Saturday, October 16, 2021

Second Look - Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure + Adventure Packs

Following the end of the Legend of Spyro trilogy with Dawn of the Dragon in 2008, a second reboot of the Spyro the Dragon series was announced for 2010, known as Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, which utilized physical toys that you could place on a Portal of Power to summon it in-game. “Toys to life” was in fact one of the slogans on the box, which was quickly adopted as the Toys-to-life genre to describe other, similar games. I wasn’t fully aware of the game until its launch and at first ignored it, though I quickly became curious about it and found the toy concept interesting, enough to get the Starter Pack as a gift. I ended up liking it enough to try and complete as much of my collection as I could, and later ended up playing the other main games in the Skylanders series while noticing how little Spyro was actually part of it.

After Skylanders: Imaginators, I began to lose interest in the series, eventually selling off a bulk of my collection due to how much space it was taking up, with some harder-to-find toys among them. However, one collection I still held on to was my Spyro’s Adventure collection due to having more sentimental value to me, plus I knew that one day I wanted to revisit the game to see what about the concept made it so magical to me in the first place. After deciding to look back on it for the franchise’s 10th anniversary, I found that spark was still there, despite showing its age and having a handful of technical issues.

For centuries, the Skyanders, led by Master Eon, have guarded the Core of Light, the heart of all of Skylands. One day, the evil Kaos attacks and destroys the Core of Light with the intent of spreading evil throughout Skylands. This spreads the pieces of the Core of Light across Skylands and the Skylanders across the far reaches of the universe, weakening the Skylanders and causing them to shrink down to the size of toys on Earth. This also weakens Master Eon, though thankfully you, a new Portal Master, are there to help.

For what it is, the story provides a good enough motivation to play and does an interesting job at immersing the player into its world by working the physical toys into the narrative and actively acknowledging this. The story is told through a combination of in-game dialogue and pre-rendered cutscenes, the latter of which lack a subtitle option and are short enough to not interfere with the gameplay experience. This narrative also sets up an interesting world that would be explored by subsequent games, often with increasingly-ridiculous explanations as to why a new group of Skylanders hadn’t even been mentioned before. I will say though that, since the dialogue is written such that it doesn’t refer to your active Skylander by name at any point, this causes Spyro to feel like a side character in his own game despite his name being right there in the title. The character Cali appears early on in the story and is treated as having some importance, however she ends up not really contributing that much to the story and exists mostly to offer Heroic Challenges to the Skylanders in the hub world.

The primary gimmick of the game and its main selling point is the ability to swap between characters at will by placing physical toys on the Portal of Power included in the Starter Pack, which also gives you the characters of Spyro (Magic), Gill Grunt (Water) and Trigger Happy (Tech). Each of these toys, of which there are 32 minus variants, corresponds to one of eight different Elements (Air, Life, Undead, Earth, Fire, Water, Magic, Tech), which has an effect on gameplay. For instance, some areas in a level grant bonuses based on Element and you need Skylanders of a particular Element to open up Elemental Gates that open up new areas of a level, plus some enemies cannot be defeated except by a Fire Skylander or one that can breathe fire, such as Spyro. In an interesting attention to detail, the only Skylanders able to cross most bodies of water are ones that belong to the Water Element or can otherwise fly (ex. Spyro), which also holds true for Fire Skylanders and lava. Additionally, swapping a compatible toy to one that isn’t will instantly boot you back to dry land.

On the subject of the Skylanders, each of them has a unique set of abilities that allow for a variety of different playstyles. Aside from the Starter Pack figures, some of my personal favorites include Cynder (Undead) for her long-range attacks and teleportation abilities, Terrafin (Earth) for his ability to swim underground for sneak attacks and Drobot (Tech) for his mechanical design as well as his speed boost and laser beam eyes. While this is highly subjective, some that I personally wasn’t too fond of based on their abilities include Eruptor (Fire), Prism Break (Earth) and Wrecking Ball (Magic), though some of this might have been based the upgrade path I chose for them (more on that later).

Each Skylander presents a unique playstyle.

Other types of toys include Magic Items, which grant temporary extra abilities or other effects and are found in Adventure Packs; Location Pieces, which unlock additional stand-alone levels and are also found in Adventure Packs; and Sidekicks, which are essentially companions that follow you around and otherwise do not affect gameplay, and were originally given away for free in a Frito-Lay promotion. There’s also the Volcanic Vault toy, which was exclusive to Starter Packs found at Best Buy and unlocked a Battle Arena for PVP.

