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Skylander Spyro’s Adventure Preview

Skylander Spyro’s Adventure Preview

Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Family Fun

While at E3 in Los Angeles this year, I had a chance to check out Activision’s Skylander Spyro's Adventure. At the time, I was impressed with what the game had to offer which included some pretty neat technology, innovative cross platform gaming and some cute little toy figures. As for the game itself, it seemed enjoyable and showed lots of promise. Yet overwhelmed in all the E3 chaos, Skylander Spyro's Adventure was seemingly lost in the shuffle as games such as SSX, Bioshock Infinite, Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3, Halo Remastered and Forza 4 stood front and center. In all the madness and chaos that was E3, Skylander Spyro's Adventure quickly fell off my radar and I had almost forgotten it until I received an invite to attend a hands-on preview.

The hands-on preview was held at the ‘Toys for Bob’ development studio situated in a gorgeous location in Novato, California. ‘Toys for Bob’ isn’t a particularly large studio but staffs some of the friendliest and passionate people I have met in the gaming industry to date. ‘Toys for Bob’ has developed such games as Madagascar 2, Tony Hawk Downhill Jam, and Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure to name a few. So by no means are they considered a heavy hitter in the industry but it appears Skylander Spyro's Adventure stands as arguably their largest project to date given the amount of money Activision has thrown towards the development of the game. This does come as somewhat of a surprise given the Spyro franchise has been in somewhat of a slump in recent years. So clearly Activision sees something in this game. As someone who was first exposed to the franchise over 10-years ago and has seen the highs and recent lows (yes I am looking at you Dawn of the Dragon), I for one am hoping the newest Spyro offering could booster some life into a franchise which has been in hibernation.

After a tour of the studio and presentation by the fine folks at ‘Toys for Bob’ I had to chance to site down with the game and get some impressions. Yet before I get into the nuts and bolts of the gameplay, I should briefly explain a little how Skylander Spyro's Adventure works as this game is not your regular run-of-the-mill kids game. It is more than a game and has the potential to be so much more and I will tell you why.

Skylander Spryro's Adventure is set to retail for $69.99, and will be available on the Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, 3DS, Mobile Devices and Windows PC. Yes, it is 10 bucks more than your typical game but this price includes the game, 3 toy figurines and the “Portal of Power” which connects to your console of choice. The Xbox 360 Portal attaches to your console via a wire but the Wii and PS3 version are wireless. There are 32 toy figures in all and all are playable characters in the game. Each character in the game is locked; that is until you place a character on the “Portal”. So in order to play with all the characters in the game and take advantage of their unique character skill set, you need to acquire those characters.

Once you place a toy figure on the Portal, the screen starts to illuminate and instantly your character appears on screen. You are then free to control your player about in the game just as you would any other character in any other ‘run-of-the-mill’ kid game. If you get sick of playing with that character, simply take the toy off the portal and replace him with one of your existing characters. I was simply amazed with how easy and seamless this process was. There was no hitting the pause menu and accessing a separate screen. Just pull your existing toy off and place another one on the Portal. It is really that simple and works like a charm.

Yet, what makes Skylander Spyro's Adventure a truly one of a kind experience and something I have yet to see in a game is the cross platform abilities of the characters. For instance, while I was playing the Xbox 60 version co-operative with one of the Toys for Bob sound guys (sorry I forgot his name) I managed to level him up to a level 10 and found a cool looking Trojan hat for my character. After I equipped the hat, I immediately pulled my character off the Xbox 360 Portal and placed my character on the Wii Portal. Just like magic, my character showed up in the Wii game as a level 10 character and there he was equipped with the hat. It was incredible and certainly had me wondering what kind of tech went in to the toy and portal. The technology is remarkable as each figurine stores its own stats, equipment and other assortments and these stats then carry over as you take the figurine over to a friends and put it on their portal for some cooperative fun. What is even more amazing is the price of each of these figurines is only 8 bucks and the suckers are very durable. I am not sure if you can get them wet but they are high quality and certainly appear they can take a beating.

Each character, including Spyro, falls under a specific element class such as tech, life, fire, undead, etc. As progress along in the game you will stumble across certain areas where it would be advantageous to play with a character from a certain class. In some cases you will need a character with a certain element in order to access an area. Should you require a character with a specific element it is as simple as taking your initial character off “The Portal” and putting the new character on the portal with the element you need. Once you do so the new character immediately shows up in-game where you left off. You then use the new character with the necessary element to continue on your adventure. Fortunately you can get through the game with the characters that are including in the $69.99 bundle but you will not be able to access all areas of the game. So if you plan on investing a serious amount of playtime with the game you will want to acquire characters that represent all element classes.

As for the game itself, Skylander Spyro's Adventure plays out like many other kid focused games. It is a somewhat linear experience to but there is a ton of exploration. In order to boost your characters stats, you will need to collect coins, rings and other items that surface when you break items and destroy enemies. Travelling along from level to level and smashing everything in site, including enemies, is enjoyable but it does become repetitive after awhile. Yet switching off characters when the game does become a little mundane certainly spices things up a bit and keeps the game interesting. This being said, I am adult who prefers more mature games. Skylander Spyro's Adventure has a specific target audience in mind, so the simplicity of the experience will be something that will appeal to those between the ages of 7-10.

