Spyro debuted on the original PlayStation game system. It was a huge hit then, increasing the already large number of good platformers on system. Since then there have been a few Spyro games to come out, but we haven’t truly seen him on a platformer on this generation of consoles. Activision and developer Toys for Bob are going to be bringing Spyro back in a big way with Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, but they are taking a larger risk with the title than you might expect.
Skylanders is set in a new universe that is made up of an infinite realm in the clouds once ruled by Portal Masters. Eon, the last of the great Portal Masters has been defeated by the Portal Master Chaos. You’ll use your platforming skills to guide Spyro and his friends around the different levels, switching as necessary to free the realm from Chaos’ clutches.
Skylanders won’t come like the typical game. When you purchase the game, you’ll instead be purchasing a Starter Pack. The package includes the game on the platform of your choice, a Portal of Power, and three different figures about 3” in height. These three figures are the characters you play in the game. To play as one of the characters, you simply place the character on the Portal of Power. The characters can be switched at any time in the game, which is important since some areas are easier with specific characters. As you play, you can also play cooperatively with another person using another figure. You can also play competitively with each other as well.
As you play the game, your characters gain experience with each enemy they defeat and each objective they complete. Each character can level up to level 11. Your abilities upgrade as they increase each level. When you upgrade, you are able to choose different paths to take your character that upgrade your abilities differently. Hidden areas contain chests that have items that can not only change the look of your characters, but also give your characters different buffs. If you have a friend that has the same character as you, it could look completely different and have different abilities.
The game follows a hub system, with each level having a distinct look and feel. One level will be organic with vines that form bridges and grass that grows along your path. You might have a lava level with fire sprouting all over. A water level will have islands with areas that you need to swim across. Toys for Bob really wants each level to look and feel distinct. Since it uses a hub system, you can play them in any order.
Eight different elemental classes are going to be available, and each one will play very differently. Chop Chop is an undead knight that uses his sword to slay enemies. Gill Grunt is a water elemental that uses a harpoon gun and water shot. Prism Break is an earth elemental that lays down crystals and uses them to attack both in melee and with long-range shots. Stealth Elf is a life elemental that uses stealth to get around. Ignitor is a fire elemental that not only shoots fire but also is very fast. Trigger Happy is a tech elemental that uses guns to attack enemies from a distance. Of course there is Spyro as well. Each level has Elemental Gates that only specific characters can pass through. This should encourage exploration of old levels.
Each of the figures runs about 3” tall, and they are solidly constructed. While they aren’t posable, they are tough that kids should be able to play with them without worrying about destroying them in the process. This is important because the most unique fact of Skylanders is that the data is stored in the figure and not on the console. This allows a player to bring their figure to a friend’s house who also has Skylanders and play using their own character with their own stats, experience, level, look, and buffs. The figures are console agnostic as well, meaning that if you have the Wii version and your friend has the PS3 version, you can still play together on each other’s console locally and when you are finished all of the experience and items you’ve found will still be in the figure you have.
Skylanders is an ambitious project. Eventually expansion packs will be made available with more figures, eventually releasing 32 characters in all. It’s easy to see why the buzz for Skylanders was huge when it was unveiled at the NY Toy Fair. Toys for Bob has really brought the concept of your toys entering the game and made it a reality. It’s still a huge risk, but they could have a real winner on their hands. Skylanders Spyro’s Adventures is scheduled for release in fall of 2011.