Sunday, October 13, 2013

Skylanders Swap Force

Another year, another new Skylanders game that I find myself spending a lot of money on and end up driving from store to store to collect all the new figures for the game. If you have been following my posts over the past three years, then you know how much I love playing Skylanders:

I'm Hooked on Skylanders
Skylanders Giants...The Saga Continues

As another holiday season approaches, Activision released this year's new Skylanders game titled Swap Force. The gimmick this year is that you have several Skylanders that allow you to mix and match their tops and bottoms for new powers. Once all 16 Swap Force figures have been released,  players will have more than 250 character combinations to choose from during the game. Other than that, it is still your same basic Skylanders game (oh yeah, your characters can FINALLY jump this year).

My daughter and I only collect brand new Skylanders figures. It's pointless in my opinion to buy repaints or reposes of characters (not to mention Legendary and exclusive figures) that have already been released UNLESS you are a dedicated Skylanders collector. Not to mention that it can get pretty expensive:
  • Core, Series 2 & 3 figures - $9.99
  • LightCore figures - $12.99
  • Swap Force figures - $15.99
As with the previous Skylanders games, you can play through the whole game with the three figures that come with the $74.99 Starter Pack (it includes Swap Force Blast Zone, Swap Force Wash Buckler, and Series 3 Ninja Stealth Elf). Unfortunately, you will not be able to access some of the secret items due to locked elemental gates, including dual-element locked gates for Swap Force characters. One the plus side, the older Skylanders characters can be used in Swap Force and there are even a few treasure chests in the game that require a Skylanders Giant figure to open (if you have one).

Before Swap...

...after Swap

As far as gameplay, Skylanders Swap Force is a straightforward, kid-oriented platformer (did I mention that you can JUMP now). Think of it as a bright and colorful kids version of Diablo. I can finish the game on a Saturday afternoon, but I can see how it can take younger gamers longer to finish. Furthermore, after you've completed story-mode (about 17 levels), there are still timed challenges, score challenges, and bonus levels to extend the gameplay.

Magnets hold them together
For a much as I love Skylanders, the multiple trips to Walmart, Target, Toys 'R Us and GameStop to find all the figures that we don't have in our collection is starting to get old. Don't get me wrong, I really, really enjoy the Skylanders games. They are a much needed break from my normal FPS (First Person Shooter) or more action-oriented games that I normally play. In addition, it's one of the few games that my daughter and I both enjoy playing together (still can't get my wife into it yet). My problem is that there are many annoyances that Activision could easily avoid but haven't.

First of all,  I really wish Activision would consider selling a non-Starter Pack copy of the games. I now have three Portals of Powers now (technically four if you count the Nintendo 3DS version). Note that there were Portal Owner Packs with Skylanders Giants, which contained a Giant figure (Tree Rex) and the game, but I have not seen evidence of the same with Swap Force. After three games, you would think that this would be a no-brainer for Activision. No one needs multiple portals. I understand that Activision wants to make money, but c'mon man.

Secondly, one of the first things that my daughter and I discovered was that because not all 16 Swap Force figures aren't available yet, some elemental gates can't be open; therefore players cannot complete the game at 100 percent when it's released. That's messed up because as other Skylanders addicts know, Activision releases different figures over a period of time. So it might be January or February before you get that one Swap Force figure you need to unlock a specific elemental gate. More thought should be taken in to consideration as to which characters will be released and when.

Overall, if you enjoyed the previous Skylanders games, you'll enjoy Swap Force. It's a fun, albeit expensive, game that most gamers, no matter their age, will enjoy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I Use: Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630

The Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse was, in my opinion, the best portable travel mouse on the market. That was a year ago. Logitech recently released their Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 and it quickly replaced the Wedge Touch Mouse in my bag.

The LogitechUltrathin Touch Mouse T630 is a compact aluminum mouse designed specifically to compliment Ultrabooks. It measures 3.25 inches in length, 2.25 inches in width and 0.5 inches in depth (but tapers towards the front end). The T630 connects using Bluetooth wireless technology. In addition, it utilizes Logitech's Easy-Switch technology that allows you to toggle between two different Bluetooth enabled devices at the flip of a switch. Laptop and tablet. Tablet and phone. Laptop and phone. 

The T630 has a built in rechargeable battery that Logitech states will function for an hour after only a minute of charging time. It charges via a standard micro USB cable, which is included in the packaging.

Along with the T630 version, there is also an Ultrathin Touch Mouse T631 available as well. However, unlike the T630, it's a white version of the mouse designed to match Apple laptops like the MacBook Air.

The Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 is a slim, lightweight and stylish mouse that can easily be carried without any noticeable bulk. While $70 is a bit steep for a travel mouse these days, if you do a lot of traveling then the price will be well worth it.