I have already written an extensive review of the Skylanders: SWAP Force for the Xbox 360 and covered a lot of ground. You might think this review is redundant: think again. The behaviour of the SWAP Force game on the 3DS is entirely different from its home console counterparts – in fact, the game doesn’t even happen in the same setting though the SWAP Force has been freed. This review will discuss some of those differences and whether or not they make the 3DS version a unique experience from other platforms.
Gameplay is similar to the console version in that we follow predetermined branching paths and have both single element and dual-element gates, keys to find and items to collect – however all the gold collected gets converted to experience at the end of each level. In fact, there are no purchases you can make with the gold, be they hats or upgrades – instead, level progression unlocks skills as you progress. Other major differences include a double-jump, types of stat boosts given from the hat your Skylander is wearing, and the way in which different difficulty levels affect the challenge in the environments (eg: on easy a platform may not move, where on medium it may be spinning or floating up and down).
The 3DS version includes two SWAP Force characters, Rattle Shake and Free Ranger, as well as core Skylander Volcanic Eruptor. This works really well, as 3DS owners get three different characters from all of the other starter packs, and helps grow the collection without duplication.
I also like the difference in story – Vicarious Visions and Activision were right to avoid a retread as I don’t think it would have gone over as well. If there was one thing I’d nit-pick, its that you can’t use the D-pad to control direction – and while I love analog joysticks, I find the one on the 3DS to sometimes lead me to fall off ledges. I also thought the touch-screen interface, which is reserved almost exclusively for swapping Skylanders, could have been used to also see the combos available without having to pause the game.
My recommendation? If you’re into Skylanders, or your kids are, this one is a no-brainer. It’s a fantastic supplement to any existing Skylanders game as it adds value to your collection of toys. Even if you don’t have any other versions on other platforms, SWAP Force on 3DS is a decent 3rd person 3D platformer. Just don’t expect a 3DS interpretation of the console SWAP Force game – it stands on its own pedestal, and it can fit your toy collection inside a pocket.