STAFF REVIEW of Skylanders Spyro's Adventure (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011.
by Stephen Cameron

Skylanders Spyro's Adventure Box art Since the birth of my son, I?ve since have had aspirations of one day playing various video games with him. I figured that I had the right mix; I owned a video game site and a strong passion for playing the games themselves. Plus, I could share with him the excitement of playing an awesome game, and show him how it can beat watching a movie any day!
Much to my chagrin?the years went by, and I found myself frantically searching for titles to play with him. Let?s face it, the sad reality is, that those ?good? co-op family titles are just not there, especially on the Xbox 360.

With the exception of the LEGO series, there really isn?t much to choose from, and unless you?re buying into all the Nintendo Mario titles on the Wii. I became what they refer to as, ?Completly out of Luck?. Plus, if you?re willing to buy Kinect, and hop up and down for several minutes?NOT! The facts were that good ol? sit down gaming just didn?t exist! Until now!

Most of the first party publishers are all set of building triple ?A? titles. I can?t play any of those titles with my kids, at least not yet. Skylanders has finally given me the opportunity to play a game with both my children (3 year old daughter and 6 year old son), but I truly believe it trail blazes a new frontier in gaming. Let me explain.

The coolest part about the game is the ability to swap out the little characters at any time. Why? Whether you?re leveling up, gathering coins, or collecting various items in the game, it saves that information back to the plastic character. Therefore, you can take that hard information, and bring it to ANY portal on ANY platform, whether it?s on an ultra-portable 3DS, a friend?s Wii, and then back home to the Xbox. Your character is always progressing? collecting, playing, or helping out a friend. The technology is essentially a wireless USB drive in the shape of a cool character.

The Skylanders game itself is not really that hard to play, as it?s easy enough so that my kids can just run around and blow stuff up. Sometimes it's the simple things in life are the greatest. Each character has its unique introduction and own power set, and as the game progresses you will need various class/origin specialties of each of characters to unlock various things. There is a full spectrum of hidden areas and cool collectables that will keep us entertained for weeks to come.

The characters go up to level ten (10), which is plenty for a six year old, and it?s NOT a huge grind either. I can totally see future expansions, with new skills, or even DLC. Time will tell.

I tried hooking up the portal to my Windows machine, and go online, and play. But, it didn?t work. At the time of this review the online portion was in beta stages, so let?s hope they fix that really soon.

Unfortunately, I found the boss fights a little repetitive. Meaning, they will do the same moves three boss fights later. The controls are pretty straight forward and simple enough for my six year old to grasp the general concept, however my three year old, and her little hands, well, are just too little. But, even at three years of age, my daughter still had piles of fun.

A suggestion I have for the developers, is there was a lack of error messages on the screen. I wasn?t expecting the ?blue screen of death? to make an appearance, I mean, for the longest time we couldn?t buy my son?s last power for his Skylander, yet there was no message on the screen that said, ?This Skylander?s Power Gem is required to purchase this power?. So, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, but we eventually got it.

The only real problem I had with the game was the last level. At the very beginning of the last level we had the lack of error messages again. We had no idea that both of us had to move to the one side of a small platform to unlock the picketed gates. We never thought to do that, and I personally thought that it was a little random. In single player, the gate would trip itself just by going there, but in coop it was different. We never had to do anything like that for the previous 21 levels. I personally thought it was a tad hard for my six year old to figure that out. But, it?s nothing a small patch can?t fix. But, after getting a ?how-to? video from the developers and a few attempts and swapping out a few Skylanders, WE COMPLETED THE GAME! My son really felt a good sense of accomplishment, and that was important to me. We completed the entire game together. I?m not sure who was happier, him or I.

The concept of dropping that real (not virtual) character on that portal, it becomes a little more real for the kids, they can relate to the character. My son, at night puts the Skylander toy right beside his bed. I?ve never seen that before. It put a smile on my face.

Overall, I?m giving Skylanders high scores for several reasons. First, the fact that Activision and Toys For Bob have given my family a game that we can play together, not only to play, but to help me show them various ?life? values, such as money management (coins) and completing something to the end, and not giving up. Second, for having the balls to invest into this franchise, and it?s wasn?t a sure thing like Call of Duty. Plus, Nintendo doesn?t own this thing. Third, the fact that it?s one hundred percent cross platform; so my son can bring his Skylander to a friend?s place, and keep leveling him up and collect coins, and even help his friend out. Then on the car ride home he can play on his Nintendo 3DS for some solo gaming.

This is really the cabbage patch kids of video games this holiday season! Do yourselves a favor. If you have kids between the ages of 4 to 10-ish, and you desire to play video games with them, run out and buy it ($69). Recommend it to others. Our industry needs more family games like this.

It?s truly an innovative idea, and I can see that various franchises that can use this technology. Such as Marvel, Star Wars, and so much more! Well done guys!

If Activision is going to make a sequel, I have a few suggestions. Better error messages or feedback messages. You need to hand hold people a little more in family titles especially at the age of six years of age they are just learning how to read. Second, online coop multiplayer support, why? Sometimes, we have parents that want to play with their kids, and can?t because mom and dad don?t get along. Third, Parental controls, not the kind to shelter my kids from anything offensive, but rather to prevent them from resetting their Skylanders back to zero or delete their saved game accidently (My son now knows what R-E-S-E-T, mean now!). Fourth, the ability to trade or give money to another Skyalander. Lastly, Patrick Warburton probably wasn?t cheap, kids really don?t care about who voices what. Save that money! I?m just nit-picking. Great job ?Toys For Bob?!

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10


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