Every time I review the latest Skylanders game I always tend to make a sarcastic jab about how the series seems to be a never-ending pit of money for Activision but they’re well deserved. This is a series that has minor gimmicks introduced with each new game with only the slightest improvements to the game mechanics. If you’re a grown adult then this game isn’t for you. None of these games are for you because they’re 100% made for children to be enjoyed by children who won’t notice the archaic mechanics that have been part of the series since its inception.
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Platform: PS4, Wii-U, & Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with a PS4 copy for review
Superchargers opens up, hilariously enough, with the comically inept villain of the series, Kaos, actually succeeding in conquering the world with only a few pockets of resistance left. You’re then tasked with rescuing everyone, rebuilding the Skylanders academy, saving the world, etc. The story is a bit more interesting this time around purely because the villain has technically already won, but it still goes through your typical Saturday morning cartoon tropes. You’ll know exactly how the plot points will go and when the twists will appear but it’s still a dumb decent story than any child will surely enjoy.
If you’ve somehow been living under a rock these past few years then let me explain the concept of the game for you. Skylanders is part of the “toys to life” genre where you go out, buy the toy of the character you want to play as, put them on the game portal, and then you’ll be able to play as that character. So this means if you want to play as the cool Day of the Dead skeleton character then you need to actually go out and drop an additional $15 to buy the physical toy so you can play as him in the game. The game eagerly encourages this behavior by constantly showing you preview clips of all these cool characters and locking off optional side-areas of the game unless you have the corresponding elemental toy to unlock the gate; you’ll need a fire toy to unlock the fire gates for example. It’s a system that’s built to entice children to incessantly bother their parents to buy them the toys, but it’s incredibly well done and does its job spectacularly so I respect the series for that.
Once you have a toy (the game comes with two plus a vehicle) you’ll place them on the portal and they’ll appear in the game for you to play as. The game itself plays like a typical brawler with various attack buttons that all due a variety of things depending on your character. That’s kind of the cool thing with the series with all the characters, for the most part, playing completely differently from each other; when you buy a new character you’re actually getting a somewhat significant gameplay difference. The series has been around for five years, with each new game introducing close to twenty new characters so there’s definitely a lot of choice and variety to look for. As you play through the game your character will level up (their save data staying on the toy itself so you can bring your character’s progress to a friend’s house) and you can upgrade them by purchasing new moves or equipping various goofy hats that will give you small stat boosts.
This year’s latest gimmick comes in the form of controllable vehicles. The starter pack comes with a car, but there are also boats and planes to buy as well. Each vehicle type has their own zone to play in that controls differently so while the land vehicles have race tracks to drive on, the planes for example have these big open spaces you’ll fly in shooting down enemy fighters. Just like how your Skylander can wear various hats you’ll also be able to customize various aspects of your vehicle by collecting mods. You can equip three different mods that visually change your vehicle and you’re also able to upgrade its weapons and shields through coins you acquire in vehicle zones. These mods will improve your vehicle in different ways but I felt the stat boosts were never significant enough to make me pick something other than the coolest looking mods.
Now while the racetrack segments are surprisingly fun, the combat areas with the land vehicles are less so thanks to an awkward control scheme. The direction you point the analog stick is the direction you drive in but even after hours of play this still never felt natural and I’d constantly be crashing into walls while trying to drift around an enemy; the camera pulling itself quite far back at times didn’t help things either. Other than that the vehicles are a great addition to the series, even though they were long overdue. What’s probably the best part of the inclusion of vehicles in the series is that the vehicle toys themselves having moving parts like rolling wheels for the cars. Now while the series has advertised its figures as toys you can play with, I feel like these vehicles are the first proper “toys” the series has ever seen.
The thing I’ve always liked about the series is that there’s a lot to do in the games and this one probably has the most with the inclusion of races for the vehicles and side-quests you can undertake. The card game Skystones is back with a minor change (each turn charges a vehicle card you can then use) and it’s still hilariously easy. It’s decent enough when you want a little break from the usual punching but there’s not really much depth to it which is okay considering the game is for children. This is also the first game to include online co-op which is pretty awesome even if it’s another feature that should have been included years ago. Unfortunately the downside of a series being released yearly has finally shown its ugly face with some content that was a series staple being cut out. The arena modes are no longer here, instead replaced with a half dozen race types like boss chases and your more typical stuff like time trials. The tower defense Kaos Mode from Trap Team has also been removed which is unfortunate since I thought it was a fairly decent addition to the series. We’ve seen this sort of thing happen with Call of Duty and it was only inevitable that it happens here as well.
The Final Word
Activision has once again dropped a solid, functional Skylanders game. If you’re looking for a game to get a child this season you really can’t go wrong with Skylanders: Superchargers.
– MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair