys so their child can gain access to all of the gameplay contained in the game they just bought. These blocked off areas will give players access to bonus items that may increase a character’s stats, give them a special skill, or hide an item players will need to complete a level one hundred percent. Several times throughout a level the game will also inform players that they need to change the Skylander type they are using, as a particular type is stronger in that area. However, often times the enemies are no different from one area to another, making the suggested switch seem like an arbitrary excuse to change Skylander characters by removing one figurine from the Portal of Power and placing another one there in its place.
Look, I get it, I really do. For the first time toys can really be combined with a video game to be something new and special. From a child’s point of view I can see how initially it’s awesome to change Skylanders all the time, or take their Skylander to one of their friends’ houses and play in their game – even if they don’t have the same console. The cross-compatibility allowance of the Portal of Power is a fantastic idea and removes the system boundary issue that many kids encounter with other multi-platform titles. With the variety of characters, kids will be able to spend hours playing together, leveling up all of their different characters, and finishing every level to one hundred percent completion.
Conceptually, it is a fantastic idea, but there are many flaws with the idea in execution. First off, there are too many toys. The blocked off areas only apply to the type of Skylander, not the individual one. So not only does owning four of the same type wind up being completely useless, it’s a steep monetary investment for some families. Considering the starter pack only comes with three Skylanders, you’re talking about needing to purchase twenty-nine additional characters (as of this writing) which could run families upwards of two hundred dollars - and that’s not including the initial price of the game! Even worse is as children find these Soul Gems to unlock special moves for a specific Skylander, the game advertises the character, showing off their obviously much better moves.
As anyone who has lived through a fad will know, having “enough” is never really enough, and the majority of kids are going to want more and more toys. After all, leveling up new characters is really the only way to keep the experience going.
While I don’t think Skylanders is a bad game, I believe too much emphasis was placed on the toys themselves, and that the quality of the game, and how deeply the toys could have been integrated within, got pushed to the side somewhere along the way. Normally, the video game carries the toys that are created by that world, but in this case, the toys carry the video game.
Being the first of its kind, I think Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure did a decent job at creating this new hybrid experience. It’s a neat idea, and one that will make plenty of kids happy while the experience, appeal, and the monetary allowance lasts. If we see more of the series in the future, next time developers should focus on making a good video game that takes full advantage of the characters and their unique attributes.