Skylanders: SuperChargers Review (XONE)

Skylanders SuperChargers box
Skylanders SuperChargers box. Activision
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Most yearly franchises start to lose steam after four or five entries, but Skylanders is showing no signs of slowing down with its fifth entry, Skylanders SuperChargers.  Skylanders has been able to stay relevant for so long because the toys are great, the games are surprisingly polished, and the gameplay keeps getting new additions and evolutions that keep it interesting.  SuperChargers continues that trend while also introducing a game changing new mechanic in the form of vehicles and racing alongside the fantastic platforming the series is known for.

  The result is yet another solid family-friendly romp kids will go nuts for.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Activision
  • Developer: Vicarious Visions
  • ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Racing / Platforming
  • Pros:  Nice presentation; solid platforming gameplay; all your old toys (and portals!) work; vehicles are interesting; Richard Horvitz as Kaos
  • Cons:  Vehicle levels are kind of boring; new portal is lame; expensive; a little evil, maybe

Features

Skylanders SuperChargers is available for purchase in a couple of different ways this year.  You can buy the standard Starter Pack at retail that comes with the game, two Skylanders figures, a vehicle, and the new Portal of Power for $75.  Or, if you already own a portal from Giants, Swap Force, or Trap Team, you can buy the game digitally on Xbox One for $50.  The download version comes with digital versions of the Spitfire character and Hot Streak vehicle.

  Any other characters or vehicles you want will have to be purchased at physical retail.  Characters cost around $13 each while new vehicles are $15. 

A great feature of Skylanders is that all of your old figures work with each new game, and SuperChargers is no different.  Likewise, your older games worth with the new portal, so you only need one portal out to play all of the games.

 

One of my favorite things about Skylanders has been how the portals have gotten cooler and more interesting in their designs.  The Trap Team portal, for example, is amazing with how it lights up and how cool it looks.  The SuperChargers portal, on the other hand, is just lame.  It doesn't light up.  It doesn't look good.  It's just a  big open space to accommodate the (surprisingly big) new vehicle toys.  It does have a port for the trap toys, at least, so that's nice.

Gameplay

Gameplay in Skylanders SuperChargers is split fairly evenly between the classic platforming the series is known for and new stages where you use the vehicles.  The platforming is the same beat-em-up style where you attack enemies and break objects hoping to find loot and power-ups.  It's like Diablo for kids.  The platforming stages in SuperChargers also include some special levels like a 2D level in a storybook and even a world that turns Skylanders into giants that tower over the scenery among many other standout levels.  The on-foot beat-em-up combat and level design has never been better in Skylanders than it is in SuperChargers. 

The vehicle sections are a bit of a step back, however.  The vehicles include land, water, and flying vehicles.

  As you can probably guess, chunks of the game are accessible only by vehicles of a certain type, so you'll have to buy at least one of each to see everything the game has to offer.  Vehicles will include race cars, submarines, construction vehicles, tanks, helicopters, jets, and more and each one also pairs with a specific character (like Spitfire and Hot Streak) that create a "super charged" version of the vehicle when used together.  Just like with the (now 300+) characters available in Skylanders, the vehicles can also be upgraded and leveled up as you play.

The gameplay during the vehicle sections is kind of boring, unfortunately.

  Race tracks are ridiculously wide and offer no challenge whatsoever.  Arena modes change the controls so the vehicles drive in whatever direction you're holding the stick, instead of just turning left or right, which takes some getting used to since you also still hold the trigger down for gas like you're driving like normal.  Land vehicle sections are by far the worst offenders as far as just being boring.  Water levels are similarly straightforward, but at least with submarines you go under the water and not just on top (and the water sections have a Hydro Thunder-vibe, which is sort of thrilling).  Flying levels are better since they are a lot more dynamic and give you more space to maneuver. 

Overall, though, there's no denying that the standard on-foot platforming is a lot more fun than the vehicles.  With that said, considering that Skylanders games are meant for kids, it is hard to be too critical of the vehicle sections.  They're simple and easy and kind of boring for seasoned veteran gamers, but they're perfect for younger kids to learn the new mechanics. 

In addition to the story mode that combines the on-foot and vehicle gameplay, there is also a straight up racing mode you can even play online.  There aren't a ton of tracks, however, and some tracks have to be bought along with new vehicle toys.  It would certainly be nice if the mode was a little meatier, content-wise, but having online play at all is a good step for Skylanders. 

Graphics & Sound

Skylanders SuperChargers is a solid looking game with bright, colorful levels and surprisingly intricately designed characters.

  It really is impressive how detailed and great the characters look, considering there are hundreds of them at this point.  Special effects for lighting and fire and misty clouds that billow around some levels are quite nice as well.

The sound is perhaps the best part, though.  The voice cast is fantastic and full of surprisingly big names, and the script is genuinely funny.  Richard Horvitz as Kaos really steals the show, though (he's pretty much just Invader Zim, which is awe-some!).  

Bottom Line

Skylanders SuperChargers is the first really big change the series has made with the addition of vehicles.  While the vehicle sections are a little too easy and boring for our liking, they'll be perfect for kids, which is the important thing.  The on-foot platforming has been steadily improving over the last four games and really comes together nicely with some of the best core gameplay the series has seen yet.  Combine the great platforming with the decent vehicle sections, and you have an overall game that is definitely worth playing.  Skylanders SuperChargers is another hit.