Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure Review (Xbox 360)

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure had me at the first mention of Spyro. I grew up playing Spyro games with one of my friends in school and my older sister. Somewhere along the line I stopped playing altogether only to pick back up again for The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning and let me tell you I was shocked. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it but they swapped my platforming and item hunting seemingly for Elijah Wood and a story. When researching Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure I was only slightly miffed to find out that the game didn’t revolve around Spryo and now that I’ve played it Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure definitely has the similar feel of an old Spyro title. The platforming is there (kind of) but finding hidden objects albeit the levels are definitely less confusing (no more guessing which portal that one thing you couldn’t get before is in). Once I found out about all that it did offer, I was sold: hook, line, and sinker. I’m definitely familiar with the “collector craze”, my fiancé’s vices are Magic: The Gathering cards and Transformers while mine are Deadpool, anything Alice in Wonderland related, and the aforementioned Magic cards. This is the type of game I would encourage my kids to be playing (if I had any, if only my dog could learn) rather than parents allowing their children to be babysat by Halo, Call of Duty, or Gears of War and fellow gamers. It offers good clean fun and a break from games that can be punishing (totally glaring at you Dark Souls). Does Skylanders really need the publicity of Spyro’s name or can it stand on its own?

The Skylands are islands that are unique from one another; Eon the last Portal Master, the Skylanders, and the Core of Light have been keeping the Darkness at bay for quite some time but Eon has grown weaker with age. An evil Portal Master, Kaos, is mysteriously able to break the Core of Light (with the help of “Plan C”) banishing Eon from his body and the Skylanders to our planet as toys because our planet lacks magic. You are the new Portal Master, able to summon (eventually and if you can afford them) all 32 Skylanders whenever you wish using the Portal of Power. Eon is still present sometimes as an embodiment of his head but mostly as a voice directing you on what you should do next. If you are hoping to see characters from the Spyro universe return, you’ll be disappointed because aside from Cynder, they’re absent. There are characters that are similar to them, including Auric who is practically a clone of my least favorite Spyro universe character, Moneybags. Fairies are also present to help you out only this time around you’ll meet Persephone and she is quite… well… odd and so is the way she talks. I was definitely not a fan of her, however; I was a fan of the upgrades she granted you for a price. Flynn the entitled and arrogant Balloonist is voiced by Patrick Warburton who has voiced a wide variety of characters but for me he will always be the voice of Joe Swanson on Family Guy. (Arbo’s voice actor sounded astoundingly similar to Ed Wynn who voiced the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.) Hugo was Eon’s assistant and is now assisting you in find all of the pieces needed to rebuild the Core of Light, he also is not fond of sheep. As the new Portal Master you are tasked with building a new Core of Light and to do so you have to fetch each piece because they were scattered throughout Skylands when the Core of Light was destroyed. You’ll have various allies you’ll meet along the way that help you get the pieces you need to rebuild. I was not an overly huge fan of Kaos, and I concur with Eon, the head looks utterly ridiculous. I found it interesting that the Wikipedia page stated Alek Sokolow and Joel Cohen worked on the main story; they also worked on that one movie that you may have heard of…Toy Story. I did find it odd that out of all the Mobu villagers you saved there is only one in the Ruins, Quigley.

The gameplay is very reminiscent of a hack and slash title with some RPG leveling abilities mixed in. You use monetary items collected in game to purchase and upgrade abilities for your Skylander. Each one levels out at ten; however, if you want to change the direction you chose between the abilities you can reset them. Each Skylander features two main attacks when they start out, once you level them up it will ask you to choose the ability you wish to develop further. For example: with Zap I picked developing the Sea Slimes over the strength of his Lightning Breath. The controls for the game are a breeze to pick up whether it’s your first time playing or after a bout of playing other games. The enemies in the game vary although you see some similar enemies (with different abilities) like the elemental Punks. They all have their strengths and weaknesses as do your Skylanders so you’ll need to pay attention to the enemies you are facing. I did come across some great leveling enemies though, Chompy Pods and the Spider Spitter’s will continue to throw enemies at you until you kill the source.

Anytime you wish to go back and try a Chapter again you may do so, while you are playing you are given a one thru three star rating for completion and are rated on things such as finding all areas, finding all treasures, completion under par time etc. While playing you can also hit the back button (on the 360) to bring up your Skylander’s information that has the following three tabs: Stats, Powers, and Manage. On the Stats page you’ll find the basic information about your Skylander (health, speed, etc.) but also the number of Heroic Challenges you’ve completed with that particular Skylander as well as it’s Hero Level (progress on Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure website).On the Powers page you can look at power upgrades that you’ve already purchased (or came standard) for your Skylander along with how many upgrades you have left. On the Manage page you can give your Skylander a nickname that will follow it into another game, you can pick different hats to equip, see ownership, get a web code to update your progress on the website, and reset your Skylander. Beware though, when you reset you are wiping the toy clean of everything which is nice if you or your child wanted to trade with a friend or we could possibly see them being traded to stores like GameStop in the future. You can see Cali to complete Heroic Challenges, some of these are rather difficult but there is a reward at the end for your efforts. There are 32 Heroic Challenges each one corresponding with a particular Skylander, although you can complete them with any of the Skylanders. In order to access certain areas of the game you will need a Skylander of each class. The technology itself is quite remarkable, coupled with the ability to take your Skylanders to a friends with a different console and play? Practically priceless.

