Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure Review

Skylanders reinvents Spyro for a new generation with its innovative tie-in toys, but it needs more content to offer true value.

First impressions of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure aren't good. There's a new peripheral to clutter the living room, a collectable range of toys required to play the game, and the reappearance of a tried and tested video game character--all the components needed for a cynical money-making scheme. Ironically, however, it's the toys and how they are used in the game that turn what might have been a derivative action platformer into something much more interesting.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure revolves around how these figures work. Owning the physical toy enables you to access the related character in the game by placing it on the Portal peripheral that comes in the starter set. Your progress levelling up the character, collecting money, purchasing more abilities, and discovering stat-boosting hats are all saved back to the toy itself rather than to your console. This is the first of a clutch of innovations that make Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure more appealing. For example, this approach to saving enables you to switch characters in the game by simply replacing the figure on the Portal with another one from your collection. In about three seconds, without pressing any buttons, you are back in the fray with your new character. Furthermore, a second player can join by pressing a button and placing his or her toy on the Portal.

Although this system generally works well, it can get a little confused when younger players overzealously switch figures on the portal. The downside is that rather than accessing the characters you have unlocked in the game, you are limited to the three that come with the starter pack (Spyro, Trigger Happy, and Gill Grunt) until you purchase more figures. Each of the characters is grouped into eight elemental families (earth, fire, air, life, undead, magic, water, and technology). There are 32 figures in total; a full collection would cost as much as a new console. The good news is that you don't need to own them all. You can complete the main conquest with just the figures in the starter pack, although you will only be able to access the side quests that relate to their element. You can use your figures to play on a friend's game and access all your enhancements. This works across systems, so you can take your Wii character and use it on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, or even 3DS. The wired Portal, however, is system specific and therefore is provided in each starter pack.

When it's not a figure-collecting and shopping exercise, Skylanders is an action platformer that combines shooting and fighting elements with puzzles and short fetch quests. It's similar in many respects to the Lego games, although its focus on progression and customisation of each toy character grants it more of a role-play feel. Things start at a sedate pace as you're introduced to the Portal concept, the different characters, and the central hub world. Each character starts with basic stats (health, strength, speed, and the like), which slowly increase as you collect experience from killing enemies. You also start with two basic attacks--one ranged and one close combat--which can be expanded through branching upgrades that are purchased with money you find in each level by opening chests and destroying objects. Finally, each toy you own provides a hub-world challenge that offers a further performance enhancement, and if you own all the figures in one element, they each get an extra boost.

From all this it may sound like Skylanders is over technical and gimmicky, but in practice it's fresh and engaging to play. Starting a game and placing a toy on the Portal feels similar to playing Guitar Hero or Wii Sports for the first time. The gameplay is familiar, but there's an exciting unfamiliarity to playing it with this technology. Entering a new area and switching to a more suitable character, by swapping figures on the portal, quickly became second nature. It not only simplifies the process but also creates a better connection between you and your in-game characters.

The campaign mode follows a story where you, as the Portal master, must recover each of the different element pods to bring life back to the land of Skylanders and defeat Kaos. Each level is themed around its related element and culminates in a boss encounter. Other reasons to replay each level come in the form of goals such as losing no lives, clearing all areas, and finishing within a tight time limit. There are a number of collectables, too: soul gems that grant characters their final big weapon upgrade, legendary treasures, stat-enhancing hats, treasure chests, and story scrolls.

At times, the requirement to buy more figures feels a little heavy-handed. In particular, collecting soul gems triggers a thinly veiled advert for a new character that you can only access by shelling out for the related action figure. While younger players may enjoy saving up money for such a purchase, parents should know that the game regularly encourages the purchase of new characters. And older players who are used to earning characters with skill rather than money may balk at the proposition.

Another incentive for owning more toys is that each one functions as an additional life in the game. When one of your characters dies, you simply place another one on the Portal to continue (restarting or completing a level restores all your characters to full health). While this impacts the difficulty according to how money you spend on toys, it also creates some interesting tactics where favoured characters are removed from play until a health-replenishing snack is found, whereupon they are reintroduced. It also means that you need to have a broad range of levelled-up characters rather than a focus on just one favourite.

Skylanders boasts some nice graphical touches. Each time you hit an enemy or take a hit yourself, a small red splash indicates how much damage has been inflicted or taken. And the hub world's sheep can be soaked, flamed or otherwise abused with visually amusing results. This charm extends to the characters themselves, each of which is well realized. This makes levelling up and purchasing extra attacks a big part of the fun. Each addition to your arsenal is satisfying and coherent with the theme of the character. The sound effects are top-notch, with an orchestral soundtrack from Hans Zimmer that adds a greater sense of importance to the derivative storyline.

