It’s the series that invented the “Toys to Life” genre, and this year’s installment builds on the brand, adds new gameplay, and maintains the fun and humor that made it famous, which is why this Skylanders Superchargers review is especially exciting. For the last four years, Skylanders has asked people, old and young alike, to defend Skyland from Kaos and his army of villains. This year Skylanders SuperChargers has hit store shelves with new characters and, for the first time in the series, vehicles devoted to the battle against Kaos.
It’s hard not to know what Skylanders is, but in the event that you’ve ignored the gaming world and the electronics section of most retail stores over these last few years, the essence of the game is that you place a particular figure on the “Portal of Power” and then get to play as them inside the game. Characters fall under different elements (water, fire, or air for instance) and gain better abilities the more they’re used.
With Skylanders SuperChargers the series takes a turn (pardon the pun) and the vehicles add an entirely new element (again with the puns) to the game. Vehicles are also assigned an element and, if you match a particular character to his or her corresponding vehicle, get souped up, or “Supercharged.” The vehicles are used in a variety of ways, with all of them fitting into the game in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Using your vehicle is different than what you’ve experienced in previous games, but boss battles, level transitions, and racing (of course) are gradually introduced in a way that isn’t overwhelming and helps you learn easily.
The game can be difficult though, but if you have a child or a problem with collectibles, odds are you’ve spent more than your fair share purchasing many of the hundreds of characters available. That means when one of your character drops to zero health and is “knocked out” (not “dead,” another great thing about the game), you’re not overly concerned. Just slap another on the portal and pick up where you left off until you finish the level.
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Those same rules apply here in Skylanders SuperChargers and all of your old figures still work, too. The difference now is, where certain parts of many levels were blocked off unless you had a Skylander of a particular element, this time you need a vehicle of that element to access it. To be blunt, it’s clear that vehicles were added as a way to get players to purchase more toys, instead of circumventing that with figures they’ve already purchased or inherited. And that’s OK, these companies need to make money in order to stay operating and they’ve implemented the vehicles in such a wonderful way that you won’t mind spending a few dollars here and there to grow your collection.
The game isn’t without its faults, though there are few. First, the camera is perhaps the most frustrating part of the whole experience. It’s fixed behind characters and, because the game is third-person ... err, third-creature? ... habit is to try and move the camera around to get a better view of whatever level you’re on, but you can’t. It wouldn’t be such an issue if the levels weren’t so crazy. It’s nice to get puzzles and see mayhem breaking loose constantly, but sometimes the levels are designed in such a way that, without custom camera movement, it feels like the entire game is working against you. Finally, and this is a bit nitpicky, but characters drop to zero health way too easily. Even when fully leveled, driving a Supercharged vehicle, you’ll have to swap out a Skylander four or five times during one single boss fight.
Still, the game is fun, there’s no better way to describe it. The cast of characters you’ve fallen in love with all make a return, complete with their own style of humor that appeals to both children and adults. The story has evolved, and while it still hasn’t moved beyond the whole, “We need help to save our world ... AGAIN!” narrative, it does a nice job of feeling different beyond the inclusion of vehicles. Skylanders SuperChargers is one of those rare titles that appeals to anybody, both in playing or watching. The magic is in the figures, and this year that magic is supercharged.
Overall 8 out of 10