Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (PS3)
Developer: Toys For BOB / XPEC Entertainment
Release Date: October 16, 2011
ESRB Rating: E 10+ (for cartoon violence)
Also available for XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Windows PC
Evil Portal Master Kaos has destroyed the Core of Light and now rules over Skylands with a heavy fist. The spirit of Good Portal Master Eon has summoned Spyro and his fellow Portal Master apprentices to return home, rebuild the Core of Light, and banish Kaos once and for all. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure was one of the most popular and successful video games this past holiday season, and with good reason. Not only does it combine the standard action platformer (with shooting and fighting sequences, puzzles, and quests), it adds a role-playing dimension in the form of the Portal Masters (32 in all, 4 for each element - Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Life, Undead, Magic, and Tech). Players assume the role of a Portal Master by placing the action figure on the included Portal of Power (which attaches to the console or PC via a USB dongle), and then collect coins and other treasures while doing battle and obtaining pieces of the Core of Light in various worlds within Skyland. The player’s life force can be restored by collecting food items throughout the land (parents will like that healthier foods such as cheese and turkey legs provide more energy than pastries and other sweets), and if a player’s life force is completely drained, all one needs to do is replace the action figure with a different character on the Portal of Power (provided one is still available) without having to start that level over. The game developers recruited a lot of Hollywood talent, including Patrick Warburton as the voice of dim-witted Flynn, writers Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolw (Toy Story), and a music score by Hans Zimmer.
Overall, this is a fun game, regardless of your age or ability, but the pacing may be agonizingly slow for some. The action figures are somewhat unique, not only because they can be used with the game cross-platform, but each figure contains a programmable RFID chip that stores game stats and character nicknames, allowing players to take their figures to a friend’s house, regardless of the game platform, and retain that character’s strengths and upgrades.
My major complaint with the game, though, is the lazy inability to lip-synch spoken dialogue in most of the cut scenes, and forcing that spoken dialogue to appear as subtitles. Although the graphics and other animation in the game are on-par with the current generation of game consoles, the lip-synching and subtitle issue reminded me of games from the Sega Genesis era. another minor complaint is the online.
Another complaint is the on-line game, Skylanders: Spyro’s Universe, a free-to-play RPG that is supposed to work with the Portal of Power and action figures. My experience was that the portal worked with my Windows 7 PC less than half the time, often not acknowledging that an action figure had been placed on the portal, and greying out the option to enter the included web code. Granted, the game is still in Beta, but still....
Activision obviously knows they have a hot item on their hands (it was one of their best-sellers during the holiday season), as they have already announced a sequel game due out Fall 2012, Skylanders Giants. Hopefully, the game will be compatible with the current characters and Portal of Power, much like its Guitar Hero franchise.