When it was announced earlier this year, Skylanders: Spyro's Big Adventure was met with a mixed reaction, mostly toward the cash-grab mentality the concept reflected. Essentially, Skylanders is a toy and game combination aimed toward children, all while rebooting the Spyro franchise and introducing a myriad of new characters for marketability. Using a portal device, players input characters to the game via individual toy statues; the games each come with three figurines, and there are over thirty in total. Consequently, not only do you have to purchase the games, but you also have to purchase additional toys to play as every character.
While this negativity toward Activision is understandable, that negativity does not necessarily outdo the fact that the game is pretty darn fun.
At New York Comic Con, I got my hands on the 3DS version of the game, and a developer from Vicarious Visions was there to answer my questions and help relay information on the titles. While we chatted about the game and its features (as we talk about in the below video), I played through the first few areas the game had to offer, and overall I was pretty impressed.
Unlike the console versions in which the portal needs to be activated at all times for character swapping, the handheld edition allows players to store two heroes in the game at one time, but to change characters outside of the stored ones, the portal will need to be used. Also unlike the console version, the 3DS version of the game is more platform-intensive, and from what I played, that is certainly true. In the last Spyro series, the games were more focused on beat-em-up scenarios; this rendition puts more emphasis on quick battles and unique character abilities. According to the developer, the handheld version is more fast-paced than the console version, and while I cannot confirm that, the game did feel well-paced.
Swapping characters was quick and easy, and as I played, they did have their little differences. Dark Spyro, for instance, glided across gaps while Ignitor, the other character in the demo, provided a double jump for platforming. As the game progresses, each character gains experience and, subsequently, abilities as they venture through each level of the game. While there are no extreme RPG elements in here, the leveling concept does make replaying the game more acceptable; having so many characters to choose from helps that as well.
Perhaps my biggest fault with the game from my hands-on time was the framerate. Seeing as this demo was probably a very complete version of the game, the framerate was disappointing. Sitting at roughly 20 fps, the game felt occasionally stilted. Thankfully, the 3D effect is greatly utilized, with large towers and drops which make good use of the 3DS display. The graphics are bright and do not show much of the faults a number of third party games on the 3DS did before. It certainly does not feel like an up-port, thank goodness!
We were told that there will be at least 30 characters, of which two are exclusively included in Starter Packs: Spyro with the console game and Dark Spyro with the handheld edition. This does make the game initially expensive. Thankfully, the game seems very solid and certainly welcoming to younger gamers. Will it be brought to the same height as the original Spyro series? Well, perhaps that depends on your perception of the original series. At the very least, this is a unique take on the franchise, and it is certainly not a bad one.
Skylanders is out now, but if you want some quick impressions over Comic Con footage, look no further!