You can have up to three toys on the Portal of Power at one time, two Skylanders and one non-Skylander, allowing for a second player to drop in and out at any time for cooperative play or to facilitate PVP matches. Additionally, all progress made with the Skylander is saved to the figure itself via a chip in the base of the toy, allowing you to carry them over to new save file or to someone else’s game entirely, plus in the Select menu for each figure you can optionally give them a nickname. However, you can only save them to one collection at a time, even including between save files on the same system, so you must claim ownership through the Select menu for each toy to add them, which also resets any nicknames.

The Portal of Power included in the Spyro’s Adventure Starter Pack is wireless, and so connects through a USB receiver and a power button on the peripheral. I used this Portal for flavor when playing through the game again for this review, though I should warn you not to forget about removing the batteries when you’re not using it, as I did and the batteries corroded for nearly a decade. The Portal works surprisingly well, however, perhaps due to its wireless nature, I had no less than four instances across my entire playthrough where the toys would simply not register for a split-second, leading them to go through their summoning animations again. The best workaround for this is to use a wired Portal of Power found in any of the game’s sequels starting from Swap Force, which in the case of the PS3 version of Spyro’s Adventure means any of the sequels on PS3, PS4, Wii and Wii U.

Outside of the main toy gimmick, the gameplay is otherwise similar to other 3D platformers, though this game unfortunately lacks the ability to jump, so you must rely on bounce pads to get to higher elevations. Each level has a series of objectives you can complete to increase your star rating for that level (max. 3), which includes tracking down collectibles in the form of Hats, Chests and Soul Gems. Hats offer different stat boosts to the Skylander they are equipped to, however I opted not to equip any of them during my playthrough due to having trouble with unequipping them in the past with later games in the series. Additionally, there are Story Scrolls you can find in each level that provide some insight either to the level in question or build on the backstory of the game. There is also a bit of puzzle-solving at times, including sliding block puzzles to traverse different areas and solving increasingly-difficult lock puzzles to open certain gates. There are also Accolades you can acquire from completing larger objectives within the game, though some require you to own more Skylanders than in the Starter Pack, including having a complete set of 32 figures.

Defeating enemies in a level drops EXP that your Skylanders can absorb to level up (max. Level 10 in Spyro’s Adventure), the rate of which can be increased by the number of Accolades you have. Leveling up also refills a Skylander’s heath automatically and creates an explosive effect that deals damage to nearby enemies, which can come in handy so long as the character hasn’t fully leveled up yet. Destroying objects scattered throughout the level gives you Gold that can be used to upgrade your Skylanders when you talk to Persephone in the hub world. These upgrades operate like a Skill Tree and the amount of Gold needed for each upgrade can also be reduced by finding up to 10 Winged Sapphires within the hub world. Each upgrade path, however, has a fork that you must make a final decision on that affects the Skylander’s play style, with the only way to experience the other path without buying duplicates being to either reset the figure or use a variant of that figure. On their own, Skylanders have a generally slower movement speed, however some of them have abilities that essentially act as a “run” button, if only briefly, which can be useful for speedruns or objectives that require quicker reflexes. Additionally, the Skylander’s best technique requires finding their corresponding Soul Gem in each level and picking them up offers the option to view a preview of said toy as a way to entice you to buy them (including, funnily enough, the three that come in the Starter Pack).

One thing worth mentioning is the final battle against Kaos, which is surprisingly lengthy and more difficult compared to other bosses in the game. While it is possible with only one player, doing so required me to swap between a small handful of figures in my collection in order to survive, even with the assistance of Magic Items. From experience, much of this can be alleviated with a second player in co-op, though even then it doesn’t change the length of the fight and may still end up requiring a good handful of characters if you’re not careful enough. There’s even a Trophy for managing to defeat Kaos without dying once, though I have so far not been able to accomplish this feat.

