As you already know, Skylanders: SuperChargers introduces land, sky, and water vehicles to the already popular toys-to-life series. Though it has been seen as as a child’s game in the past, Skylanders’ latest edition may be the time to let your inner kid loose. Thanks to a focus on new mission design, silly characters, and vehicles, SuperChargers brings a new level of fun into what was becoming a stale formula. Does this fuel injection make it worth the upgrade? Is it worth jumping into for the first time? Surprisingly, the answer to both is yes, even if it still has a few issues that need some tweaking under the hood.
For the most part, the story doesn’t deviate from the usual “bad guy trying to destroy everything in the universe” plot. It’s up to you as the portal master to use the Skylanders to go on a grand quest to vanquish the darkness by using the powerful engine of your vehicle. Fortunately, the level design and characters make the ten hours of gameplay more than worthwhile. You’ll visit strange lands filled with giants, you’ll get shrunken down to minuscule size, and heck, you’ll even be taking down some big baddies in all-out brawls along the way. It’s a whole lot of fun.
Most of the levels also include a new problem or power-up that will be used as a puzzle mechanic on each stage. At times you’ll need to figure out how to dissipate clouds that obstruct your vision, while at others you’ll be using magnets to defeat maniacal machines, or using shrinking technology to demolish the toughest of enemies. All and all, it makes for an excellent action-adventure experience.
“Adding this sort of diversity to the level design really helps transform it into a more fulfilling experience.”
Without going too much into spoiler territory, there was one specific stage that blew me away. It boasted an old-school 2D platformer feel with an artsy aesthetic, which felt just felt right. Adding this sort of diversity to the level designs really helps transform the game into a more fulfilling experience. That being said, the platforming could still be tightened up, because jumping is far too limited. Certain sections will require you to hop around, but the mechanics hold it back from being a truly great platformer. As it stands now, the mechanics are serviceable at best. Combat suffers from the same simplicity; button-mashing will work most of the time with each of the varying enemy types.
If you want the whole experience though, grabbing a sky and water vehicle should be priority number one, as the starter pack only includes two characters and one land vehicle. It’s enough to complete the game, but a large portion of the adventure will go untouched. This is deeply frustrating, because most worlds will include these missions and the game will make sure to constantly remind you about them. If you happen to nab a water and sky vehicle, you’ll be able to participate in everything from underwater courses to dogfights in the skies. Let me be clear, I did have access to the correct vehicles to enjoy everything the game had to offer, but you should know that you will be constantly reminded that you need them.
On the subject of vehicles, if you have them, they are pretty fantastic. Even just owning the land vehicle brings a breath of fresh air to the series. Throughout the story, you’ll be going from standard action-platforming to racing on wild tracks a la Mario Kart. Power-ups will be scattered around the track, with speed boosts added for that extra burst of acceleration to eke out a surprise victory. Shortcuts are also present for the savviest of racers to find and exploit.
“During more complicated vehicle boss battles, [controls] get wonky and can throw off your game.”
While open arenas are all about duking it out in your whip, other vehicle missions will have a combination of two. The controls during these sequences work well enough, but during more complicate vehicle boss battles, things get wonky and can throw off your game. A couple of boss fights really gave me a hard time because of the orientation of the arena in which I was battling. It made for some frustrating moments, but nothing that was game-breaking, ultimately.
Working as fully functional toys, the new vehicles also have a character paired with them. If you have the right combinations the speedsters will get some extra stat boosts, which is a smart way to incentivize purchasing multiple toys. Out of all the current toys-to-life collectibles these continue to be the most like actual toys. My young nephew isn’t allowed anywhere near my amiibo collection, but letting him play with the Skylanders collectibles doesn’t give me the same level of anxiety.
You’ll also be finding new gear and currency to upgrade whichever happens to be your favorite collectible. The customization options aren’t as deep as I’d like them to be, but you can change the look of each transportation machine, which is excellent. Vehicles are definitely an welcome addition.
An online component is finally introduced, so you and 3 other friends can play online together. A new portal master ranking system is also included, which yields new possibilities for the campaign. On top of that, all the extra bonus tracks for racing make this the best Skylanders yet, especially in terms of the amount of content. I haven’t even mentioned how gorgeous all the animations are. The levels are vibrant, the colors pop, and the characters are richly crafted to enhance their wacky personalities. As much as you’ll hate to admit it, the cast of goofballs will grow on you.
As for those who’re already into the series and have loads of collectible toys, you’ll be happy to hear that all the older Skylanders will work with the newest iteration. Even an older base will work just fine. All you’ll need is a couple of vehicles with the game itself–unless you’re intent on growing your already massive collection of toys. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fiddle with the Skylanders/amiibo toys for this review, but I have tried them at preview events, and they work the same as any other figure. Their unique styles make them a cool addition to your collection at the bare minimum.
Yes, the vehicles included are the main attraction of the newest Skylanders game, but that’s just the beginning. More attention was paid to turning this into a fresh and fun experience for everyone. All the juicy extra content including race-tracks and side-quests will have you swapping out your toys with joy. This is the first Skylanders title that I would say is worth purchasing for everyone, whether you have an adult family member, a younger sibling, are in need of a pallet cleanser yourself, or are even wanting to upgrade from previous installments. This is the Skylanders for you.
–Levels are imaginative, and the at times the silly writing can catch you off-guard. Yes, this is still mostly for children, but I found that the level design was fantastic and larger than life. Some of the characters you meet are funny, and are brought to life with great voice acting.
–Vehicles are a welcome. They add a needed diversity to the challenges. Customizing your whip is simple and actually fun to watch as it transforms into a fully loaded speed-demon.
–Bring along all your old friends. This release has less characters because of the emphasis on the vehicles. Luckily, your previous collection in its entirety will work with this game, though the new ones won’t work with the older games.
– Arena vehicle combat can be frustrating, especially with vehicle controls that are just serviceable. Racing around is great because you don’t need to use the most responsive controls. But, when you have to deal with a ton of enemies flying around while dealing with a boss, that’s when things get out of hand.
– Enjoying all this game has to offer will require you to purchase more toys. I get it, this is the nature of the genre, but I still didn’t appreciate that I was constantly reminded that I needed a water, or sky vehicle.
–Platforming could use some tweaking. What really holds this game back from being great is the weak platforming. Jumping around isn’t really the strong suit for most of your Skylanders. But, just because it’s a kids game, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t strive to become a great platformer.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 burritos
This review was completed using a PlayStation 4 copy of Skylanders: Superchargers, provided by Activision. The game hit stores Tuesday, September 20 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Nintendo 3DS.