Skylanders comes racing back with Skylanders Superchargers, a game that shows that there’s more than one way to bring toys to life.
The Toys To Life category is one that Activision’s Skylanders franchise can quite rightly claim to have championed, but in recent years there’s been a growing interest in the
large piles of cash mostly kids-centric market which has led to competitors appearing on the market. Disney’s Infinity titles, Lego’s Dimensions and Nintendo’s rather sprawling Amiibo integration into Wii U and 3DS titles are the obvious competitors, and it’s into this space that the latest Skylanders game has launched itself.
The hook with this year’s game is racing across air, land and water courses, interspersed with the same standard platforming elements found in previous Skylanders games. Superchargers benefits a lot from the previous Skylanders titles, not just because it’s meant that Vicarious Visions has been able to develop a very smooth games engine, but because Superchargers incorporates every single Skylander all the way back to Spyro’s Adventure.
You want to throw a Skylanders Giant into a ludicrously small watercraft? You can. It’s an interesting step for a franchise most closely associated with parental wallet assault thanks to the wide variety of $15 and up toys, because it means if you’ve got an existing army of Skylanders to hand, you’re already well equipped to play.
Even the new hook this year isn’t too brutal a wallet assault in real terms. The new “Supercharger” Skylanders match with specific vehicles to get specific boosts and perform in-game vehicle upgrades. But there’s not too many types to collect in order to access 100 percent of the game, and if you upgrade a vehicle with a Supercharger Skylander, those upgrades are then available to your non-Supercharger characters as well. You could buy just a few additional vehicles and have the game at your disposal, although predictably there are stat bonuses for those who buy every last new model.
If there’s anything painful in terms of add-on purchases, it’s if you’re a Nintendo fan. I tested Skylanders Superchargers in its Wii U version, which comes with a Donkey Kong Supercharger that transforms into an Amiibo at the flick of a somewhat fragile-feeling switch. That must have been an interesting marketing meeting, but that aside, the other Nintendo character, Bowser, is only available as part of the Wii bundle, and that’s a racing-only title where the “full” Superchargers game incorporates both racing and platform elements. I very much get why the Nintendo characters only work on Nintendo platforms, but it’d be nice to be able to buy Bowser without having to shell out (pun intended!) for the Wii version as well.
The core game of Skylanders Superchargers revolves around, once again, Chaos, and his diabolical schemes. I’ve got to assume that he’s taking notes from Phineas & Ferb’s Dr Doofenschmirtz here, as Chaos’ objective in Skylanders Superchargers is building (and I quote) “The Doomstation Of Ultimate Doomstruction”.
It’s as cheesy as it sounds, but the quality of the script and especially its voice acting all makes it work in a way that’s mostly charming. Yes, as a parent you will grow somewhat tired of the repetitive requests for specific Skylander types and some of the ingame sound effects, but it otherwise holds together well over an enjoyable and polished platform and racing romp.
It’s that polish that makes Skylanders Superchargers stand out in its own way in the Toys To Life category, especially in the platform sections. Racing is well handled in a way that won’t likely give Mario Kart too many nightmares, but equally stands up well enough for a family audience. I’d say that the water races are the best realised and the air races the least compelling, but that’s very much a matter of personal taste. Online racing is an option this year, and again while I think the “proper” racing franchises won’t sweat this too much, it’s a nice addition that should give Superchargers a little more medium to long term value.
As I noted at the start of this review, Skylanders no longer exists in a Toys To Life vacuum, but what’s really interesting here is how each of the competing platforms take the Toys To Life concept in different directions.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is still all about creativity, and that’s no bad thing. The small amount of Lego Dimensions I’ve played suggests it’s the same Lego game engine with added building and IP elements in it, which again could well suit you. Nintendo seems to want Amiibos to be all things to all people, especially rabid figure collectors.
Skylanders Superchargers’ focus on simply delivering a game that’s fun to play gives it a rather unique and compelling proposition, especially if you’re already invested in existing Skylanders toys.