As mentioned before, talking to Cali in the hub world grants access to Heroic Challenges, of which there are 32 and only become available after you add more Skylanders to your collection. Each Skylander unlocks a different Challenge, however they can be done using any character, plus there’s even an Accolade for having one character complete all 32 Heroic Challenges. Completing a Heroic Challenge gives the Skylander that completed it a permanent stat boost, with Heroic Challenge progress being saved to the toy even across multiple save files. One thing I learned the hard way, however, was that Heroic Challenge 6, “Fight, Teleport, Fight Some More!”, unlocked by adding Lighting Rod (Air) to your collection, has a glitch in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions that prevents them from being completed, with the only workaround being to create a new save file and do the bare minimum to unlock it and try again. I ran into this while trying to complete the Heroic Challenges with Spyro on a second save file I created for this review, though fortunately I still had my original save file from 10 years ago and was able to complete the glitched Heroic Challenge on that file and acquire the aforementioned Accolade.

In addition to the Adventure Mode campaign, the game features a Battle Mode for PVP matches between two players. For a variety of reasons, such as the reliance on the physical toys and the target demographic skewing younger, this mode lacks an online function and is played entirely locally. There are three different play modes, though there are some things I noticed that affect all three playstyles. For one thing, Magic Items cannot be used, which makes some sense since it’s a versus mode, and each arena has its own gimmick to offer different experiences. If you’re looking for a “Final Destination” the closest you can get to that is the Icicle Isle arena since it’s a flat surface and its only main gimmick is slippery ice. Additionally, the previously-mentioned Volcanic Vault arena is simply a reskin of the Aqueduct arena, being themed around lava rather than sewage, so whether or not it’s worth seeking out the Volcanic Vault toy for completeness is entirely up to you.

The first of the three Battle Mode options is Arena Rumble, which is essentially a Deathmatch mode where the first one to lose all their health loses. Since you cannot use Magic Items in PVP, this mode makes up for it by presenting its own power-ups that regularly spawn, some of which replicate the effects and appearances of existing Magic Items. Naturally, your Skylander’s stats and abilities can influence the outcome of a battle, though it is possible to have a more even match-up for more exciting matches.

Arena Rumble pits two Skylanders against each other in combat.

The second of these modes is SkyGoals, in which you must score the most points within two minutes. Scoring takes influence from (American) football, including terminology and the use of a football-like object and a field goal. There are no power-ups in this mode, however stage gimmicks are intact and taking full damage doesn’t kill you, rather it fumbles the ball. It’s also worth mentioning that all of your Skylander’s abilities are disabled while you are carrying the ball.

The last of these is SkyGem Master, in which the winner is whoever is the first to collect five Gems. Gems regularly spawn, however the players must actively seek them out, which can take longer depending on the size of the arena. Similarly to SkyGoals, taking full damage causes you to drop one of your Gems, which you must then have to scramble to pick back up before your opponent has a chance to grab it.

After 10 years, the visuals didn’t really age that well and can be jarring after being spoiled by the improved graphics of the sequels. To give credit where it’s due, Skylanders, Magic Items and half of the Location Pieces look exactly as they do on the toy when put into the game, so I appreciate the effort put into coordinating the toys and the finished character designs. There’s also a great variety in the level design to match all the different visual themes, and each level within those themes feels unique from each other. The overall stylized art direction prevents the game from aging too much and the pre-rendered cutscenes are fantastically rendered and still hold up a decade later.

The in-game graphics, however, not so much. The game was originally developed with the Nintendo Wii in mind and it shows with a UI and in-game commands (ex. “Shake to escape”) that wouldn’t feel out of place in a game for the console, as well as the character models having some very stiff, almost puppet-like mouth animations. One particular stand-out is Kaos being animated almost like a hand puppet in-game compared to the more expressive pre-rendered cutscenes. The character Persephone also bears an unfortunate resemblance to the villain Chucky from the Child’s Play series of horror films, with said mouth movements not helping at all, though thankfully her design is improved in later entries to alleviate this.

The stylized art direction prevents it from aging too much.

The voice acting is generally good, though some voices hit more than others. One that I picked up on more immediately was Patrick Warburton of The Emperor’s New Groove and Family Guy fame as the egotistical Flynn, though the most entertaining, and by far the funniest, voice actor in the game is Richard Horvitz of Invader Zim and Helluva Boss fame as main antagonist Kaos. The energy and charisma Horvitz brings to the role make Kaos a highly entertaining and memorable villain, and one of my favorite video game villains alongside Dr. Nefarious from the Ratchet & Clank series, plus Chris Cox provides a good foil for him in the role of Kaos’ servant Glunshanks.