Collecting, destroying enemies, and smashing objects take up the bulk of the approximately 15-hour single player affair. Yet there are some puzzle solving sequences and other sequences where you have to interact with the characters and locate items. In one instance, we had to collect a skeleton character’s bones. So needless to say, despite some of the repetitiveness there is a good amount of variety in the game. If you get sick of the single player experience there are some addition modes available. Battle mode, for instance, is where you can pick a character and battle one on one against another character in a virtual arena that comes alive. Ports that launch you into the air, rocket you can fire and deadly spikes that rise from the ground are just a few examples of the obstacles you face when battling your buddy one on one. I was also surprised to find out that the stats your character (toy figure) accumulates in this mode count towards your overall player’s stats and are saved in that tiny chip in your toy figure. Very cool indeed and gives gamers more incentive play the battle mode with one another.

In addition to the Battle Mode, there is also mode that acts like a football game. Much like Battle Mode, it is a one-on-one game. A virtual football goes launching into the map. You and your opponent chase the ball and try to score either a touchdown or a field goal in the designated area which contains a goal post. Bashing or firing at your opponent can result is a fumble. Once again the map is alive and you have to use your environment to you advantage. I played a few games in this mode and it was simply a blast.

I was somewhat disappointed Skylander Spyro's Adventure has no online functionality. Yet again, when you consider the target audience (7-10 year olds), should those kids really be on Xbox Live anyhow? Skylander Spyro's Adventure is a game designed for kids to play with their buddies or members of their family together. And playing the game alongside a buddy is where the game truly shines as the co-op experience is a hoot. To add a second player all you have to do is put their character figurine on your own portal and just like magic their character appears on screen. Both of you are now free to roam the world and tackle the many levels. All the while, both characters accumulate their own stats and carry over to any console. \

Visually, the game looks great on the Wii version but on the Xbox 360 version the game looked decent but nothing incredibly jaw dropping. The game was originally designed for the Wii and it somewhat shows as the 360 version I played was not as graphically superior as I thought it would be. It is a bright and colourful game. The characters do look great and the levels are also very slick looking. But the level of detail is not on par with other Triple A games already on the market.

On the other hand, I was blown away with the games sound. The musical score is composed by Hans Zimmer who could be crowned as the Heavyweight Champion of Hollywood Movie Musical scores. It made for a great sounding experience. The voice acting is also top notch as some notable voice actors lend their voice. But I won’t give away any spoilers at this point.

The most impressive aspect of Skylander Spyro's Adventure is clearly those toy figures. They are small but one thing is for certain, a heck of a lot of detail went into the toy figure designs. Being an avid collector of NHL hockey McFarlane figures, I can appreciate toy figures which look life-life, feature a lot of detail and colour. Skylander Spyro's Adventure toys figures do just that. I was simply blown away with how great those toy figures look. I suspect when the game launches, all sorts of figure collectors will be coming out of the wood work just to collect the toys and for good reason. One look at the toys and you can tell a lot of time and attention to detail went into crafting those tiny Spyro figures. The games lead art director told us that over 40 shades of color are used in each of the figures which we were told was unprecedented for an 8 dollar toy. The hard plastic toys feel good quality and they are hard to put down. With 32 toy characters in all, collectors and fans of the game will without question want to collect as many as possible.

This brings me to one of my concerns with the game and the entire Skylander Spyro's Adventure experience. The game, portal and character will be bundled up together for a cost of around $69.99. Typical new release games cost around 10 bucks less. So when you consider what you get for 10 bucks more, Skylander Spyro's Adventure is good bang for the buck. So what’s the problem? Well if you want more characters, it is going to cost you. Additional single figures will cost you 8 bucks or you can buy them in 3-packs for what I believe will be around 15-20 bucks. With a total of 32 characters to be had, you can do the math. It will add up if you are like me and have to have complete collections. Yet nobody is forcing you to pick up all the characters and if one or more of your friends own the game then trading figures could become a popular school yard activity.

As I mentioned, you do not have to buy all the characters. In fact, for those folks who are not interested in paying for more figures you can finish the game and access the majority of the games levels and bonus areas with the 3 included figurines. Yet for those who are looking to maximize their experience you will want to at least pick up 4-5 more characters that cover all the elements.

There is no question Activision is taking somewhat of a risk with Skylander Spryro's Adventure. The “Portal” could be viewed as yet another peripheral for their console and having to fork over extra bucks to collect all 32 characters could turn many parents off. As it stands, there will be no Uber edition available where the game, portal and all 32 figures will be included. So if you want all the figures, you are looking at an over 200 dollar investment which is a hefty price tag no mater how you shake it.

The fall and holiday season brings with it a massive amount of releases and you can quickly blow your budget. So to ask parents to drop 69.99 plus some more of all those tiny figures that could be a tall order. So needless to say, Skylander Spryro's Adventure better be good and offer up an experience that will please the masses. And that I believe it will accomplish as Skylander Spryro's Adventure is more than your typical video game experience. Frankly it is unlike anything I have ever played before and I look forwards to its release in the upcoming weeks.


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