Arriving for my system of choice - the XBOX 360, the starter kit included the game disc, some stickers and trading cards, a poster, 3 Skylanders figures, some webcodes, and the ultra-cool ''Portal of Power.'' Having seen huge displays of SKYLANDERS at Toys R Us and Walmart this season, it's obvious that the makers are banking on it being a big hit - and it certainly can be - but honestly, I didn't really know a lot about it until I dug into it here at home.
The basics are that the game is a spin-off of the old SPYRO series (which I missed out on), and the characters of the game must follow an epic fantasy adventure to save their world from "an evil Portal Master" named Kaos. Working with the game are a series of "Interaction Figures," 3 included with the starter kit - 30 available in all. Each has special powers that can assist in the game, and by placing the figures on the Portal of Power - which is mesmerizing with it's color-changing lights - the figures save their game experiences. What this allows for is true cross-platform play. That means while I have an XBOX 360, I could take my figures to a friend's house and play on their Nintendo Wii or Playstation 3 by placing the figures on their Portal of Power. Add-in some interactive games on the SKYLANDER's website (that's what the webcodes were for), and now you're literally playing in every possible arena.
The game is expansive - and it a lot of ways felt to me (much older than the target audience) reminiscent of games I played in my own youth, such as THE LEGEND OF ZELDA. While you're working your way through the levels, you can stop to talk to other folks within the world - and feel free to destroy certain interactive elements like plants, vases, etc, to collect jewels and power-ups. Very much like smashing clay pots for Rupies.
Where a bit of genius enters in from the game developers, the Skylanders themselves all have different elemental powers - Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Life, Undead, Magic, and Tech. Different powered Skylanders are required to complete the game at 100%, and what that means is since you only got three Skylanders in your starter kit, there's five other "elements" out there, and you'll need a few more trips to the toy store to collect some other figures. As a parent, it's the caveat, I guess. Your kids may bug you to buy some more toys, but they'd do that with Star Wars, GIJoe, Barbie, etc, too. In this case, buying the figure unlocks that character in the game much like DLC - but in the physical world.
Figure Close-up | Photo by Activision
Since switching characters as you go is required, make sure the Portal of Power can be placed nearby. In our family room, the couch is a great distance from the TV/XBOX, so even with it's extra-long cord, the Portal of Power couldn't make it to where I'd normally be seated. I ended up grabbing a chair from the kitchen to place closer, but the up/down was a bit irritating at times - but kids will probably love it.
SKYLANDERS: SPYRO'S ADVENTURE might strike curiosity among some adults, but overall I had to play it while thinking of myself as a tween. Recommended for ages 10+, kids a little younger (7+) will probably do just fine with it, while the figure play might seem a little juvenile to the "too cool" high school kids. Overall, it's technically impressive and should gain quite a following provided the cost of the starter kit ($69.99 MSRP) and add-ons don't act as a turn-off.
For more info: http://www.skylanders.com
Rating: 4/5 Stars
FTC Disclosure: A review copy of SKYLANDERS: SPYRO'S ADVENTURE was provided to The Rock Father™ for the purpose of this article. All opinions presented here are that of the author.