Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure Hands-On Preview [Sony Holiday 2011]

Calling all gamer parents, toy collectors and those looking for a new gaming experience. I think I’ve found what you’re looking for with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure; a game which looks to reinvent the beloved series, which has fallen on hard times as of late. Behind its colourful, high-definition visuals and engaging gameplay is some very exciting technology. In fact, the game’s most prominent mechanic takes place outside of the game itself, with technological wizardry that the gaming world hasn’t seen before. It involves physical, real-world toys, which kids are sure to enjoy in real-life and on their television screen.

When Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure becomes available this Sunday (October 16), it’ll include three character figures and the necessary portal. All are integral to your experience in this inventive action game, which is aimed at children but is great for all audiences. The way the game plays is universal and easy to get used to, with the supplied figures acting as your in-game character of choice. Place your chosen hero on the portal and he or she will digitally load into the experience. If you want to use a different one, then swap the figures – it’s as simple as that. Two figures can be used at once, though the second one is for a second player.

Those who’d like to expand their experience can purchase extra toys at supporting retailers, like Toys ‘R Us, who have partnered with Activision and developer, Toys For Bob. Available for less than eight dollars on average, it’ll be a lot like purchasing a child’s toy at your local toy store. The pricing structure is affordable and makes good sense, considering the fact that the detailed little guys can be used as both real-life battle toys and interactive gaming characters. Some may think that it’s a cash grab, but that’s really not the case. Think of it as an affordable, yet unforced way of expanding your game time and adding variety to the experience. Sort of like physical digital content, I guess, with themed sets and special ability toys (ie. speed boost shoes) becoming useful assets.

I’ve been following this game for quite a while, wondering about its quality and also about how well it will end up being received. After giving it some demo time at Sony’s Holiday 2011 Event, I’m sure that Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure will become a hot property. It really is that engaging, interesting and most of all, unique. Never before have I been able to interact with a game like this portal and figure system allows. It’s fast and fluid, only taking a couple of moments to bring in newly-placed heroes. Plus, the game itself is quite fun.

Not surprisingly, Activision had a ton of different characters available for use at the event. This gave me the opportunity to switch between several of them, which is where I noticed how unique they all are. One shark-like character could burrow underground, coming up with a powerful attack aimed at unsuspecting enemies. Another one was a ninja-like character, who could use bladed swords to its advantage. It’ll be interesting to see how creative some of the newer figures become once they ship to retail in coming months.

Each figure levels up individually, based on your in-game progress. This means that your favourite character could end up becoming an all-powerful asset, which can be taken over to a friend’s for use in their game. Perhaps the most innovative aspect of this entire game relies upon this idea, as every single figure works on all versions of the game. If you have a 3DS and your friend has an XBOX 360, it doesn’t matter. You’re surely in disbelief, but it’s true. Cross-console connectivity is alive and well within Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, which is amazing.

The game’s main campaign takes on an action mechanic, without the ability to jump. There’s no need to worry about platforming because children aren’t necessarily good at it. You’re mainly tasked with taking out enemies, completing creative yet accessible puzzles and working as a team to get the job done. I quite enjoyed my time spent playing the actual game, as it controlled very well on Sony‘s PlayStation 3 console. Melee and abilities-based combat is able to be performed using varied and creative mechanics, with controls that are easy to pick-up and use. This means that your child, nephew or young friend can play this game without any issues or much previous gaming knowledge.

Of course, given the nature of the figures and their unique abilities, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure would not be complete if it didn’t feature a battle mode. Two figures can go head-to-head in a fighting game battle royale. Kids are sure to do this away from their console of choice, smashing the characters together while simulating conflict noises. Though, they’ll surely also enjoy doing it in interactive space, considering effects and abilities factor in on-screen. I did not get a chance to demo this mode, but I did hear quite a bit about it.

Furthering the experience, kids can go online to interact with other Skylanders fans, using the game’s website hub. There will be interactions available to be made by plugging the game into the web, including games and community aspects. It should go a long way to hold fans’ interest as they explore the intellectual property’s ever-evolving world.

When Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure releases at the end of this week, I recommend checking it out. Not only is this a fun way for children to become interested in interactive gaming; it’s also an amazing technological feat. Going in, I was hopeful that it would be an interesting and engaging experience, which is certainly what it seems to be. Even though I’m in my twenties, I’m looking forward to playing through this one. That, plus showing it off to friends and family.

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure will be released on October 16, 2011. It will be available on 3DS, PS3, Wii, 360 and PC.