Admittedly, I’m not the target demographic for the Skylanders games.
I’m almost 32 years-old. I have an advanced degree. The closest thing I have to a kid is my border collie, Prince.
Still, I’ve been on board with the toys-to-life genre since Skylanders first hit the market back in 2011. I used to collect a ton of toys when I was a kid, and I still find the Skylanders figures to be very well-designed and fun to collect. And the game? Well, a lot of older gamers dismiss Skylanders as kid stuff, but if you spend some time with the series, you’ll actually find several well-designed action games that are fun for young and old alike.
Skylanders SuperChargers maintains the franchise’s excellent reputation while adding vehicles that make it feel fresher than it has in years.
The core gameplay of Skylanders SuperChargers (and really all of the Skylanders games to date) can best be described as “Diablo-lite.” You put one of the 100+ toys from 10 different elements on the portal of power, and make your way through lengthy levels, attacking baddies, leveling up, and learning new skills. You can switch characters at any time to tackle specific elemental challenges or because certain elements are strong in certain zones. Or just because you want to check out how a different figure works in-game.
That makes up about half of the gameplay in SuperChargers. It hasn’t changed dramatically from the previous four games, and it’s fun, but it can be a little slow. I’d love to see Vicarious Visions or Toys for Bob speed up the characters a bit in the next entry, or at least have more smaller levels that you can get through more quickly instead of the massive worlds that can take more than an hour to explore.
One major criticism I have of the new characters is that none of them feel very different from previous characters when played outside of their vehicles. It seems like Vicarious Visions did the bare minimum, giving characters like Spitfire and Nightfall the most perfunctory of melee and special attacks that don’t feel all that different from dozens of other characters in the previous four games. A lot of characters like Gill Grunt, Jet-Vac and Eruptor already have multiple toys available in previous games. But the additions to SuperChargers also make it feel very different from those games.
The 20 new figures each have vehicles that can be used to traverse certain zones. Any character (even those from the previous games) can use any vehicle, but if, for example, you match Nightfall with his Sea Shadow underwater scooter, your vehicle gets “supercharged” stat bonuses. It’s a cool mechanic, but I would have liked to have seen different combinations of characters give different boosts to each vehicles to encourage more mixing and matching. Why can’t a water character give the Sea Shadow more speed, but a tech character could give it more defense? That would have added quite a bit of depth to the game.
Vehicles are made up of ground, air and water types, and they’re pretty well varied. Air vehicles alone include a plane, a helicopter and a UFO-type vehicle. Racing these vehicles feels sort of like “Mario Kart-lite,” or perhaps “Diddy Kong Racing-lite.” That is to say, it’s not terribly deep, but it is a lot of fun, and there are tons of racing challenges to play through outside of the main game. There’s also light vehicular combat throughout each level that feels a lot like Twisted Metal for the whole family, and you’re constantly buying new upgrades for your vehicle and finding new mods.
There is a lot of content here when you factor in all the characters, vehicles, and mods. What’s here is a lot of fun even if it’s not terribly complex. SuperChargers is the type of game you can play for 10 minutes before bed, or for 10 hours on a lazy weekend.
But as with previous entries in the Skylanders series, cost is a concern. The base game is $74.99 (or $99.99 for the dark edition with unique, more powerful characters). Figures start at $12.99, and vehicles retail for $14.99. However, sales have been plentiful for the SuperChargers since it came out. Even the dark edition can be found for under $40 online, and Amazon regularly has various figures for $5-6. Several other retailers have run specials where you can get a figure free if you buy a vehicle, so the barrier of entry isn’t nearly as high for SuperChargers as previous games. You also don’t need to buy that many toys to see most of the game. If you have a land, water, and air character and their vehicle, you’re going to see about 90% of the game without much trouble. At current prices, that’s well under $100.
And while the characters can be a little lacking in game, the figures themselves are among the best in the series. SuperChargers figures are a little bit bigger than regular Skylanders, which means they have quite a bit more detail. The figures are also in much more action-y poses than some of the previous releases, and the slight bit of poseability that you get with the vehicles is a welcome change.
The graphics in Skylanders haven’t changed dramatically since the series debuted on last-gen consoles. Levels and characters are big, bright and cartoon-like. Playing through Skylanders can feel like walking through a toy store, but that’s not necessarily a bad thin. The designs are meant to appeal to kids, yet never feel too simple or condescending. Graphics look much smoother and brighter on Xbox One than previous games on the Xbox 360. The animation isn’t quite Pixar-quality, but it’s very, very good.
The voice acting in Skylanders SuperChargers is superb, which should be no surprise given the caliber of talent involved, including Billy West, John DiMaggio, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Kevin Sorbo. Patrick Warburton also returns for his fifth turn as Flinn, the Skylanders guide on their journey. Warburton has consistently sounded slightly dopey in the Skylanders games, very much like he did in the short-lived Tick TV show, which I’ve always enjoyed. Richard Horvitz also has another memorable appearance as Kaos, the series’ main villain. He sounds like the ultimate Saturday morning cartoon bad guy. The music is… well, it’s Skylanders music. The sweeping, epic score of the past games is still present, and as enjoyable as ever. It’s music meant to make you feel like you’re going on an adventure, and it does the job well.
If you just want to play through the campaign with the included Spitfire toy and his vehicle, you’re looking at a solid 10-12 hour game. Maybe closer to 20 hours if you want to get all the achievements and collectables. If you want to put more money into Activision’s pockets and collect the 20 new characters and their vehicles, you’re looking at an even longer game as you level up those characters, customize their rides, and complete individual challenges. Plus, the 100 other characters that have been released for the previous games are compatible with SuperChargers, so there’s a whole lot to do here if Skylanders gets its hooks into you.
Reviewed by Chris Freiberg