Notably, each of the Skylanders utters a battle cry upon summoning, with some Skylanders speaking them in full English while the rest use gibberish. The English battle cries tend to have more personality to them, though from what I can tell the English battle cries in this game were a last-minute choice, hence why not all of them speak the language. Thankfully though, the more intelligible battle cries become more commonplace in subsequent games, bringing more personality to the other Skylanders in this game. Additionally, one small detail I noticed is that while Terrafin is using his ability to swim underground, he utters a mock impression of the famous theme music from the movie Jaws to denote the appearance of the killer shark.

As for the toys themselves, which was what attracted me to the game in the first place, they’re actually pretty well made and feature some nice sculpting and detail. Each toy has a unique design and silhouette to distinguish them immediately when sifting through a pile of them, plus each has a base design pertaining to their Element that helps make identification easier. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into these figures, as their poses also give some idea as to their personality and the toys are an accurate reflection of their in-game character models. This makes it so that, even if you’re not actively playing the game, they can make for good collectibles for shelf display.

While the toys were fairly inexpensive at the time they came out, their prices could still add up fairly quickly. The Starter Pack itself cost $70 MSRP, while additional Skylanders figures would cost $8 each. If you wanted to be more cost-efficient, 3-Packs of additional Skylanders were bundled for $20, which was also the cost of each of the four Adventure Packs. For a complete collection, this does not factor in the Sidekicks, which were given away for free in a Frito-Lay promotion, nor does this account for the Starter Pack for the 3DS version, which came with the exclusive Dark Spyro variant. This does, however, include the two Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive Legendary packs, one that was a 3-Pack of Legendary variants of Bash (Earth), Chop Chop (Undead) and Spyro, and another a Legendary version of Trigger Happy as a Single. Combined, this means that a full set cost ~$346 at retail, based on buying eight 3-Packs and a Single Pack of Wham-Shell (Water) alongside the Legendary toys and Adventure Packs, though nowadays you can get most of this for far less on the second-hand market if you’re willing to buy loose figures.

While this game presents a reboot of the Spyro franchise, there are some elements carried over from the classic games that firmly establish the Spyro connection. The most obvious is that Spyro and Cynder appear as playable characters with their own toys, Spyro in the Starter Pack and Cynder sold separately, while the character Sparx gets his own figure in one of the Adventure Packs (more on that later). Skylands itself is an expanded form of at least one of the worlds from the original Spyro game, being comprised of islands permanently suspended in the sky, and the necessity of air travel requires characters like Flynn who are Balloonists in all but name. Additionally, Moneybags makes a return as an NPC named Auric, with the main difference being that he can give you money rather than having to take it away. For those who couldn’t stand Moneybags, however, the game allows you to randomly attack any NPC and they will react accordingly, so you can use Auric as a proxy to take your aggression out on. Though this may be a bit of a stretch, King Ramses being found encased in stone in Dragon’s Peak and Vathek later seeing the same fate reminded me of the premise of the original Spyro the Dragon game.

In addition to the main game’s content, a series of four Adventure Packs was released across each Wave of toys, each being packed with an additional Skylander exclusive to the Pack, two Magic Items that apply different effects and a Location Piece that unlocks an additional, stand-alone playable level placed after the final battle with Kaos. In terms of release order, Spyro’s Adventure launched alongside Wave 1 of product and the Pirate Seas and Darklight Crypt Adventure Packs, the latter being exclusive to Toys ‘R’ Us stores until seeing a wide release in Wave 2. Wave 3 then saw the release of the Empire of Ice Adventure Pack, followed up by the Dragon’s Peak Adventure Pack in Wave 4 as a Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive before seeing wide release in the fifth and final Wave. The actual game, however, presents them in the order of Empire of Ice, Pirate Seas, Darklight Crypt and Dragon’s Peak, so that is the order I will be covering them in here, along with the actual physical contents of each Pack.

Ice Ogres have invaded Vindlevale and built a giant wall of ice, blocking out the sun and turning it into a frozen wasteland. The wizard Haldor needs your help to fight back by reconstructing a catapult known as the Leveler, which is powerful enough to take down the ice wall.

This level is unlocked through the Empire of Ice Adventure Pack and is accessible near the beach in the hub world, however you need a Water Skylander to cross the water to get to it. The pack itself includes the Skylander Slam Bam (Water), the Empire of Ice Location Piece and the Anvil Rain and Sky-Iron Shield Magic Items. As for their in-game effects, both of which are temporary, Anvil Rain causes anvils to rain from the sky on top of random enemies while the Sky-Iron Shield summons shields around your active Skylander for defense. The Empire of Ice toy, meanwhile serves no other purpose apart from unlocking the level, a trait shared by the other Location Pieces, though later games give them an Anvil Rain-like effect. The Location Piece also unlocks the Icicle Isle arena in Battle Mode.

The level itself isn’t that bad, however one thing that can get annoying is the rather slippery ice physics, as much of the level is covered in ice. Each Adventure Pack level has its own sort of gimmick like this to stand out, though while the ice gimmick works for the setting, it can be a little too slippery at times and makes traversing the level a pain.

Jess LeGrand’s father, Mayor LeGrand, has been kidnapped by pirates led by Captain Dreadbeard. The pirates have taken over the island and the only way to get them off is by beating them in a card game.

Accessing this level requires the Pirate Seas Adventure Pack and takes the form of a ship docked by the beach in the hub world. The Pack’s contents include the Skylander Terrafin (Earth), the Pirate Seas Location Piece and the Magic Items Hidden Treasure and Ghost Swords. The Hidden Treasure summons an extra hidden Chest in the level modeled after the toy (referred to in-game as a Dragon Treasure), which can substitute for one of the Chests you find in a level and can be located by a radar at the bottom of the screen, however it blares a constant ping that can be heard over in-game dialogue and can get annoying pretty quickly. Additionally, the Hidden Chest changes location whenever you remove the toy from the Portal and replace it. The Ghost Swords, on the other hand, summon a pair of swords that aid you in battle for a limited time. The Location Piece also unlocks the Pirate Grotto arena in Battle Mode.

The primary gimmick of this level is Pirate Cards, an increasingly challenging memory game that you must complete within a time limit in order to advance in the level. The game itself isn’t too hard for an older player, though for those who struggle with this sort of game, there are some card combinations that add more time to the timer and one that quickly shows you every face-down card. There is a Pirate Curse that also shuffles all your cards, though some boards have a Wild Card that eliminates a matching pair of cards and a Remove Curse that reverses the effects of the Pirate Curse if there are enough cards remaining in play. While Pirate Cards wouldn’t really make much of an appearance outside of this level, it was evidently popular enough that later Skylanders entries brought it back in a revamped form as a strategy game known as Skystones, which was so pervasive that it even made its way into physical form on the back of a cereal box (which I will admit to actually owning a copy of).

Aside from the Pirate Cards gimmick, there’s not much I can say about this level aside from mentioning how straight-forward the level design is in comparison to a lot of other levels in the game.

Batterson has set up a pie shop near a graveyard and the undead love his pies so much that they’ve abandoned eating brains in favor of his pies. However, Oculous has prevented the undead from eating Batterson’s pies, putting his business at risk.

The Darklight Crypt Adventure Pack grants access to this level, which spawns around where the Core of Light is in the hub world. The Pack itself comes packaged with the Skylander Ghost Roaster (Undead), the Darklight Crypt Location Piece and the Time Twister and Healing Elixer Magic Items. The Time Twister toy momentarily slows down time for your enemies while the Healing Elixer gradually recovers your health for a brief period. The Location Piece also unlocks the arena The Necropolis in Battle Mode.

The level’s main gimmick that lets it stand out from other levels is periodically-placed Spectral Shifting Platforms that allow you to swap between the real world and the ghost world. This lends itself to some interesting puzzle design, as some things require you to be in either the ghost world or the real world to interact with them, which can include blocks, keys and chests. This also affects enemies, as some that are only active in the ghost world become harmless in the real world at the cost of EXP, while trees that block your path in the ghost world become monsters that you can fight in the real world.

