Skylanders Superchargers: Multiplayer Racing Hands-On

Skylanders Superchargers, the latest in the long running Skylanders franchise will feature online multiplayer racing. I went hands-on with an early build of Activision’s toy-fuelled franchise.
This year is going to be brutal on the wallets of parents, with new entries in the Disney Infinity franchise, the emergence of Lego Dimensions and, of course, the instigator of all this toys-as-unlockable-plastic-DRM malarkey, Skylanders.
The next generation Skylanders game is Skylanders Superchargers. Activision has just announced at Gamescom that Superchargers will feature online multiplayer for the game’s race mode. That’s a big first for the series, and I had the chance to rumble down a number of the game’s tracks in an early build today.
The Superchargers part of the name isn’t just there for the sake of cool nomenclature, with specific combinations of vehicle and driver/pilot gaining additional powers, although you’re not restricted in any way from using Skylanders in unusual combinations from previous entries in the series.
For the purposes of demonstration, however, all I had access to were the new Superchargers figures, including the remodels of a few Skylanders stalwarts such as Stealth Elf and Gill Grunt. I was playing on PS4 code, which means that the nifty new combination Skylanders/Amiibo Donkey Kong and Bowser figures were a no-go; they’re a Wii U/3DS exclusive option.
The online racing section of Superchargers will feature voice chat, limited to players on your friends list and friends of friends, although in terms of demonstration everyone playing was in the same room anyway. There will be local competition as well, limited to two players in a split screen arrangement, whereas online racing will feature up to four vehicles.

If you're lacking in friends (or simply not online) you can also race split screen, albeit with only two racers.
If you’re lacking in friends (or simply not online) you can also race split screen, albeit with only two racers.

One thing you can’t do mid-race is change up your Skylander or vehicle. Each driver and vehicle is registered in before the race starts, and this appears to be how split screen multiplayer will get around the issues of placing all those figures on a single portal of power. For those purchasing the game digitally, previous portals will apparently work with Skylanders Superchargers.
I swear, every single time I picked up Sky Slicer, the theme to "Battle Of The Planets" went through my head. Just me?
I swear, every single time I picked up Sky Slicer, the theme to “Battle Of The Planets” went through my head.
Just me?

The racing sections of Skylanders Superchargers will feature 2 races on each of land, water and sky tracks, with additional courses unlocked — you guessed it – -by purchasing yet more figures. Three separate racing action packs will be on offer with a supercharger, vehicle and villain trophy in each. The villain trophy unlocks two new tracks for its particular race style, along with the promise of cup, boss and mirror modes.
Land plays much as you might expect if you’ve ever played any Mario Kart, or indeed any other kart racer. There’s the usual array of powerups, a few shortcuts or alternate routes to pick from, and some nice side visual touches that I only really noticed when I crashed into walls and had the chance to take in my surroundings.
It's a shark. In a tank. BECAUSE OF COURSE IT IS.
It’s a shark. In a tank.

The land race I took part in was in a seriously clichéd fantasy setting, complete with fire and ice dragons, both of whom formed obstacles with their respective breath powers. Powerups at this point in the build automatically fired up when driven over — hopefully that’ll change in the final code — along with a relatively weak forward-firing bomb that slowly depletes the health of other drivers.
I suspect the star of the Skylanders Superchargers race show will be the water levels, which take the standards of a kart racer and apply them on water. This gives you two levels (above and below) to race upon, with changes in obstacles and the ability to avoid foes and gain some momentum by popping under or over waves at just the right time. I lost some races simply because I splashed on a wave at the wrong time, and won others by ducking under the waves to avoid foes and obstacles in a way that, if you’ll pardon the pun, felt genuinely fluid.
Where the land section does at this point feel like just another Mario Kart clone, the water sections have enough unique action, even though boat racers are nothing new, to really stand out.
Slight spoiler: There are frozen underwater sheep.  They are charming.
Slight spoiler: There are frozen underwater sheep.
They are charming.

I was less taken with the Air levels, although at least part of that was the lack in this build of inverted controls, which meant I spent a lot of time crashing into walls, floors and arrows informing me I was flying the wrong way. The Air levels shown, which were apparently all part of the standard six race levels that are part of the core Skylanders Superchargers game did at least have a lot of variety, with aircraft flying both low to the ground and way high up in the clouds as part of each race.

There’s still some time to go before Skylanders Superchargers lands on Australian store shelves, which means that some of my concerns may well be tweaked out; I’m told at the very least that there should be an option for inverted flight controls. Alongside the race modes will naturally be the storyline based mode, which once again sees Kaos trying his hand at an evil world-destroying plot, this time via the (and I quote) “Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction”. Something tells me that guy’s been hanging out with Phineas & Ferb’s Doctor Doofenshmirtz a bit too much.
Skylanders Superchargers goes on sale on September 25 with an RRP of $99.95 (PS3/PS4/Xbox One/Xbox 360/WiiU) or $119.95 for the “dark” edition of same; there’s also a 3DS version which will sell for $89.95, and a Wii version which is purely a racing title at $99.95. The toys will sell for $17.95 each, with vehicles costing $19.95 and the action packs costing $39.95.

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