My two nephews speak a foreign language. It involves words like “Wash Buckle”, “giants”, “fire element”, “Blast Zone” and all sorts of other things that make no sense to me at all. They have an ever-increasing selection of small figures in their lounge, and will discuss each characters special abilities at length. The cause of this behaviour is a video game called Skylanders, which my nephews have been fans of for the last couple of years. I think my kids have just reached the age where they are interested in, and capable of, playing video games – they join in the games with their cousins whenever they visit, and they’ve both been enjoying Disney Infinity which we got them for Christmas. So when I was recently offered the chance to review Skylanders Swap Force, I accepted, as I was keen to see what it was that had gripped my nephews so completely.
We were sent the Skylanders Swap Force starter pack which contains everything you need to start playing the latest incarnation of the Skylanders story – a copy of the game, a portal on which you place the figure you want to play as in game, and three different Skylanders Swap Force characters. It was very easy to set up – simply insert the disc into the console and plug the portal in. The game starts off with quite a long video introduction to the story which introduces the back story to the Swap Force characters as well as teaching the controls for the game. There is absolutely no need to have played the previous Skylanders games, as this one doesn’t assume previous experience, and is a stand-alone story in its own right.
The controls are pretty intuitive, and easy enough that the almost-four-year-old geekson mastered them quickly and is now pretty proficient. There is fighting, yes, but it’s very much in a fantasy style – the monsters don’t “die” they just disappear, and if your Skylander runs out of health you are advised that he is tired and needs a rest, and you can’t play with him for a little while. It’s therefore good that you get three characters in the starter pack, because that gives you the option to carry on if your preferred character needs to rest. The adventure is very linear, which means there is a clearly defined path to follow, so both kids have found it easy to start playing and continue playing. There are simple puzzles to solve along the way, which they’ve mostly had no problems with. There are a couple of tricky jumps which I’ve had to help them with, but on the whole they’ve both been able to play on their own without needing much help.
As far as all the different characters go, well, the character you place on the portal is the character you play on screen. You can change the character on the portal at any time, and it will change your on-screen character. Each Swap Force character has one of eight different elements, and as you progress through the game you will be advised which element is strong in each particular area. So you can swap the character on the portal to one that has the corresponding element to have an advantage in that area of the game. My kids are playing on “easy” setting, and they haven’t struggled in any of the areas where we don’t have the correct elemental Skylander. There are also areas in the game which are closed off by gates which can only be opened by a Skylander of a particular element. So if you want to see all of the game you will have to buy additional Skylanders to ensure you have one of each element at least, but this is not required to complete the game – and we have been able to keep playing the main storyline with just our three starter set Skylanders.
In addition, any Skylanders you have from previous versions of the game can be used in Swap Force as well. In fact we have found a couple of gates that can only be opened by Giants.
Where does the “Swap Force” come in? Well, there are 16 characters available that have the “Swap Force” ability (2 of which come in the starter set). These characters are held together in the middle by strong magnets, and you can pull them apart to swap tops and bottoms around to make new Skylanders who have a combination of the abilities of each of their constituent Skylanders. Again as you progress through the game there are some optional gates that need a Skylander with two different elements to open, and that’s where the swapped characters come in.
Two-player gaming is nicely implemented as well – simply connect a second controller and place another Skylander on the portal and you’re off. The two characters are invisbly tied together on screen so they can’t get too far apart from each other – a simple but effective way of encouraging team work. My kids have enjoyed working together in the game. You can add and drop the second player very easily and the game just continues, which means it’s great for kids of varying attention spans, as one can drop in and out as they like without interrupting the play of the other.
Both my kids have been enjoying Skylanders Swap Force, but it’s the almost-four-year-old geekson who has been playing the most, and who has been the most engaged with the game. He’s already written his wish list of the Skylanders characters that he’d like for his birthday, and is starting to sound like he speaks the same foreign language as his cousins! The game is rated as PEGI 7, which means it’s best suited for ages 7 and above, and there may be some slightly scary scenes or sounds for younger children. I haven’t seen anything in the game that would bother either of my two but if you’re buying this for under 7s and they are of a sensitive nature you may want to try it out at a friends house first before giving it to them, just to be sure.
Skylanders Swap Force is available for Nintendo Wii and Wii-U, Sony Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 and Microsoft XBox360 and XBox One. As usual it’s best to shop around to find a good price – in my searching it seems to be widely available at around £30 or less – on Amazon (affiliate link) it’s currently available on all platforms for less than £30. I would say that is great value for the amount of play time we’ve had out of it. I would caution though that it may well lead on to further purchases of additional characters and accessories.
Finally, as part of my review, I’m able to nominate a fellow blogger who I think will enjoy the game too. They’ll then receive a starter pack for their family, courtesy of Activision. I am choosing to nominate Petit Mom because her little boy is only a few weeks older than the geekson and I’m dying to know what he makes of the game. And it’s his birthday today as well :). I hope you enjoy your starter pack, and I look forward to reading your review, and finding out who you nominate! #SkylandersPassItOn
Disclosure: We received a complimentary Skylanders Swap Force starter pack for review purposes. Any purchases made after clicking on my Amazon affiliate link within this post will result in my receiving a small commission payment – more information is available on my disclosure policy.