Bargain Gaming – Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure

Posted on Oct 20 2011

All right, before we get into this review I feel that it’s necessary for a bit of a disclaimer. This goes out to those of you fellow gamers who, like me, are fans of the original Spyro games. This game, despite prominently featuring Spyro in the name, advertising, and cut scenes, is not, I repeat NOT, a Spyro game. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is as much a Spyro game as Soul Calibur 4 is a Star Wars game just because it had Yoda and Darth Vader in it as playable characters! In fact, you can play through the entire game without ever once playing as Sypro, and you don’t need to know anything about any Spyro game ever in order to get into this game; that’s how ancillary he is! So for those of you out there who are complaining about his admittedly hideous redesign and mourning the derailment of a great gaming series all I can tell you is to stop it. Just do what I do and pretend that the Spyro in this game is a completely different purple dragon from another world that happens to also be named Spyro and you’ll be fine. Because it is only by looking at this game as its own entity and under its own merits that you can appreciate what it really is: one of the more creative game concepts of this generation.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into the next most controversial aspect of this game: the portal that turns the game’s collectable figures into playable characters. Now, some of you are probably decrying this system as an obvious money making ploy, where the game developers are just trying to milk as much money out of their audience as possible by forcing them to collect their figures on top of the actual game purchase. And my response o this accusation can only be: of course it’s a money making ploy! I mean, seriously, outside of the independent market if you honestly believe that the gaming industry has not been at least partly focused on anything outside of making money and one-upmanship then you are sorely mistaken. What’s important though is how they go about this, and I felt that Skylanders did so rather nicely. The game never forces you to go out and buy more figures in order to progress, access large chunks of content, or obtain achievements, but still manages to reward collectors by giving them additional playing time and optional challenges. They do it tactfully, rewarding those players that do chose to collect while not hampering those who just want to play the game. The only real exception is if you want to achieve 100 percent completion then you will need to buy one guy of each element type (eight in all, so five outside of the starter set), but realistically that’s well within reason considering what they could’ve done.

And man, let’s talk about what they’ve done. This figure system they’ve implemented is, for lack of a different word, brilliant. Not only does it reward you with extra content and a whole new playable character for your game, but it also saves how you level up your characters onto their individual figures, making it easy to swap between your custom characters on the fly. But even more than that, it allows for seamless cooperative play between friends regardless of console choice. That’s right, this game doesn’t care what system you use. If you have a PS3 and your friend has a 360 then you just need to grab your favorite figures and place the one you want to play as next to your friend’s on the portal and you’re in the game. Heck, my brother actually bought his own figure to play with me despite not getting the game, as you don’t even need to own the game in order to play! There’s even an online game you can play for free with your figures that I haven’t had a chance to touch yet, so even if you don’t have the game there is still extra content included with your figure!

Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is the sort of technology I’ve been waiting to make an appearance for a long time. It may not be quite the direction I had envisioned, but the concept of using a separate device in order to play a game seamlessly between consoles has been something I have been interested in for years. Heck, add in a tamagotchi-like element and some arcade style booths to play on and it’s pretty much one of my ideas down to a T. And this isn’t even talking about the figures themselves, which, I’m pleased to say, are actually pretty nice. The coloring is decently done, the figures feel solid enough that you could actually play with them as toys (if you are in the game’s intended age group, of course >.>;), and they’re distinctive and plentiful enough for anyone to come up with their own personal favorites (Mine’s Drobot, pictured above, a cyborg dragon that fights with laser eyes and by shooting buzz saws out of his wings). And considering the fact that these figures are only eight bucks a pop, less than most other cheap toys you’d get at the store, I really can’t complain. Heck, the collecting aspect alone actually satisfies that deeply rooted magpie section of my brain that enjoys gathering random stuff, so all of this video game stuff is just icing on the cake for me. Or cake on top of the cake. Whatever, you know what I mean!

But we haven’t even gotten to the game proper yet, so let’s shift gears. I jokingly commented to a friend before the game came out that I hoped the game itself would be mediocre; otherwise I would be in serious danger of losing a good chunk of my disposable income to this game. Now, having actually played the game, let me tell you that I am in serious trouble here. The game is actually fun to play, albeit a bit easy what with its intended target audience. It’s a top down adventure game where you hack and slash your way through the game’s enemies in order to progress through the levels. It’s a bit simplistic, but the levels are extensive and diverse enough to keep it fresh throughout. And when you add in the ability to switch between Skylanders on the fly via the portal in order to deal with the situation it can be a lot of fun to progress through the level as you see fit. Do you chose to focus on one Skylander to the exclusion of the others or do you play the field evenly, focusing on adapting your play style to the environment as you go through each zone’s elemental bonus and terrain. Add on the easy to pick up and drop out coop and you have a game with a ton of replayability, to the point where it can be a little ridiculous if you’re a completionist.

Skylanders’ story also maintains this lighthearted sense of fun through its use of, admittedly simple, humor throughout. It’s a pretty simple story really: Kaos (voiced by Richard Horvitz, using his amazing Invader Zim voice) has invaded Skylands and defeated the Skylanders, sending them to our world in the form of toys. It is up to you, the Portal Master, to use the Portal of Power in order to summon the Skylanders back to their world so that they can fight Kaos and gather up the relics needed to set things right. It’s a fun yet simple little story that nicely ties in the toy aspect while still allowing you to forget about it relatively early on. This story is only complemented by the game’s excellent voice acting and simplistic and silly sense of humor that permeates the entire experience. It provides a solid background for the game, allowing you to get absorbed into the colorful worlds that the Skylands consist of.

