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I bought this as a last minute Christmas present for one of my son's, it was deemed as one of the 'must have' 2011 Christmas gifts for children, I was slightly naughty and told my child that I could not afford to buy him this for Christmas, at £ 50 I thought it was quite expensive and told him he might have to wait for his birthday in April when it may possibly become cheaper!
After seeing the adverts and the marketing promotions about skylanders everywhere I became interested in the concept of the idea, it really did seem like a cool innovative and new idea that kids would love.
On a last minute shopping trip to toys r us on Christmas eve I saw a massive display of the skylanders games, there was a game set up that you could trial and watch for yourself and included trying out the different figures available, I must admit was impressed because it looked great, watching all the children's faces light up and get so excited upon seeing this game I could bear it no longer and bought the skylander starter pack for the Xbox 360 at a price of £47.99
--WHAT IS IT?--
Skylanders is an extension of the loveable spyro character themed games; it is a combination of a platform video game and an interactive accumulation of collectable mythical figures which are used as real characters each with their own personalities and weapons that are brought into the game play by using a USB plug in portal. Called the portal of power.
Instead of only using spyro as your main character you can choose which figure you want to play the different sections of the adventure game by simply placing your chosen figure on the portal of power and be amazed when your figure is instantly brought to life and appears on screen for immediate play.
The figures are adorable and made of good quality strong plastic, they are multi use and can also be used as toys, there are 32 characters to collect and they each have tiny chips embedded into their bases that stores all the information connected with the game content and records and saves information such as game progress, special items earned/found, cash, victories, level-up's, and strengths.
You can also use the figures on friend's portals and they will still save any information of game progress, you simply take them along and they work in the same way where ever you go. The different characters have different elements, there are eight in total and each character will show what element it belongs to by an easy recognisable symbol underneath its base, I would say this is a little bit like us humans having star signs because each element has its own abilities and personality traits.
---THE CHARACTERS (SKYLANDERS)---
The 32 skylander character figures which can be collected and used in game are...
SPYRO / LEGENDARY SPYRO / DARK SPYRO
BASH / LEGENDARY BASH /
TRIGGER HAPPY / LEGENDARY TRIGGER HAPPY
With this starter pack you get three figures included which are spyro, trigger happy and gill grunt.
It is advised that not all the characters will be available all at once as the manufacturers decision to release some separately is one I think designed to keep people interested and although it is quite gimmicky I think it is a good idea as part of an on going gaming experience and a few of the special characters will only be available exclusive to certain retailers.
The figures are available to buy separately (although I will add at this point that I have found it very difficult to find any retailers which have these in stock at the moment due to their Christmas popularity) some are available on eBay extremely overpriced by those trying to cash in on peoples desperation to collect the characters and add to their gaming experience.
When you can find them in stock at places such as Argos, Gamestation, Tesco, play.com, and Amazon they are usually no more than the RRP of £7.99 per single figure, they do also come in multi packs of three and although the price on these varies I have seen them available from £14.99 online and again it is where and when you can find them in stock, whilst these are better value I would say if you have already got 4 or 5 figures it becomes difficult to buy the value for money multi packs because lots of them include the more popular widely available figures which would mean you might end up having two of the same. It seems these adorable little creatures are like gold dust at the moment.
The distinctive figures do look really great and the attention to detail is excellent with their impressive paint jobs and various poses and weaponry they are an attractive collectable toy made of toughened plastic, my children and their friends love them as toys just as much as gaming characters.
During game play each of the characters can gain levels, a bit like personality levels which make them stronger and faster and quirky, they each have different giggles, sayings , sound effects and styles and are quite amusing loveable little creatures, you collect gems and treasure which earns the character cash to spend on up grades to its abilities and strengths.
Each skylander figure has one of eight elements; the element relates to its powers, personality, weapons and abilities, these different elements are...
Elements are important in game play due to each elements specific abilities and strengths for doing certain tasks; there are hidden levels all throughout the game which can only be accessed by specific skylanders of certain elements. This adds to the gaming experience as you regularly have to switch characters to complete areas of the game, I think it adds something new to the world of gaming which is great for grabbing and holding your attention throughout the game as you get to know each of your characters and choose favourites.
The portal of power is a toughened plastic circular platform that connects to your xbox using an included USB lead, when plugged in it glows and changes colours, you place a figure of your choice onto the portals platform, the platform can recognise up to two figures placed at the same time for multi player gaming, once placed, your character instantly comes to life and appears on screen immediately and is fully controllable by you using the control pad, it is all very easy and simple to set up straight out of the box and comes with easy to follow instructions.
The portal of power comes included in the starter pack and size wise is no bigger than a saucer.
