Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure – The Beloved Purple Dragon is Back!

If you’ve seen the Skylanders trailer, you’ll know that Activion’s latest in the Spyro franchise is unlike any other game we’ve encountered before.  In Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, an evil portal master, Kaos, has taken over Skylands, the magical utopian world that is Spyro’s home.   With an evil cackle, Kaos banishes Spyro and his friends onto Earth, and they’re frozen as toy replicas of themselves.

With the game’s premise, Activision has integrated the toy market into the new Spyro game:   Skylanders comes with a ‘portal’ and life-like plastic Skylanders character toys.  This new aspect is simple in its complexity: plug the portal base into your gaming console, and place the Skylanders toy onto it to play the same character in the game.  But here’s where the complex, behind-the-scenes part comes in!  Each toy has its own memory, and stores your character’s experience, level, unique traits – you name it.  Additionally, the toy can be used on any portal across platforms, making it easy for gamers to bring their characters together in-game.  No need to make new characters when you’re at your friend’s house – you can just bring your own!

Despite the technology of these toys and the portal, the expected lag is nowhere to be seen.  When you put the toy onto the portal, a shower of sparkles on-screen precedes the entrance of the corresponding character.  The character can disappear just as quickly if you choose to switch characters halfway through the level.  A menu doesn’t pop up, the game doesn’t pause; the portal’s transition scenes are smoothly done in-game.

The gameplay itself is highly intuitive and addictive as hell.  We were lucky enough to get some hands-on time at Activision’s booth during E3 this year.  In the dimly lit room showcasing 5 foot tall statues of Spyro, GilGrunt and Trigger Happy, the game’s beautiful graphics glowed on the TV screens.

Even with my limited Spyro gameplay experience, Skylanders was very easy to pick up on the Xbox console.  Mary Schuyler, a Producer at Activision, enthusiastically chatted about Skylanders as I maneuvered Spyro around the level, collecting coins as I went.  In the background, a large, incomplete castle (and its debris) spun in the distance.  As Spyro progressed through the level, pieces of the castle attached themselves to the main building.  Cool!  Though I was more than happy to fly around aimlessly, Mary quickly pointed out an elemental gate, explaining that it could only be opened by the same elemental-type champion.  So, for the Life Gate, I needed to switch in Stump Smash to activate it in order to get to the goodies across the way.  Although it’s not mandatory for you to enter all of the gates, bear in mind that these locked areas hold unique items, gems, and are needed to gain certain achievements.

Each Skylanders has its own element-based skillset, and it’s up to the player to decide which character will be most effective against the enemy and in any given environment.  A bit of strategizing is needed, as the developers made sure that players will need to utilize more than one elemental character in any level.  With over 30 characters and corresponding toys to choose from, this game promises to be fun for gamers young and not-so-old.

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is due out in the Fall, and the standard game will be retailing for $69.99.  While I would normally wince at that price, take note:  Each game comes with the portal, three Skylanders toys – the iconic Spyro, Trigger Happy, and Gilgrunt, collector’s cards and a collection map.

I can hardly wait!

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