The cutscenes in the game are very stunning and well done, I definitely enjoyed watching them. The translation from seeing a character in a cutscene is somewhat disappointing; certain characters more so than others when you finally see them in game. I found the inconsistency between a characters voice and what they were saying to be quite annoying, in the case of the Mabu villagers, their lips never move. I wish that they would have gone one way or the other; not both, if you’re going to make a character look like they are speaking it would be nice for them to not look similar to a poorly dubbed martial arts flick.

The soundtrack for the game featured mostly lighthearted music and definitely fits in with its Spyro predecessors. The only time that the music gets gloomy is when you encounter anything to do with Kaos, however the entire thing is catchy. The voices for each of the characters (that I had anyway) were great. Some were silly, others cute while others seem more serious. The only Skylander I had that grated on my patience after playing him for a while was Trigger Happy; he’s cute yes, but he’s like Speedy Gonzales with maniacal laughter, guns, and “mine”. Terrafin’s version of singing while under the dirt surface was quite amusing and reminded me of a land bound version of the shark from Jaws.

The multiplayer is local only, yeah you heard me right. Originally I was hoping to experience the game co-op over XBL only to be totally shot down. I know the game is catered more to kids and they are more likely to have “physical” friends (or family members) that can come over to their house and play with them rather than ones on any console service, but throw me a bone! Personally, many of my “physical” friends do not play video games, and if they do they don’t live in the same state I do unfortunately. So when I want to play a game co-op via XBL with my online friends I’ve known for years, it is really disappointing to find out that it’s not supported because asking my fiance to ’split screen’ with me usually results in an exasperated and resigned look. The game does however offer three different player vs. player Battle Modes: Arena Rumble, SkyGoals, and SkyGem master. In Arena Rumble you must defeat your opponent using your attacks and environment (including items provided) only. SkyGoals is similar to football, you have to get the ball between the goalposts to score points and your opponent can attack you until you fumble the ball. SkyGem Master pits you against your opponent to collect SkyGems, whomever has the most at the end wins, you can however attack your opponent to make them drop their SkyGems. When you play with a friend in co-op campaign it is not split-screen, if they do not have their own gamertag that’s ok, anything they collect with your Skylander will remain with it when you’re done playing.

When you pause the game it will show a Collections section, once you go in you’ll find four different sections: Skylanders, Scrolls, Accolades and Treasure. There is a slot for each of the 32 Skylanders which fill in with each character you own when you place them on the Portal of Power. There are four Skylanders for each class, this excludes duplicates such as Spyro, Dark Spyro, and Legendary Spyro which would all share a slot. You unlock bonuses each time you have an additional character added to a class, so having both Zap and Gill Grunt would grant you an additional water element bonus. You can preview characters you don’t have (or are unavailable to purchase currently) when you collect their Soul Gem. When you do collect the Soul Gems for characters you do own you can purchase their special ability, if you have enough money that is. Collecting Legendary Treasure only nets you cash, an Accolade for collecting ten and another Accolade once you collect all 26. Accolades are given for different things in Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and collecting Legendary Treasure is only one. Each Accolade you receive boosts your XP, you start out at 100% and with eight unlocked I was at 175%. There are 19 Accolades for you to unlock and reap the XP bonus reward for doing so, if you want to know what you have to do for each one you can just select “more info” to find out. The Story Scolls scattered within Skylands give you background information on many subjects concerning Skylands, there are 26 of these to collect as well. You can find 18 hats, they’re even wrapped in pretty boxes for you! Each hat gives different stat boosts to your Skylander; I paired hats and Skylanders according to what would benefit the Skylander most.

Along with the game there is a website that you or your child can visit. When I first signed up; I’ll admit I was a little put off, it is assumed that you are a child and will need your “parents” email to sign up. Once you sign up, sign in and have to possibly download a new flash player, you’re good to venture forth. On the website you will have your very own Skyland island where you can keep yet another virtual version of your Skylanders. You can visit your Lair and use the little black web code cards included with your Skylanders to unlock them in your Lair. Eon is again present to walk you through the process of unlocking your Skylanders and the new web adventure now accessible to you. I had to enter Spyro (or Voodood) first in order for it to work properly, while the second character Eon asked for was a Water Skylander. The games that you can play on the website are simple; out of the two I played one was similar to Angry Birds and the other is just shooting down airships. If Eon askes you for a specific class of Skylander and you don’t have one, don’t fret. I replied “no” to Eon asking me if I had a Tech Skylander and I received Drobot. On a whole the addition of a website integrated into Skylanders is rather good. You don’t even have to have the Portal of Power or the Skylander itself, just the code on the card.

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure in my honest opinion is definitely worth the money and time I spent on it. I have already recommended it to my co-workers that have children with consoles and my nieces. I know many kids, my nieces included, that absolutely love Webkinz and the web version of Skylanders definitely reminded me of those huggable and cute money makers. I sit here thinking to myself that DLC would be so much more appealing if it came with something, imagine Undead Nightmare coming with a zombie bear or zombie horse figure with the code stamped on the bottom. Would I buy it? Um, yeah I would. I think that Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and the Toys for Bob technology could be a game changer, especially for games like Pokemon. I think that Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure could be the “it” game for children this holiday season with all features that it offers. Even being a lover of the original Spyro games I cannot begrudge Skylanders the following:  it is a lot of fun, as well as a way for parents to interact with their children who love games. Not to mention fun for those (like me) who do not have kids but still enjoy playing games like this.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 

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