One thing I will note, however, is that the Hidden Treasure seems to be bugged in this level. The toy itself works as intended, though when you reach the Chest, it’s not completely buried, it resembles a normal Chest rather than the design on the toy and the shaking prompt doesn’t work. I reached the Chest once and couldn’t open it, then while playing this level I had to replace the batteries in the Portal and find the Chest all over again, yet the same thing happened again. At first, I thought it might have had to do with whether I was in the ghost world or the real world, however the same thing occurred both times, and using a different controller didn’t change anything either. My speculation is that this may have been an early implementation of the Hidden Treasure and it was never fixed before the final product shipped. Not helping is that there was never a patch to address this issue, though my ultimate conclusion is that this is a glitch on a development level and thus you shouldn’t even bother using the Dragon Treasure on this level in particular, though it works just fine on all other levels.

The dragon Flavius, concerned about King Ramses, convinced him to leave the Dragon Throne atop Dragon’s Peak and fly around for a bit. However, this leaves the Throne open to be sat upon by Ramses’ evil undead brother Vathek, and he who sits on the Dragon Throne rules over Dragon’s Peak.

Lastly, this level is unlocked via the Dragon’s Peak Adventure Pack, accessible through a horn that spawns on top of the cliff near Persephone in the hub world. The contents of the pack include the Skylander Sunburn (Fire) and the Magic Items Winged Boots and Sparx Dargonfly. The Winged Boots grant a momentary speed boost to your Skylander, which can be useful for characters that don’t have a boost effect, while Sparx Dragonfly summons a Skylanders version of Sparx from the Spyro the Dragon series, serving as an assist that spews fireballs at enemies. In a nice touch and as a reference to his original counterpart, any enemies attacked by Sparx also turn into butterflies upon defeat, which the player character can consume for extra Health. The Location Piece also unlocks the Cube Dungeon arena in Battle Mode.

The gimmick in this stage involves flying around on Flavius between areas, which takes the form of a flying minigame. The minigame itself involves using the Right Stick to dodge obstacles in the form of large boulders and Cross to spew fireballs at air mines, with failing to dodge boulders resulting in an instant restart of the minigame and the latter dealing a hit to Flavius’ health bar. These minigames are generally not that hard to get through overall, though them taking place in the air can make it a little difficult to determine where the obstacles are in physical space and how best to avoid them. Additionally, Flavius has a very limited dialogue pool to the point where he’ll mention obstacles when none are there and it’s possible for said dialogue to overlap.

One thing worth mentioning is that Flavius bears somewhat of a striking resemblance to the Skylanders interpretation of Spyro, and there seems to be merit to this observation. Before Skylanders, a different take on the idea was in development called Spyro’s Kingdom, which featured prototypes of what would become Skylanders characters. One of the prototypes was Fire Dragon, who would go on to be developed as Spyro. Alternatively, Flavius also seems to borrow design choices from Flame, a character from Spyro: A Hero’s Tail who resembles a red Spyro, though I can’t say for certain whether this was intentional or if it happened to work out that way.

Following the success of this game, Activision sought to turn Skylanders into a running franchise, leading to Disney (Disney Infinity), Nintendo (amiibo) and LEGO (LEGO Dimensions) cashing in on the Toys-To-Life trend it popularized. Skylanders itself managed to last for six games before largely dropping off in popularity, with each of its five annual sequels introducing new gimmicks to try and stand out. For the sake of brevity, these sequels are the only things I will be discussing here.

The first sequel, Skylanders: Giants, introduced larger Giants figures as well as the LightCore gimmick, included in all Giants and some regular figures, allowing parts of the toy to glow when placed on the Portal of Power. Additionally, the lineup of figures introduced the idea of reissuing earlier toys with new abilities, and was the only game in the series to offer a Portal Owner’s Pack for those who already owned Spyro’s Adventure. Aside from the new gimmicks, the basic core gameplay remains largely unchanged, though now some parts of a level require a Giant to get past and the levels are generally longer.

The next game, Skylanders: Swap Force, introduced swappable toys that could be taken apart, allowing you to attach the Top and Bottom halves via magnets to create a wide range of combinations. The basic gameplay remains the same, though this one introduces the long-awaited ability to jump and Elemental Gates now require two Elements, presumably to encourage use of the swappable toys, though you can easily bypass this with two Skylanders and two controllers. Notably, this game was the first to include a wired Portal of Power, bypassing many of the issues present in the original wireless Portal.