Although I have really enjoyed playing on this game myself (when I can get a look in!) I find it a very ingenious, fun, and addictive and I think it is primarily aimed at the younger gamer, whilst my 9 year old loves it, my 14 year old thinks its too easy and a bit cheesy and I do have to agree that there is a touch of cheesy gimmicky elements to this game but I have to say I think it works well and has just the right balance.
It is an adventure game that comes with an instruction manual included in the starter pack, the instruction booklet is basically useless as it tells you absolutely nothing about the game but I have been told that this is done on purpose as apparently the days of helpful instruction manuals for gamers is over and instead we are to figure out the flow of the games we buy for ourselves, (please don't quote me on this statement as this is what a guy from the game shop told me so I do not know how true this is)
The graphics are very good but I would not describe them as amazing, they didn't blow me away and there is much better graphics in games out there but they are satisfactory and after a while you tend not to notice it as the game itself absorbs you into a world of adventure, you play in stages acquiring parts needed to build the apparatus needed to help save skylands, each level has a mission and new ability gems to seek out as well as treasure to find, you come across soul gems which grant special powers to specific characters throughout the game, you advance each level around skylands by killing the baddies, saving the good guy's, doing the challenges and solving the puzzles whilst gaining experience, cash and power-up's needed to make each character stronger.
The aim is to protect skylands by helping to recover the parts needed to build the life force and prevent the evil baddie from destroying skylands forever.
Some of the challenges I would say can be quite hard even for experienced gamers and in my opinion younger children will almost defiantly need help with some of these challenges, the puzzle solving tasks whilst interesting and brain busting they do take a bit of perseverance and encouragement to complete.
When a character dies the game says that the character has to rest, so to continue to pay you need to either start the level over again or use another character, having lots of characters is like having lots of extra lives and we soon discovered that with more figures we got through the levels faster due to being able to use a larger collection of characters as extra lives when fighting the big bosses.
I found the story mode to be entertaining and on occasion very funny, there are some comical references and jokes that are a bit cartoon like which I think again gives the overall experience of game play more fun for younger children as it keeps them entertained and is very much like an interactive cartoon where they choose the characters, from an adults point of view though I do find I love playing this game for what it is, A little cheesy but great fun.
You also have the option to connect your figures and the portal of power to your pc, with each character you get a collectors card and a code which you enter online and upload your skylanders for more online mini games to play on the skylanders website, any data or character personality improvements are saved within the figures chip and can be transferred to console game play so this has its advantages in that it is extra opportunities to improve and advance the stats of your characters, a nice little addition to the variety of quality game play.
The characters are easy to control whilst gaming and are a pleasure to get to know, humorous and comical, our favourites so far are the cheeky trigger happy, bolshy eruptor and adorable drobot, if I can get the hang of controlling these mythical creatures within 5 minutes I am pretty sure anyone can!
I cannot help but think that some aspects of this game seems like a money spinning gimmick because besides buying this "starter" pack you will need to buy at least a further 6 skylanders to complete all the games challenges and that is going to get expensive! Especially if your child intends on collecting all the 32 figures.
Just to add insult to injury in terms of your purse strings, there is also available to buy extra adventure packs which are basically like adding extra content to the actual game like extra levels, challenges and puzzles and hidden areas within skylands, the pack are not necessarily just more character figures, they contain figures such as a ship, a set of swords or a shark figure that all work by placing them on the portal of power in the same way as you do with the skylander characters, these range in price from £14.99 upwards and are available at the same stock lists, I would recommend using a price comparison website when looking to purchase any of these items as the prices do vary wildly due to their current popularity.
I wish I could be more sceptical about the whole skylands craze manipulating our children into wanting to collect every single piece they release as part of the skyland gaming experience, but I have found myself to be drawn into or perhaps a better word is 'sucked' into (being a gullible type that I am) the wonderful enchanting world of skylanders, my son and I are having too much fun playing on this game which is addictive and has a surprising amount of content.
I think the whole idea of this game combination of collecting figures thing really works and is a new and unique gaming experience that is extremely enjoyable and easy to play, it would be nice to see more of this type of gaming as it introduces something new and fun for younger gamers but can also be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages and its great that a gap in the market is finally starting to close, I no longer have a daily battle with my children who argue over suitable games to play verses age appropriate limits, this game is perfect, its rated a 7+. I am surprised that no one thought of this idea sooner as its such a good concept if not an expensive one if you're a serious gamer who "has" to go the whole hog and collect every figure, but you don't have to go out and buy every single figure to be able to enjoy playing this game, it can be completed with the three figures that come in the started pack, it's a game that gives you the option of how far you want to take the game.
Be warned though that if you want to collect them all then you have to be prepared to part with some serious money!!
I would recommend this game and I rate it 4 out of 5
Thank you for reading
(Also posted on Ciao under mojo-mojo)