Hands up those of you who remember the classic Spyro the Dragon character-based action adventure games on PlayStation and PlayStation 2… right, so I can’t actually see you raising your hand, but I can guess that there are a fair number of people who have fond memories of the series, and I’ve got good news for you: Spyro is back in a brand new, awesome-looking and inventive game called Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.
During a recent showcase presentation event held by South African game distributor Megarom, attendees were treated to a demonstration of the Wii version of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and we were able to glimpse the game’s colourful world and characters, snippets of gameplay and witness a live demonstration of its innovative use of physical action figures in-game. More on this a little later.
Like any action adventure game starring a headline character, in Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure you take control of Spyro the Dragon, and after a personality-filled, fully voiced introduction explaining to you, the player, what your next objective is in this part of the Skylanders world (suspended in the sky with puffy white clouds surrounding the structures and ‘land’ you traverse), you’re able to move Spyro around and breathe fire (like all good dragons can).
There are naturally enemies to flame, platforms to jump onto, levels to explore, obstacles to navigate and puzzles to solve, all while viewing the action from a roving third-person, top-down perspective.
The visuals of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure are immediately striking, and as this demonstration was running on the Wii, immediate comparisons could be made to the graphical richness of a game like Super Mario Galaxy – the world is vibrant with colour, detail and animation. The environment is destructible (in limited ways that make sense) and although the levels follow a more linear progression path, the scenery seems very ‘large-scale’ as it stretches out into the distance, effectively instilling the adventure with an epic feeling.
Water flows beautifully, plants sway, particle and environment effects burst and flitter through the levels, shadows are in place and small touches are in abundance. The world of Skylanders is impressive indeed (dare I say it), especially for the Wii.
But it’s not the visuals that are the star of the show in Skylanders – it’s the use of the game’s different characters that is most impressive. Let’s back up for a second to explain properly.
Every copy of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure will come standard with an extra peripheral called the ‘Portal of Power,’ as well as three action figures representing characters from the game. While playing Skylanders, you’ll connect the Portal of Power to your console of choice (be it the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or others). On its own, the Portal does nothing, but once in the game, players will be prompted to place one of the provided action figures on the Portal. Once done, something awesome happens.
Instantly (and I mean instantly), the character represented by the action figure appears in the world of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, right there in the game. As long as the action figure is on the Portal, you’ll be able to control that character in the game and make use of its special ability, be it breathing fire, shooting a water cannon, mammoth strength, shooting coins and much more. Each character can earn special items (called ‘Gifts’), learn new abilities and generally improve themselves through extended use in the game.
Each character is also able to unlock specific areas of the world, and is additionally better suited to certain situations. If you need to put out a fire, you’ll need a water-based character. If you need to unlock special gates, a tech-based adventurer is necessary. If you need to smash down a wall, a stronger character will do the trick, and if you need a nimble body to effortlessly navigate through an obstacle, a character suited to that task will get you through more easily than a larger one.
And as mentioned, transferring characters is easily done – simply remove the current action figure from the Portal of Power and replace it with another that you’ll need to overcome a challenge, and ‘Hey Presto,’ that character instantly appears in the game, ready for use!
What’s even better about these action figures is that they will ‘remember’ your progress with that character as all items and abilities are saved to its internal memory, meaning you can take that physical action figure wherever you go, even using it in another person’s game to continue playing with all of its accumulated ‘knowledge.’ This is handy because Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure sports cooperative and competitive gameplay allowing you to work your way through a level with a friend (with two action figures on a single Portal), or battle against one another in special player VS player scenarios.
Cross-platform transferral is another feature of the game, and you’ll be able to improve your character’s skills by using the same action figure while playing on different versions of Skylanders on different platforms, including PC and mobile.
Of course, if you want more than the initial allotment of three characters to use in Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, you’ll need to either buy them or trade with friends, but Activision is going to make it a little easier to collect all 32 characters by offering different packages at retail, including a three- and single character pack. Additionally, you’ll be able to unlock entirely new worlds by purchasing something called the Adventure Pack – for example (not a real example), you could buy an Adventure Pack representing a pirate-themed level (a replica of a pirate boat, say), and once you place that model on the Portal of Power, that level will become available to play through.
You’re right to think that Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure seems like a bit of a money-grabbing title, requiring players to buy their way through the game by collecting more action figures and level replicas to get the most out of it, but if you consider that the game is aimed at a younger market (which may or may not be fond of catching ‘em all), the conceit takes on a whole new magical layer. Also, is this any different to paid downloadable content? Only this PDLC is physical!
Honestly, if I had access to a game like this when I was younger, my friends and I would be doing nothing but playing, levelling up our characters, adventuring through levels cooperatively, and trading action figures between one another…
… actually, scratch that – I’m still excited about the game! I think it’s an absolutely fantastic idea and I’m extremely intrigued to find out how the market responds to Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure when it’s released during the holiday season of this year.
A contender for the Pokemon crown? The best (and most worthy) one I’ve seen yet.
Here are a few of the other characters you’ll meet during your time with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure: