I already told you about all the attention to detail going into the new Skylanders game – it’s pretty, it sounds good and those toys are pretty cool. But what about the actual game? I got some hands-on time with Swap Force, and I’ve gotta say that I was impressed.
The idea behind Skylanders: Swap Force is fairly straight forward. Just like previous Skylanders, toys can come to life in a game via the Portal of Power. However, Swap Force mixes things up by letting you rip that toy apart and combine it with a different one – all with the cunning use of magnets. It’s an interesting technology, and certainly adds a whole new dimension to the game.
The first thing I was taken with upon playing Skylanders: Swap Force was how intuitive the controls were. The game was designed to cater for a variety of play styles. This means that kids who just want to mash X can still get through (and enjoy) the game. However, if you bother to press the rest of the buttons, you’ll find all kinds of fun combos. Plus, you can now jump! That’s right, Swap Force added in a jump, which is fully utilized in the game.
In essence, Skylanders: Swap Force combines combat and platforming into an interesting adventure. There are tons of secrets to be found in each level, as well as a variety of Swap Zones. There are fantastic homages to other games – I actually became giddy in one Swap Zone when the camera angle changed and all of a sudden the game became a side scrolling platformer; it was seamlessly done and added some old school charm.
In my time with the game, I managed to play through one normal level as well as a bonus map. I was provided with a variety of characters so that I could fully explore the levels (although I definitely missed out on some stuff due to lack of skill), and I experimented with a wide variety of swap combinations. However, I won’t lie – I definitely had a favorite Swap Force combination. Despite changing it up to get into different zones, I fell in love with the RattleShake top and WashBuckler bottom – this means I was playing as RattleBuckler. Oh yes, he was awesome. I loved the movement (and sounds) of the Buckler element, while Rattle’s ability to shoot out a turret seriously appealed to the tower defense fan in me. Also, this combination meant that I had a ranged attack on top, with a melee option on the bottom – perfect for any situation.
In fact, this is the whole point of Swap Force. You can mix and match as you please – expect hundreds of combinations – with the ability to swap out your entire character, or just part, at just about any time. It makes the game feel exciting and dynamic. As I moved through the level “Iron Jaw Gulch”, different elements or mechanics were more powerful. Despite my love of RattleBuckler, I had no problem swapping to a different character to take advantage of those opportunities. Again, this works with a variety of play styles – you can complete the game with your one favorite character, or chop and change throughout.
While the gameplay can appeal to people of all ages, Skylanders: Swap Force is definitely still built with a child’s aesthetic in mind. The characters are brightly colored, as are the fantastical environments. It’s not to say that adults won’t enjoy the hilarious bonus mission where all the enemies are wearing chef hats, but it is certainly built with children in mind. They are, afterall, the target audience. I don’t actually see this as a problem – not many developers are actually making high end games for children.
This iteration in the Skylanders franchise will also be ridiculously collectable – plenty of new toys and you’ll have to get them all. That said, all the old toys still work on the new game. In fact, they have all been remastered so that they look just as pretty in-game as the rest of the new characters. So, you can rejoice in your huge Skylanders collection and gain access to all the different elemental zones in the different levels as you play through.
I was honestly hooked by the game. We were given an opportunity to play for quite some time, and it really didn’t feel like long enough. Sure, it’s a “kiddy” game, but it was just as addictive as any hard core title. I wanted to keep exploring, find all the secrets and get OCD with my achievement hunting. I wanted to keep mixing and matching, finding new combinations that I liked, and upgrading my existing RattleBuckler.
I finally pulled myself away from the Xbox 360 version that I was playing so that I could check out the 3DS version. What a nice portable version! Obviously the levels are different, as is the swapping – all the characters get loaded into the 3DS and swapping is done using the touch screen rather than the actual toys. However, you can transfer the leveling of the characters back onto the toys when you’re done being portable. Most interestingly, when you street pass someone, you can transfer a demo version of a character for them to use in one level. I think that’s ridiculously cool, and would definitely make me want to street pass everyone.
I have no doubt that Skylanders: Swap Force will be a big hit. It’s new and innovative, available on all platforms (except PC, sorry master race), and brings back all your favorite characters. It is truly an impressive jump for the Skylanders franchise.
Last Updated: September 25, 2013