The game that brought together toy figures and video games into a successful mix continues the adventure in Skylanders: Swap Force. It's time to head back to the magical floating islands of Skylands. Will Kaos finally beat the Skylanders to rule the Skyland realm with an iron fist? Or will the Skylanders prevail? My bet is on the Skylanders, but read on.
Legendary pilot, in his own mind, Flynn, has had a mishap that strands him on a far edge of Skyland. In a place called the Cloudbreak islands, he befriends Tessa, a fox from the main village of Woodburrow. Here Flynn, the Skylanders, and the Portal Master (the player) learn that every one hundred years a ritual must be done to replenish the magic in the Skylands. The Ancient Elementals must gather at the peak of Cloudbreak volcano to perform this ancient ritual as the volcano erupts. In a strange turn of events, the Ancient Elementals find themselves under attack from the normally peaceful creatures of the mountain in an attempting to corrupt them.
It is eventually discovered that Kaos is back and that he is attempting to subvert the ritual to give him the power to rule Skyland. This time however, much to Kaos' chagrin, he is joined in his attempt by his mother, who actually at one point conquered and ruled Skyland for hundreds of years before she herself was defeated and then subsequently "retired."
To help fight against Kaos is the Swap Force, a group of Skylanders who were tasked to help protect the Ancient Elementals. They are called the Swap Force because in a past ritual, as they were defending the Ancient Elementals, they were caught in the volcano's eruption. The result sent them to earth like the rest of the Skylanders, but they had the ability to swap their upper and lower halves. This power allowed them to mix and match their elemental abilities.
Can the Skylanders defeat the combined might of Kaos and his mother? Well I'm not giving away the whole story.
Controls and Gameplay
Skylanders: Swap Force plays just like its predecessors. The players use their Skylanders figures on the "portal of power" to summon them into the game to battle through areas, to defend or gather resources, and to help in the fight against Kaos. The new Swap Force figures work like the previous figures, but with the new ability to literally swap tops and bottoms. This allows players to have Skylanders that can use two different elemental attacks. The Swap Force Skylanders also have unique base movement styles, these include: spin, fly, bounce, sneak, dig, teleport, speed, and climb. In terms of general gameplay these new movement styles don't add much. They only really come into use in special "Swap Force Zones" that require one of the move styles to access, much like the "element zones." Another unique aspect of the Swap Force Skylanders is the fact that the upper and lower halves have their own separate power upgrade paths.
All the Skylanders from past games are usable in Skylanders: Swap Force and they come in with the same levels, powers, and items they have gained from those past games as well.
Graphics and Sound
Skylanders: Swap Force really doesn't change anything in regards to graphics and sound. It keeps the cartoony, Pixar-ish animation and art style it has had since the start. My review copies are for the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 4. The only real difference between the two is that the PlayStation 4's graphics are sharper and crisper.
Patrick Warburton and Richard Horvitz return as Flynn and Kaos respectively and adding to the cast is award winning actress Christine Baranski as Kaos' Mom. Ms. Baranski brings a fun playfulness as a "been there, done that" mother who feels her son needs help whether he wants it or not. She is a great addition to the already outstanding voice cast.
Skylanders: Swap Force continues the same simple, fun, adventure that has been one of the hallmarks of the series. Easy to pick up and play, the ability to use your Skylanders figures on any games system is still here. I do think the mix and match swap-ability of the new Swap Force figures provides a great element of fun, but the movement styles does feel like a bit of an unnecessary add on. Their side section feel a little tacked on, as if the developer felt the swap-ability wasn't enough.
Ultimately that is just a small part of the game. It's still a game that that is great for parents who want to game with their children, though the ability to play co-operative through the story is still absent. There are still the multiplayer arenas to allow for more "on the couch" gameplay.
Skylanders: Swap Force is still fun and accessible for everyone. I give it a 4.5 out 5, while my young niece (who is in the target age the game is designed for) gives it a perfect 5 out of 5. Parents prepare for Skylanders birthday wishlists.
Skylanders: Swap Force is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older for Cartoon Violence byt the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
For more information see the official Skylanders: Swap Force web site.