'Skylanders Swap Force' is the latest adventure in the ridiculously popular toys-and-games combo, out 18 October on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, and next-gen consoles at launch.
- New two-part figures let you mix-and-match abilities mid-game
- 256 new combinations possible
- All characters can now jump
- Full compatibility with existing Spyro's Adventure and Skylanders Giants figures, with all upgrades and levels
"Embark on a new adventure in Skylanders SWAP Force. The new game introduces the SWAP Force Skylanders characters. These Skylanders have the unique ability to mix and match their top and bottom parts to create new characters with different in-game abilities and powers."
As ever, Skylanders is as much of an investment (for parents) and a collection (for kids) as it is an actual game. This year's starter pack, which comes with three figures - two Swap Force figures and one series 3 figure - the new Portal of Power and the game, starts at around £52.99. Additional figures (there are 16 new ones in all) are - as ever - sold separately in a variety of individual packs. And if your kids are anything like, well, all the kids in the world, they're going to want them all.
The good news is - the game is good. Really good. As ever (again) it's a mix of action and adventure, in which the toys you place on the base launch themselves digitally into the game - and then retain their various saves, experience and other characteristics even when you take them to different machines (and different consoles). Your quest will take you around a range of worlds and crazy levels, fighting bad guys, solving puzzles and meeting various 'unlockable' doors which often require toys of the right elemental type to get inside - hence the need to collect 'em all.
This year's iteration is different in two key respects. The first is that it's more kinetic, platform-y and straightforwardly fun than ever. All the characters can now jump - something that was unbelievably absent before - and the variety of enemies and puzzles is really excellent. It's not Nintendo-standard, but it's good fun stuff.
The second main difference is how the Swap Force characters actually work. For this time they're not just plastic monoliths - you can pull them apart into two pieces and then mix-and-match, creating up to 256 different Skylanders each with a combination of abilities and characteristics. This is both really fun - watching the new hybrids emerge onscreen if pretty delightful - and quite good value, since it means you're sort of getting more for your money. The downside is that you still have to buy quite a few to get access to the whole game. You can still complete it with the starter pack alone, but that's not quite the same thing - there are side-quests and rooms all over the place, and you're little ones are going to want to see them.
The game also fails to make the most of the new swapping abilities - rarely is there a puzzle or scene which demands it. Which is a shame.
On the whole, however, it's hard to criticise Skylanders too much. The toys are high quality, the game is well made and challenging (at least on 'Nightmare' mode, which you have to unlock) and the whole thing stays just about on the right side of commercialised doom. It's not got the brand appeal of Disney Infinity, or the production values of Pokemon (or anything by Nintendo). But it's got character and depth. Which in a game ostensibly about buying plastic toys is pretty impressive.