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Skylanders: Swap Force

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: n-Space
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Family/ RPG/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Skylanders: Swap Force's Nintendo 3DS version not only contains the new mix-and-match mechanics found in the console versions, but it has a few new tricks of its own.

For the most part, Skylanders: Swap Force looks good. The levels feel large and have a wide variety of environments. This version's story will take you from the hub world of Boom Town to places like a fairy-filled forest, to deep caverns, islands and eventually the main enemy's steampunk-heavy castle. The only real issue I had with the visual style of the game is the fact that the camera is pulled so far away from the action that your Skylanders and their enemies look small. Granted, that helps to make the levels feel larger, and the Skylanders are all still recognizable, but it still felt a little off.

As for Swap Force's audio aspects, the game has the right background music to make each environment feel right, and while the dialogue is fully voiced, the sounds you will hear coming from your Skylanders are little more than grunts. Of course, you can't expect the same level of detail in the handheld version of this game that you would get from the console ones, so no points are taken off for that. Besides, having voices from the past games return for those dialogues keeps the game feeling appropriately Skylander-ish.


The 3DS versions of Skylanders have always been different than their console brethren, and Skylanders: Swap Force follows suit. This time, the story has the Skylanders going to Flynn's home of Boom Town where they are putting up a statue in honor of the pilot. Before the festivities can really get going, though, the party is crashed by a new enemy, Count Moneybone. He uses his undead powers to put Cali in a trance and escapes back to his Clockwork Castle with both Cali and Flynn's statue in tow.

Now you, as the Portal Master, need to help Flynn by mustering your Skylander forces and attempt to save Cali and stop the undead villain before his plans can come to fruition. Another way that the handheld game differs from the console versions is how it handles the Portal of Power. Instead of requiring you keep your Skylanders on the portal at all times, for these versions, you pre-load them into the game and take them with you. In the past, you could only store two characters at a time and when you needed to swap them out, you put the character back on the IR-based portal and unloaded the character. After that, you put your new figure on the Portal and take that Skylander with you.

There is one change this time that not only gives you player a lot of choices, but actually ended up changing the way that I looked at the 3DS version of the game. Now, instead of holding only two characters at a time, you can load up many characters at the same time. I can't tell if there is actually a limit, because I didn't make the considerable time it would take to load up every Skylander I have, but the game seemed to have no problem accepting figure-after-figure. Oddly enough, this made me feel less compelled to unload the characters and update the figures themselves. Before, I would need to offload a character so that I could put one in that fit some requirement in the level, but now, with every element, Giant and Swap Force character able to be carried around with me, I found I treated the figures in the 3DS game as if they were completely different from the ones I use with the console version. I simply had no real reason to remove them from the handheld and update the toy.


Skylanders: Swap Force seemed to be an easy run. Even starting off with only the new characters that came with both the 3DS and Xbox 360 version (plus a few extra for review from Activision), I had no problem plowing through the game's story. Swap Force never really threw more enemies at me that I could handle and, even if they did, the ability to store so many characters in the game at the same time helped to give me the "safety-net" feeling that the console version has. That is to say, as long as you have more characters on hand, you have more health. Where the last games on this system only let you store a couple of characters and you essentially only had two lives to complete the level, now you can have so many Skylanders at your disposal, the risk of actually dying in the game is drastically reduced.

I found it really interesting, from the gameplay balance standpoint, how a change like being able to store more characters really altered the feel of the game in such a major way. When I first heard about the feature, it seemed like a natural next step, especially with the need to hold multiple Swap Force characters in order to use their mix-and-match feature. I just didn't realize until I got into the game how much it changed the feel of it.

Game Mechanics:

Like the console version, Skylanders: Swap Force's biggest new mechanic really is the mix-and-match characters. With 16 characters across the eight elements, there are 256 possible combinations and each one, at least of the ones I've had hands-on experience with, feels very different. Where the top section contains the money, experience and primary attacks, the bottom parts not only change how the character moves, but it also has abilities of its own. One major ability is the type of movement it does. These range from springing to flying, climbing, speeding and digging to bouncing, sneaking, teleporting and spinning. Each level will have a couple of Swap Zones that allows characters with only certain types of movement to enter because you will need that movement style in the zone in order to get to the prize at the end.

The 3DS version of Swap Force gives you another way to play with your growing collection of figures, and as a result, it helps to add just a bit more value to each Skylander you collect. While I never found myself playing the portable versions of the games quite as much as the console ones, this releases' ability to store so many Skylanders makes it a game that I can take with me on a trip without having to bring the Portal along as well. Plus, unlike past versions, the 3DS version of Swap Force actually has completely different characters than in the console version. Before, there was just one character different and the result was spare characters that just didn't get used quite as much as the ones that I got with the console versions.

This version of Skylanders: Swap Force is good for either the fan-on-the go, or the hardcore fan who is looking for more ways to use his/her character. The more casual fans of the series might not want to put down the extra money for this particular version though.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Related Links:

Nintendo Wii U Skylanders: Swap Force Microsoft Xbox 360 FIFA 14

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated