We all know Activision is well-known for milking a cash cow until they die (see the history of the Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk franchises), and that might be the fate of the extremely popular toy and video game crossover title, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, but can’t we enjoy it while its new and still good? Something as innovative and well put together as this deserves some positive attention, and it’s just not fair how many people are immediately writing it off as just another attempt to cash in on needy children and the parents willing to spend anything to make them happy. In reality, it’s a good game with a great premise that happens to suffer from being under Activision’s greedy control.
Yeah, even Spyro’s confused as to why his name’s in the title…
Being the ‘latest big thing’, and admittedly having a deviously brilliant marketing premise, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is a multi-platform action RPG where you… um… Okay, the plot’s only there to drive you through similarly designed, elemental themed levels and to buy as many of these little figures as you can. What possible excuse can I have for actually defending such a blatant attempt to extort children for their parent’s hard earned money? For starters: It’s well-made, has charm and is just plain fun to be honest, and it’s not really as much of a rip off as originally perceived…
Upon hearing that my brother was bringing my 4-year-old nephew to meet his new uncle for the first time for the new year, and knowing full-well he’s gotten the child hyped up by telling him things like “your uncle’s really big into video games. He has so many and it’s going to be so much fun visiting him;” I promptly grabbed a starter pack for Skylanders and multiple single figures, which prompted one of my managers (who trusts my taste in games) to do the same. Neither of us were disappointed.
Upon opening the box, I was pretty surprised at how well made the figures and portal were, knowing that Activision could have easily thrown it all together and still raked in a fortune off this. But little touches and attention to detail shine throughout the make of the physical portions of the product. The figures were cool, and even if they didn’t have chips in them to let them work in the game, they would be something one would find in a toy aisle for about $8 a piece if they had articulated joints. Since this is what they sell for with the added feature of essentially being pieces of DLC for the game that you don’t have to download and can put on a shelf, I judged them to be of a fairly good value.
As for the game itself, the story and controls are obviously simplified for younger players as they are the intended audience. When playing alone I still found myself enjoying the game as I started grinding away to increase the characters’ levels to a point where I’d feel safe that even a 4-year-old would have difficulty dying, regardless of if he or she fought back or not.
While Spyro by no means plays a major role in the title, in spite of being the title character, he is the only character included in every system’s starter packs and the universe does have some of the original title’s charm, right down to everyone’s overt hatred of sheep. The characters are well voiced (well, the ones with voices), and the shallow plot does just enough work to keep the game afloat. The game has a decent length, is surprisingly deep, well thought out, and designed to be accessible to youth yet still enjoyable to the parents and older siblings that are bound to be forced into playing with the children the game caters to.
My only real gripe about the game itself falls upon the soul gems- stat bonuses which must be found while playing the game and also unlock each characters’ most special abilities. The gems are unique to each character, and the easiest to find gems are those of the characters only able to be purchased separately (usually most commonly found in a three pack for $20, instead of the single packs). Upon finding one of these gems for a yet unobtained character, it will pause the game and prompt you to watch what is essentially a commercial showing off just how awesome this character is and that you NEED to buy him as soon as you can.
So is the marketing evil? Yes. Does the game have shameless commercialism coming from its every pore? Most definitely. Is it worth it? I think so. I believe that the experience is worthwhile if it means having a product a hardcore gamer like myself can enjoy while playing alongside a child who just got his first system a week prior, the both of us having fun and most importantly, having fun together.
The design is innovative and blurs the line between a physical and digital offering, quality obviously was a high priority in the game’s creation, as opposed to the common practice of making it as fast and for as cheap as possible to maximize profits. The game itself is fun, and most importantly it has the potential to bring families closer together. The drop in-drop out co-op is great and requires little more than connecting a controller and dropping on a second figure onto the portal, still allowing both players to swap character on the fly without any confusion as to who is playing who. Between my personal experience of co-op between a 22-year-old hardcore gamer and his 4-year-old nephew, and the stories I’ve heard from my similarly aged manager and his twin brother, both hardcore gamers, we’ve all enjoyed it thoroughly as it reaches for broad appeal and succeeds tremendously.
It might be a money trap and a shameless example of commercialism, but I honestly don’t care. Whenever I think about Skylanders, I recall my nephew exclaiming “That’s so cool!” and us laughing as we play for hours on end and let out a smile, knowing the experience it helped create was worth every penny and more…
You can see why Dagfari hates Skylanders here.