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Preview: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

3:30 PM on 10.07.2011 // John Speerbrecker

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is doing something no other videogame has ever done by making real collectible toys be an integral part of a videogame experience. It's a novel concept, one that has left many people scratching their head at such an idea.

In this new ambitious take from developer Toys for Bob, I finally got to see first hand just how this whole concept works.

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Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (Xbox 360, 3DS, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Developer: Toys for Bob
Publisher: Activision
Release: October 16, 2011
MSRP: $19.99 - $69.99

Spyro is part of a group of superheroes in a Justice League-like team that protects the world of Skyland from people like the evil sorcerer Kaos. Kaos found a way to destroy the Core of Light, a magical device that keeps the world in order, and the destruction causes all of the protectors to be sent to Earth.

As we all know, when one crosses over to an alternate universe, there might be some repercussions. In this case, the Skylanders have become small versions of themselves in a somewhat plastic-like state. They can travel between the two dimensions through a portal and that's where you come in. 

You simply take one the three toys that come with the game (or ones that can come in the booster packs sold separately) and place it on the portal. The portal will light up with a color that reflects the element of the Skylander and through the use of special technology called Portal Magic, they can traverse back to their world in order to set things right. 

Skylanders is an isometric dungeon crawler where you use your Skylander to gain experience by defeating enemies and raise money to purchase new abilities for your heroes over the course of the journey. There are non-combat heavy elements but are a more puzzle oriented diversion between battles. I started out by simply placing my toy onto the portal and then having the character whisked into the world of Skyland and onto bringing his story to fruition.

Along the way you will need the help of your allies to access special areaes. For example, you might come to an area that only undead creatures can access. It will be up to you to switch out the character on your portal in real life to the undead character type to get into that area. You can switch back to a different Skylander once inside or just keep playing as the undead one, your choice. With that being said, you do not need all of the other Skylanders to complete the story. In fact, the entire story mode can be completed with just Spyro.

There is also multiplayer in the form of PvP. You and friend can both place your Skylanders on the same portal device and then compete in one of the arenas of Skyland. Maps are filled with dangers, such as a toxic goo that comes out of the ground to slow you down. In these battles it is always wise to use your strongest Skylander with all of their powers leveled up to dominate each map. 

There is also another multiplayer mode which is a sport-like game in the spirit of arena football. Both players will be put on opposite ends of the map and a goal will be in the middle. It's your job to go for the ball and take it to the goal to score points.

My favorite multiplayer game was a tug of war mode where your Skylander and your opponent are dropped into an arena and crystals will drop from the sky. When this happens, both characters are trying to collect the crystals and the first one to five wins. One strategy I came up with was to wait for my opponent to do the work by picking up a few crystals before I'd unleash my attacks, thus forcing them to drop everything that they had picked up and collecting it myself. 

In addition to the games and the toys, there is going to be a web space in place for you to enter your collection and their stats even if you don't have a game system to play them on. Not too many details about this part are known right now but expect to see full integration from the console games in some form. 

The key to this new endeavor is really going to come down to the game itself and if it will be able to capture the minds of players everywhere. In order for Skylanders to have legs, the team will be releasing additional characters after launch to keep things fresh. Nineteen of the toys will be available at launch and the remainder will be released over the next few months. Expect to see special and rare edition toys too. If you are wondering, the technology in the game is also set up so that Toys for Bob will be able to create new characters to add in the future and according to the developers, there will be no downloading necessary to input them into the game.

The 3DS will have a different story than the other systems but the toys will be transferable between ALL systems. So that level ten Trigger Happy character renamed Karl Winslow with a special cowboy hat will look the same on all editions of the game. Yes, you can rename your toys and their data will be saved within the toy itself.

It is so hard to explain how excited I am about this. While I was growing up, I loved buying toys of my favorite cartoon every other week to keep up with the story that was told to me via Saturday morning cartoons. With Skylanders, not only do the toys have a story, but here it is interactive. I will also get to fulfill my collectible toy fix by camping out to get those special limited edition versions of the Skylanders at a Toys R Us.

Based on what I played, Skylanders is definitely for kids and that is fine by me. Spyro is fun for all ages and those of you that enjoy the leveling up mechanics of dungeon crawlers with multiple characters like myself will be in for an exciting treat. 

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure will be released on October 16 for the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the 3DS. The game will be bundled with a portal device, three toys including Spyro and a poster showing the 32 characters that will be released in the coming months. Booster packs will also be available for $19.99 and will unlock special areas in the game. 


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