Blog and Photos By Zeke Rothschild-Checroune:
Videogames can be pricy and keeping up with all of your child(ren)’s desires can be overwhelming.
If your child has been asking for some high-tech toys and has felt out-of-the-loop regarding the Skylanders buzz going on at school, this blog can help.
Q: What is so special about Skylanders?
A: It blends the physical with the virtual. It takes physical toys and brings them to life by turning them into videogame characters.
Q: How does it work?
A: It uses a “portal of power” to transport the Skylanders into the game. Just place the toy on the portal, and watch it pop up on the screen.
Q: So what do you think of the game?
A: Videogames may not be for everyone. But if you already have a console lying around the house, but don’t know which games to buy for your kid, this one may be worth a try.
For starters, this game can be purchased for a variety of consoles (e.g., Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, WiiU, 3DS, and iOS devices like your iPad). For this review, I tested the PS3 version. What’s great is that the Skylander toys can be played on interchangeable systems. So if a kid at school has the game on the WiiU and wants to trade toys with your child, but you have an Xbox at home, you can do that. Each toy has a “memory” and character statistics are tracked on the toy itself rather than the game. So your child can bring his toy over at a friend’s house and continue to build his experience points and skills.
The characters are upgradeable in-game and take on role-playing-game (RPG) elements so that your child can customize the characters and even choose hats for the Skylander to wear.
But from parent-to-parent here, I have to warn you about the costs of the toys and the addictive nature of collecting characters. First, you’ll need a starter pack, which includes a copy of the game, a portal of power, and a few characters (typically 3) depending on which starter pack you get. These starter packs will run you between $39-$69 (depending if you can find them on sale). There are about 48 characters that you can collect!
The characters are divided by 8 different elemental powers (i.e., Air, Fire, Water, Life, Tech, Earth, Magic, and Undead). The trick to getting parents to buy their kid more Skylanders is that there are certain areas of the game that are restricted to Skylanders of specific elements. So for example, if I want to go to an area that is restricted to Earth-type Skylanders but I only have characters that are Life, Air, and Tech types, I cannot enter that area of the game. This little marketing tactic does not inhibit you from completing the game. as it does not get in the way of the story mode. But if your child is keen on getting all of the game’s achievements, stars, and hidden treasure chests, it will be impossible to do without a character from each element.
Did I mention that each regular Skylander costs about $9-13, and the Skylander Giants costs about $12-15? You can get Multi-packs with 3 Skylanders for $25.
Kids can also learn the fine are of sharing and trading characters with friends.
Q: Ok enough about the characters, what is the game like?
A: Skylanders Giants is simple enough for kids (targeted for 6-14 year-olds) with an engaging story that sparks their imagination. The game is rated E10+ for its cartoon violence (see more about videogame ratings here). The game is rooted in a 3D platformer action/adventure game style, geared for boys and girls who enjoy exploration and fighting against the “bad guys.” Skylanders Giants is also filled with puzzles and a turn-based board game called Sky Stones to keep kids thinking rather than mindless button bashing. Controls are rather simple compared to the complexity of adult games, with basically a three action button system. Aside from the story mode (which can be played by two players at once), there is also a fun arcade battle-arena multiplayer mode so that kids can play this engaging game with friends, rather than in social isolation.
For a trailer of the story, click here.
In terms of time consumption, there are 16 chapters in the game and they take anywhere between 10-45 minutes to complete (I’d say around 30 min on average) depending on whether you want to search every nook and cranny or zip through the story. Side missions and multiplayer add to the replay ability of this game. The customization adds an element of depth that keeps gamers wanting to play more.
Overall, I would rate the game a 8/10 for kids who are allowed to play games with cartoon violence. If you’re an adult gamer considering this game for yourself, I’d rate it 6.5/10 as the game play has definitely been simplified and slowed down for children’s enjoyment.
Although I would typically reserve videogames for rainy days, the busy student-parent can benefit from a little quiet time by letting your child(ren) engage on this virtual adventure. And as a treat for finishing that term-paper undisturbed, you can pick up a controller and join in on the fun just in time to help your kid complete his mission.