Skylanders: Trap Team is where things got too ambitious for their own good. This one introduces Giant-sized Trap Master figures, as well as a Trap gimmick that allows you to capture Villains and make them playable, including Kaos, who has his own special Trap, though admittedly the Villains aside from Kaos just come out of nowhere and the story just assumes you know who they are despite having never existed before. As if that wasn’t enough, the toyline also includes reissues of the Sidekicks from Spyro’s Adventure and adds four new ones, all of whom are fully playable characters, and there are barely any reissues of existing characters, enough to count on one hand. On top of this, the game also introduces the Light and Dark Elements to the series, with two new characters in each to match, however the toyline was so bloated and the new Elements so secretive that these new figures ended up seeing limited release at the tail end of the line, and two of them even initially came with Location Pieces that are required for 100% completion. This was where the annual release schedule worked against itself, and I was not alone in thinking they should have made the Trap Team line last two years just to provide breathing room for collectors. It is also worth mentioning that, in order for the Trap gimmick to work, the only Portal of Power compatible with this game is the one included in its Starter Pack.

Skylanders: SuperChargers essentially performed a hard reset on the toyline, introducing SuperChargers characters and accompanying Vehicles to work with the new racing element. The campaign of the PlayStation and Xbox versions consisted of a hybrid of platforming and Vehicle segments, however its counterpart on Nintendo platforms, dubbed SuperChargers Racing, focuses squarely on the racing aspect and is a fun game in its own right, though between both versions you need special Trophies included in Expansion Packs in order to unlock new content and Villain racers, including Kaos. The SuperChargers figures themselves included new and old characters among their ranks, though only the SuperChargers are compatible with Vehicles, and while Gill Grunt and Trigger Happy made it in, I was disappointed by the lack of a SuperChargers counterpart to Spyro. Interestingly enough, the line-up also includes Bowser and Donkey Kong, who are only playable in SuperChargers Racing (for obvious legal reasons) and have the ability to double as amiibo by twisting the base.

The final main entry, Skylanders: Imaginators, introduced the ability to create your very own custom Skylander, limited by the provided parts available in the game, stored in a Creation Crystal. The line also included a mix of Skylanders and Villains, each with their own larger toy, including a full-on Kaos figure for the first time, as well as a Class for each character in addition to their Element. One thing that worked against the custom Skylander gimmick, however, was the introduction of micro-transactions, both digital and physical (yes, physical) in the form of Imaginite Chests with varying amounts of parts to bypass a lot of grinding within levels. On top of that, Creation Crystals are permanently locked to the Element and Class you pick upon startup, forcing you to have to buy new Crystals to create more custom Skylanders. Players did manage to figure out workarounds, however, using the 3DS versions of early games and the Wii version of Giants to reset the Creation Crystal without having to buy a whole new one.

Yes, they somehow managed to create a physical microtransaction.

Notably, Imaginators also included Crash Bandicoot and Dr. Neo Cortex from the Crash Bandicoot series as playable characters, both as a way to reintroduce the character to modern audiences and to promote the then-upcoming Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. The Switch version of the game additionally allows you to play the game without the need for a Portal of Power, as well as have Spyro, Cynder, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Crash Bandicoot and Dr. Neo Cortex in the same game, with PlayStation and Xbox players only missing Bowser and Donkey Kong (for obvious legal reasons).

Following underwhelming sales figures, the Imaginators line followed the example set by Disney Infinity 3.0 and spread its toys across two years, and like that game, the main console series died off not long after. This was later followed up by a return to the original Spyro the Dragon timeline with Spyro Reignited Trilogy, to high praise from fans of the classic series and mixed results on its overall quality. Only time will tell if the Spyro series will receive a new main entry in the vein of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time or if Skylanders will ever see a return to home consoles down the line, though Vicarious Visions (Swap Force, SuperChargers) being moved off to the Blizzard side of Activision Blizzard and Toys for Bob (Spyro’s Adventure, Giants, Trap Team, Imaginators) being moved onto Call of Duty support makes this look more uncertain.

After 10 years, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure holds up as a solid platformer despite its shortcomings. The toy gimmick and its take on Spyro the Dragon are certainly not for everyone, however it is worth a look for Spyro fans if you can find the Starter Pack at a good price. It is entirely possible to complete the game with just the Starter Pack figures, however any further investment in additional toys and Adventure Packs is entirely up to you.

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