Which brings us to the game’s aesthetic component, where colorful is just a part of it. Each of the game’s eight worlds has its own unique aesthetic theme to it, from the bright and colorful Air element based world to the dark and dreary world of the Undead. Add in some suitable music that maintains an upbeat feel to it while still suiting the situation and you have a laidback, almost cartoony, style going for this game. It was actually kind of a refreshing change of pace for me from the grimy FPS’s that seem to have taken hold of the gaming industry, allowing me to relax and just enjoy myself as I explored the different worlds for collectables. And, as I mentioned before, the VAing is top notch, bumping the sound design up to extremely solid, giving the whole world a very pleasant vibe. I know that Hardcore games like Dark Souls are all the rage nowadays, but I’ll take games that fill me with the same nostalgic sense of joy I had as a child like this one over those brood fests any day of the week!

As such it should be clear to you that I wholeheartedly recommend this game to you, the fans, not despite its portal gimmick but, indeed, because of it! I really want to see this sort of technology succeed so that other developers might also experiment with it and bring in a new era of gaming. One not so focused on motion control based gimmicks or ridiculous graphics but on a game’s accessibility and fun factor. Regardless of whether or not you’re a Spyro fan I urge you to try this game, as even though, as a fan, I hate his latest redesign, as a gamer, I can look past that and recognize the game for what it is: an entirely new game experience. If you’re curious at all then I beg you to go out and try it for yourself, as even if you decide it’s not the kind of game for you it’s still fun to share with the next generation of gamers/younger family members. Hey, if you’ve got some younger siblings that are into gaming that pick this up for them for the Holidays instead of yet another bland FPS. They’ll enjoy the game and being able to share it with you that much more.

In any case I hope you guys enjoyed this review of this intriguing new game and will take a look at it yourselves. Do you think the figure mechanic is a deal breaker or a cool new addition? What do you think of the new Spyro? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Also be sure to enjoy Tyto’s countdown to Halloween, going on right now, which I’ll pick up with a devilish Top Five game list of my own Halloween night. Don’t miss it!

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  • Kibs October 20, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Soul Calbiur 4: Vader’s Rampage

  • Kibs October 20, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Also I’d like to mention that they could have included Spyro without making him butt-ugly. I would have accepted this. Alas, they did not, so I do not. D<

    • Bargain Gamer October 20, 2011 at 3:13 PM

      See, this is what I’m talking about. Just pretend he’s some other alternate universe Spyro and ignore him. Trust me, it’s worth being a bit magnanimous at times. :3

  • Kanashimi October 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    I’m really just reminded of how expensive this game can be. I remember seeing a report that with the game plus all sets of toys and the next batch of toys you’re looking at $320.00 :/

    • Bargain Gamer October 20, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      This is probably true, but that’s assuming you bought every single one, which you’d only really do if you were already a collector anyway. You can beat the entire game with just the original purchase, which is $70 and even if you want to 100% complete the game you only NEED to buy 5 additional figures, meaing a total of $110. It’s really not all that bad unless you let it be.

      • Kanashimi October 20, 2011 at 6:48 PM

        I mean I can understand it from a child’s or collector’s view. I mean it’s kind of nice for those people. I just hope the game is worth it. I mean people pay hundreds on Guitar Hero and Rock Band, so there is a market for spending that much on a single game.

        • Bargain Gamer October 20, 2011 at 7:09 PM

          Well, I can tell you that personally I found the game rather enjoyable. Even if its not a proper Spyro game its still fun in a nostalgic sort of way.

  • nerdwerld October 20, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Those are some interesting concepts in play. It is even more capitalistic than Pokemon, Neopets, and anything else like it.

    • Bargain Gamer October 20, 2011 at 5:03 PM

      It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Makes me wonder how other developers will react to this sort of merged marketing if it performs well.

  • Gannon133 October 20, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I like to say that I don’t know Spyro because I never played it on the Original PlayStation. I saw this as a new game that only had Spyro by coincidence. Seeing from the very long ad on TV, I really like games that are like this. It is interesting kind of innovation I had thought about in my dreams. Nice review and comment on the older fanbase of Spyro, keep it up!

    • Bargain Gamer October 20, 2011 at 7:21 PM

      Heh, thanks for the feedback! And it’s definitely worth checking out even if (maybe even especially if) you’ve never played the original Spyro titles.

  • Renku October 26, 2011 at 3:32 AM

    It does indeed sound fun. I might get when it’s not $70(crazy people).
    Just wish they didn’t just stick Spyro in there cause it would ‘help’ with selling, personally I think it hurts cause they see Spyro look nothing like the original so ones that are fans don’t really want it.
    And really, 😐 WTH where they thinking making him(or any character for that matter) look that ugly?

    • Bargain Gamer October 27, 2011 at 8:38 AM

      I think they were trying to make him kid friendly, but just ended up making him look derpy instead. Ah well, live and learn I guess.

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