I’m Hooked on Skylanders

I have been playing video games since my parents bought me an Atari 2600 when I was a young geek. As an adult, gaming is not just for personal enjoyment but also my stress reliever. Some people drink, I take down Brute Chieftains with a battle rifle (notice the Halo reference). While I generally play FPS (First Person Shooters), I have recently been addicted to playing Activision’s Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.

In the game, players become a Portal Master who can control over 37 different characters (32 regular Skylanders plus additional Legendary, silver, gold and translucent blue collectible characters), each of which belong to one of eight elements (air, earth, water, fire, life, tech, magic and undead). Each of the eight elements has four Skylanders (not including the collectibles which are copies of the original characters) that have varying levels of attributes such as strength and defense. You are able to explore different lands, fight creatures, solve puzzles, and collect treasures on a quest to save their world from Kaos. That’s it! Pretty simple and straightforward. It’s not complicated but it can be challenging in an old-school way.

Skylanders that my daughter and I currently own

What makes Skylanders different from other video games is that each of the game’s playable characters has a corresponding figure. Placing the figure on the “Portal of Power” peripheral that comes with the Starter Pack brings that character into the game.

The secret is that each figure has an RFID chip that wirelessly communicates with the Portal of Power. The chip also retains the player’s stats such as level and upgrades purchased in game. Because each figure retains it’s stats, you can play with your character on any supported platform (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Nintendo 3DS). This is true cross-platform gameplay. Image a game like Marvel Ultimate Alliance taking the same approach.

The Starter Pack comes with three characters. You have to purchase the rest in either single and triple packs or an Adventure Pack. That can get expensive. We have 24 of the 37 characters. It’s like the American version of Pokeman for this generation. The great thing is that Activision is going to release a sequel called Skylanders: Giants this Fall so you can still use the characters you have bought. The plus for gamers and downside for your wallet is that Activision is going to release some new characters as well.

Here is the great thing about Skylanders that I love the most: it’s one of the few, non-Kinect games for the Xbox 360 that my daughter and I can play together. While I enjoy a good game of Team Deathmatch online in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,  nothing compares to spending time playing with my daughter. We both look forward to playing it together on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (my wife does too because if we are playing video games, we won’t bother her while she is working on her graduate degree). Flameslinger is my character of choice and my daughter loves Stealth Elf.

Is Skylanders a game for children? Of course, but it is one of those games that while it might not have the complexity of a game like Portal 2, it has the simplistic gameplay and challenge that you loved in old-school games like Super Mario Bros. Great for casual gamers or parents who want to play along with their kids. Just get ready to empty your wallet.

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