Elsewhere, Skylanders can't compete with the quality that has evolved over the years with the Lego video game franchise. Cooperative play is a welcome addition to the campaign, but without split-screen or an online option, you have to carefully coordinate the direction in which you want to go. The quality of the writing does lift individual scenes, but it's a shame you can't accelerate or skip these spoken sections, particularly when some will be heard multiple times. Nevertheless, they are all acted with considerable flourish; the character of Flynn the Balloonist a particular standout thanks to humorous voice work by Patrick Warburton.

Flameslinger attacks with triple powered-up fire arrows.

Beyond replaying levels, options to extend Skylanders are available in the form of two Adventure expansion packs. These come with additional objects that unlock new adventures when placed on the Portal. The Pirate Adventure pack comes with a pirate ship and exclusive Terrafin character while the Dark Light Crypt pack comes with a crypt and exclusive Ghost Roaster character. Coming in at about one-third the price of the starter pack, it remains to be seen just how much value and additional content these packs provide.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a good concept that has been well executed. The Portal does get a little confused at times, the cooperative mode lacks split-screen, and the risk of losing the figures will be the bane of many parent's lives, but the attraction of toys with brains is compelling enough to outweigh these shortcomings. It's a little too easy and a little too short to interest seasoned players for long enough to justify the price of entry, but young children are likely to enjoy taming this dragon.

The Good
Toys with brains
Role-playing-style progression
Game expands with figure collection
Adventure Pack toys DLC works well
The Bad
Multiplayer is offline only
Costly to complete everything
Portal peripheral can be temperamental
7.5
Good
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12 comments
AWSM253
AWSM253

i used to love the old Spyro games, they were my childhood. but this? this is a disgrace! for starters, What the hell did they do to Spyro's and Cynders original look! second, its story line sucks. and lastly, does it really count as spyro if you dont require Spyro to play it? this game has ruined my love for new Spyro games. PLEASE let them bring back the legend :(

and yes i have played the game for a while, i still think it should be destroyed.

Falcolf
Falcolf

I kind of feel like this game is raping my childhood - this isn't what Spyro is about and I feel kind of cheated that he's been turned into THIS. Now, take away Spyro, put him back in his own original style of game (aka, like Ripto's Rage) and keep Skylanders a seperate entity? Yeah, I'd be game for that! I'm sure this game is awesome and it looks pretty fun but aaaaghhhh what have they done to Spyro's design? He's not cool OR cute any more. He's a weird little ugly gremlin-dragon looking thing. Not cool! Spyro deserves to be in his own game, the way LeahMyles said.

DAD458
DAD458

I finally got around to getting this. It really is a ton of fun. It doesn't take it's self too seriously. Dam figures are going to put me in the poorhouse.

SpyronDJ
SpyronDJ

What can i say... My Name isnt SPYRON for nothing... Love the Game! Cool locking PLAYBLE caracters? LOVE IT!

TinyIota
TinyIota

It looks like fun, and I recognize (and have enjoyed) some of the voice talent, but I'm completely put off by the need to continue to purchase items in order to unlock what sounds like significant content.  Now, if one could unlock all the areas and characters in the game, but, say, could only access an "extreme" move with the figure, I'd find this a lot less objectionable.

nate1222
nate1222

I'm interested in the PC version of this game.

elmerfud43
elmerfud43

In my opinion this game is an 8/10. Great game.

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Very popular in my house. All the kids and the wife love it and we have loads of extra figures now :lol:

xeidog69
xeidog69

try actually playing the game for a few hours before you judge, The game is actually really fun, and anyone who didnt realise the game was not really like old school spyro before buying it is a complete moron, I didnt research it at all and knew that much just from looking at the box in the store. Is a perfect game for parents to buy for their younger kids. can actually offer a little challenge in the later levels as well.

LeahMyles
LeahMyles

They stopped making megaman and did this to spyro. 2 of the greatest game characters ever, gone. At least sonic seems to be making a recovery.

LeahMyles
LeahMyles

You have got to be kidding me. This has nothing to do with spyro. I really hope that they make an actual spyro game after this. They really should have just improved the spyro that can use different elements, fury attacks, claws, and can fly but they did this..... maybe they'll get enough money for a real spyro game with this. To put it simply, spyro is an epic dragon not a dragon toy.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure More Info

  • Released
    • 3DS
    • Macintosh
    • + 5 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Wii
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure lets you bring your toys to life in this new, innovative adventure game.
    6.6
    Average User RatingOut of 367 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure
    Developed by:
    Vicarious Visions, Toys for Bob
    Published by:
    Square Enix, Activision
    Genres:
    Action, Platformer, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms