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Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure Review

The old adage “birds of a feather, flock together” is a tragically accurate explanation of my social circle. Comprised of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures, each male friend finds their way into the clique by being imaginative, bookish, and owning an oversized assemblage of action figures, LEGOs, or plastic models.  In other words, they are the prototypical man-child. One recent movement which has swept through the group is an unconcealed interest in Toys For Bob’s (Pandamonium, the Star Control series) Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. While a perfectly capable youth game, the title also has an undeniable allure for a distinctly older demographic.

As a shrewd amalgam of dungeon crawl, figurine admiration, and social catalyst, Spyro’s Adventure has little in common with the fire-breather’s previous franchise entries. Considering the sharp decline in quality following Insomniac’s trilogy of Spyro titles, a fresh start might just have saved the dragon’s once-dignified reputation. However, players shouldn’t expect the scaly celebrity to be the focus of the game. In keeping with the collectable nature of the title, Spyro’s presence is no more pronounced than any other character.

Clinging to the game’s toy-inspired roots, Spyro’s Adventure storyline is blissfully skeletal, placing players in the role of Portal Master- a revered role responsible for keeping any agents of darkness at bay. With heroes and a villain crafted from Saturday morning trope, characteristics of the cast can be gleaned from physical appearance. Resident basket-case Trigger Happy boasts a dangling tongue and twin pistols held frantically skyward while Eruptor’s brutish hands and mischievous grin reveal his primal demeanor. Essentially, the developers seized the formula for any successful toy line- creating a roster of colorful, contrasting, and quickly comprehended personalities.

Beyond the trio of figures which come bundled with the starter pack, players also receive the game, as well as the Portal of Power- an illuminated platform which serves as an interface between the on-screen world and the statuettes. Placing any one of the Skylanders on the stand transmits information into the game, articulating not only which character is on the base, but also each hero’s swelling set of stats. Stylishly, each figurine is capable of storing data, recording a creature’s status as well as an increasing inventory of offensive capabilities. Players are able to bring their Skylanders over to a friend’s house and- regardless of platform, instantly import their cultivated character into a cooperative match or friendly battle.

Smartly, the creators of Spyro’s Adventure didn’t skimp on the amenities. While character models aren’t articulated, each is agreeably detailed and sufficiently durable. With the Portal of Power plugged into a USB port (for the console and PC iterations) the pedestal floor glows with a gentle luminescence which varies by each Skylander. Both the Portal base and the bottom of each character give off a neon, emerald-hued glow, as well. Overall, the figures are impressive enough to propel players back to the stores to augment their team with additional characters (at eight dollars each). Fortunately, supplementary Skylanders aren’t needed to complete the game nor earn the game’s inventory of achievements/trophies, but they are required to open elemental-based gates which store stat-boosting items.

The expedition that takes place on the other side of the television screen is nearly as remarkable. Sending players through landscapes comprised of castles, pirate ships, crypts and flying fortresses, stages are fairly linear, sporadically requiring a key to access padlocked areas of the landscape. Skylander’s straightforward combat may shirk the characteristic jump, lock-on, and often, defensive elements- yet using each creature’s arsenal of attacks is undeniably gratifying as hit points spark from beaten foes.  Dispatching enemies rewards players with experience and money, which are both utilized to augment your team of Skylanders. Smartly, these light role-playing elements are never forced on players, allowing younger gamers to wail away on antagonists, without getting bogged down in statistical nuance. One aspect that might irritate adolescents is the game’s sporadically unskippable dialog, which is often a bit too verbose.

One of Spyro’s Adventure’s more contentious decisions occurs once players unlock an ability for a yet-to be-purchased Skylander. Here, the game offers to demonstration the new maneuver via a short in-game video. After viewing, I felt a distressing obligation to visit the local department store to strengthen my squad. For parents who just spend seventy dollars on the starter set, the pressure may verge on the dodgy. When each new Skylander figure grants an additional life on a stage, the incentive to expand your collection can be compelling.

Visually, Spyro’s Adventure vibrant colors and inventive character design are certainly charming. While the 360 version is attractive, an intermittent chuggy framerate and occasional low-res textures cause the title to look like a high-resolution port of the Wii version. The intermittent awkward animation is also present; characters leaving a turret seat looked like they were pulled by the claw of an invisible crane machine. The game’s music fares far better, delivering whimsical melodies as well as strains which convey the menace of imminent danger.

Although Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is aimed at a youthful market, it’s one the rare titles which transcends it target demographic. By complementing it’s collection of well-made figurines with a lively action game, Toys For Bob has managed to upstage Pokémon developer Game Freak, bringing its roster of creatures into the real-world. If the next Spyro doesn’t force players to rebuild their collection and polishes some of this game’s uneven edges, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a throng of thirty-something’s lining up on launch day.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

27 comments

  1. After listing to the last few podcasts, you all sound like Man-children ;) Not a damn thing wrong with that. Stand up and be proud. Just don’t step on any Bakugan Battle Brawlers.

  2. Personaly, I’m waiting for K’Mart’s $50 BF sale to pick this up. That’s the right price for me.

  3. These are one of the developers I’d like to hear on the podcast. Make it happen Deagle!

  4. The one thing that is disappointing is the characters level cap of 10. Hopefully, they fix this or release DLC to raise it up. Right now you can hit max in 7-8 hours.

  5. “Toys For Bob has managed to upstage Pokémon developer Game Freak”

    GTFO!

  6. Read it again.

    They wrote that Game Freak was “upstaged” not that it’s a better game. Imagine if Pokemon has little figurines!

  7. Sure, it’s $50 to start the habit. But you will get hooked, buy all the characters, and have you start prostituting yourself. It’s an ugly cycle.

  8. Whatever happened to the two man reviews? I would have liked to hear SeanNOLA’s snark on this one. Plus he likes toys

  9. Toys are cool, but make-up ads in your side-bar aren’t. that’s icky girl stuff.

  10. Comprised of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures, each male friend finds their way into the clique by being imaginative, bookish, and owning an oversized assemblage of action figures, LEGOs, or plastic models.

    What? Girls can play with boys anymore? ;)

  11. no interest in this at all. Gloried Gauntlet with toys? Deagle, put the Kool-Aid down. NOW.

  12. I picked up a few Skylanders already and will be getting the game this Friday? Which ones are the best to buy?

  13. I hear the 3DS version is way different. Are you going to review that one?

  14. How about telling us what are the essential extra Skylanders?

  15. This years big holiday game us next years bargain bin item. $20 or less.

  16. Haters gonna hate, players gonna play.

  17. I like your take on Skylanders. Most of the reviews I have read went something like “is good for a kids game”. Funny thing is, most of my gamers friends are interested in it. And they are 26-39.

  18. My friend bought 10 on the figures and it waiting to get the game, which is kind of crazy.

    So if you buy the 360 version, do you have to buy the complete set-up for the 3DS?

    Also, are you really supposed to transport the 3DS portal around? Kind of crazy for a portable game.

  19. Thirty-two year old man with a white collar job interested in the game. My only concern is the GF might think I’ve gone pedo if she sees figures around the apartment.

  20. Thirty-two year old man with a white collar job interested in the game. My only concern is the GF might think I’ve gone pedo if she sees figures around the apartment.

  21. Great review, Des.

  22. Is the CD set still at some retailers? Online?

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