First impressions of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure aren’t good. There’s a new peripheral to clutter the living room, a collectable range of toys required to play the game, and the reappearance of a tried and tested video game character–all the components needed for a cynical money-making scheme. Ironically, however, it’s the toys and how they are used in the game that turn what might have been a derivative action platformer into something much more interesting.
Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure revolves around how these figures work. Owning the physical toy enables you to access the related character in the game by placing it on the Portal peripheral that comes in the starter set. Your progress levelling up the character, collecting money, purchasing more abilities, and discovering stat-boosting hats are all saved back to the toy itself rather than to your console. This is the first of a clutch of innovations that make Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure more appealing. For example, this approach to saving enables you to switch characters in the game by simply replacing the figure on the Portal with another one from your collection. In about three seconds, without pressing any buttons, you are back in the fray with your new character. Furthermore, a second player can join by pressing a button and placing his or her toy on the Portal.
Although this system generally works well, it can get a little confused when younger players overzealously switch figures on the portal. The downside is that rather than accessing the characters you have unlocked in the game, you are limited to the three that come with the starter pack (Spyro, Trigger Happy, and Gill Grunt) until you purchase more figures. Each of the characters is grouped into eight elemental families (earth, fire, air, life, undead, magic, water, and technology). There are 32 figures in total; a full collection would cost as much as a new console. The good news is that you don’t need to own them all. You can complete the main conquest with just the figures in the starter pack, although you will only be able to access the side quests that relate to their element. You can use your figures to play on a friend’s game and access all your enhancements. This works across systems, so you can take your Wii character and use it on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, or even 3DS. The wired Portal, however, is system specific and therefore is provided in each starter pack.