Skylanders: SuperChargers Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii-U, PC and Microsoft Xbox One
This review was created in collaboration with Owen Phillips (7) - his opinions have influenced both the text and the score of this title - we do this every year!
Another year, another brand new Skylanders game with a brand new twist to make you buy even more figures, even though last year you promised yourself it would be the last. The market has changed slightly this time around however, with not only Disney Infinity rolling out its third iteration (3.0) but with the introduction of another new player in town in the form of Lego Dimensions. The team at TDF are looking to test drive these new competitors in the very near future but for now let us focus on whether this year's Skylanders: SuperChargers is as good as last year’s iteration, Skylanders: Swapforce.
Story-wise we get off to a fairly predictable (some may argue even a little disappointing) start. Kaos returns yet again to cause, well, chaos for the Skylands and naturally as is with all previous games you, the portal master, must direct and a control some of the realm’s greatest Skylanders to thwart his evil plans and save the day. As mentioned it’s a tad disappointing that the story bears a series of striking similarities to what has come before but it’s fair to assume that the majority of players, young and old, aren’t spending hundreds of pounds a year on Skylanders because of the rich narrative.
This time around the always bright, breezy and well handled third person co-op (tethered) platforming and shooting action has never looked so nice, as well as being plentiful and frequently damn good fun. However this time the now standard Skylanders experience is married with some rather nifty driving sequences….two types in fact. Not only do we have some Mario Kart style racing when your team of Skylanders jump into a SuperCharger, there are also some RC-style twin stick sections which demand a little bit more thought due to their puzzle-like construction. The standard racing sees you driving at breakneck speeds across fairly straightforward race tracks, avoiding obstacles, picking up coins whilst your partner is on the turret picking off enemies as they try to hinder progress - everything looks great and the move from third person action to racing is very nicely done. This leads us on to the second type of car-based activity and it feels very much like twin stick car games of old. One key thing though is that the default controls are horrendous, mixing analogue movement with button presses, but unfortunately the geometry often doesn’t work with the direction you wish to go in when using this control method, ultimately resulting in left being left, until for no apparent reason it isn’t left anymore. Early on if you haven’t changed this you will feel like this element of the game is a massive misstep, however, all's not lost and through the settings you can change this to twin stick which for the most part, makes most of the pain go away. With this subtle tweak the entire driving takeaway from the game as a whole is a positive one and if you have played most of the many previous Skylanders games (we have) then you will welcome the new gameplay variation.
The SuperChargers themselves are actually given about as much love in the game as can be seen in the recent action adventure Mad Max, a game in which, for the uninitiated is pretty much all about upgrading your vehicle - safe to say a lot of emphasis is placed upon the vehicles. Throughout the game you can accrue in-game currencies, in single-player and co-op (loot is shared) and this time around, not only can you upgrade your Skylanders basic attacks and combos, but you can also upgrade your portal master rank as well as the SuperChargers themselves. Upgrades include the ever popular hats for your Skylanders, along with perks for them when upgrading the portal master rank and lastly there are lots of items for the SuperChargers. These improve core stats such as armour, speed and acceleration.
The obligatory paywall feels slightly less hidden with this iteration, and a little more in your face. Whereas previously side missions on a given level were locked based on having the correct characters with the right elements (these haven’t changed), now there are multiple ways to complete the core objective on a level - three to be precise - and they are locked down not by characters but by modes of transport, land, sea and air. As the starter pack only comes with the one then you will need to buy the other two to unlock the rest of the content per level. This is how they sell you the cars this time around. It’s easy to be cynical about these things but as the game actually has a fair amount of content when playing just with the starter pack, this is more a case of the parent having to manage the situation rather than be literally forced to go and buy more stuff.
Generally though, content is absolutely bursting out of this iteration of Skylanders, with separate set races are available via the game’s hub, which see up to eight cars compete on some very nicely designed courses. If you think along the Sonic & All Stars Racing / Mario Kart lines then you will be pretty close to what you can expect from this portion of the game. There is also the addition of online racing added, allowing you to compete against others online; with the result of you having a full on racing game built into a traditional Skylanders title, vastly increasing the value for money in the base game - odd to say value for money and Skylanders in the same sentence but yeah, that’s a thing.
While the competition hots up with Disney Infinity not only improving on last year but linking in nicely with the hype surrounding the new Star Wars movie, along with the fantastic Lego Dimensions, you’d think that Skylanders may struggle this Christmas. Based on this evidence though it really shouldn’t. Gorgeous to look at, still a blast in co-op, brimming with solid content and the new petrol head angle, Skylanders SuperChargers is a solid addition to the already well established franchise. Not every-one will take to the new found love of cars but the target audience will lap it up.