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Skylanders: SuperChargers

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local), 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: RPG/ Platformer (3D)/ Racing

Graphics & Sound:

Skylanders: SuperChargers is the fifth installment of the game that defined the toys-to-life genre, and this time, the series is attempting to shake up the status quo by making half of the game's new figures vehicles, but making the game itself very vehicle-centric.

If there is one area that Skylanders has never lacked in, it was in graphics, and SuperChargers is no different. Classic characters like Flynn, Cali and Kaos all look better than ever, and even characters as recently designed as Buzz or the Golden Queen come out looking better than they did in last year's release. Of course, the characters that you bring to life look just like the toys that you can pick up and hold.

The game is also entertaining to the ears. Not only do Patrick Warburton, Richard Steven Horvitz, Chris Cox, Sumalee Montano and Kari Wahlgren return to reprise their staple characters, but the past figures continue to shout out their catchphrases, so all the names associated with the different Skylanders already on the shelves are in the mix as well. The game also features a great soundtrack that dutifully pumps up while in the midst of battles, or falls to the background when the trouble has subsided. Last, but not least, are the sound effects for the different vehicles. While I didn't notice much difference in the engine sounds when listening to two vehicles of the same type, the ability to unlock and equip one of four different horns for each vehicle makes up for that.


On a high level, Skylanders: SuperChargers is just like all of the previous games. While Trap Team let you capture and supposedly turn Kaos good, it seems he has reverted back to his old ways, and this time he has created a massive weapon that is powered by The Darkness itself and is devouring all of Skylands.

With the use of special vehicles equipped with Rift Engines, you are able to get your skylanders through the portal network that Kaos has taken over and start freeing his captives and looking for a way to stop The Darkness before it is too late.

As you work your way through each of the game's levels, you will be posed with a side quest of each vehicle type (Land, Sea, Air), and while the only one you need in order to get through the level (and game) is a Land vehicle (included with the starter pack), the other two missions not only add a good bit of play time, but you will get star points that go towards your overall Portal Master Level, a feature that isn't entirely new, but comes with frequent enough incentives to keep you wanting to get to the next rank as fast as possible.

These vehicle missions essentially replace the element gates of past games. In those, you needed characters of the right element type in order to see all of the areas that the game has to offer. While all games before Trap Team let anyone with the right element open the gate (a plus for those of us that had older characters), last year's release made it so that only Trap Team members could open the gates. This made players that wanted to explore everything have to wait for Activision to release a Trap Team figure of each element (and some seemed to be held back to later waves in order to help drum up anticipation). While the new side areas are only unlockable if you have the right vehicle type, since one of each vehicle type has been easily purchasable since day one, the game might have found a nice balance between the two previous formats.

That being said, there is now little to no reason to actually change which character you are playing. Sure, there are still elemental boosts so that certain character types are stronger in certain zones, but the need to go through different styled gates was a big reason to have the player swap figures. Now, you just have to change the vehicle, and the figure you are playing with doesn't even have to be a SuperCharger. That being said, both the character and vehicle get a great stat boost if you pair them up correctly.

The addition of the vehicles also adds a new level of customization to your in-game toys. Each vehicle has a variety of features you can unlock and equip. For instance, Land vehicles have different types of engines, horns, wheels and whatever specialty item makes them stand out from the others. While most of these are unlocked by finding tool boxes in the levels, some are only unlocked the first time you put both the vehicle and its character on the portal at the same time.

These mods aren't just for looks either. They can change everything from how the vehicle handles, to its speed, acceleration and armor. You can also spend Gearbits, a new form of in-game money, to upgrade a vehicle's weapons or shields. Like the money collected by a character, Gearbits are stored on the vehicle that picked them up.

While Skylanders: SuperChargers's Story Mode is a major part of the game, the racing capabilities are just as important. As soon as you make your way back to Skylander Academy, an airship appears to present you with races for the different types of vehicles. Only two courses of each vehicle type are unlocked at the start (the others are released by buying Trophy Packs), and without the additional real-world purchases, you can only perform Single Races or Time Trials on the unlocked tracks. When you do use a Trophy, you then unlock Boss Pursuit, Supervillain Cup and Mirror Cup race types, as well as the two other courses for the type of Trophy you used.

In Boss Pursuit, you must chase down a specific enemy in their signature vehicle and attack them until they are defeated before they finish the race. When you do take them out, you put the Trophy back on the portal and then can use that Trophy to play as them in other races. After collecting bosses, you can then participate in the Supervillain Cup, where you take part in several races back-to-back, and from there is the same tournament race, but this time with the Mirror option turned on for each course - this of course has you having to rethink the paths and turns you've learned since everything is backwards.

SuperChargers is also the first Skylanders game to allow online co-op and multiplayer. With an Xbox Live account, you can either race against people online, or drop into a friend's game and help them out. While the online connectivity is something that fans of the game have been asking for since the beginning, the overall feel of the game doesn't change all that much with this feature added.


Skylanders: SuperChargers has several difficulty modes that primarily changes how much damage you receive, and the game seems to find a nice balance in each of these modes. Unlike past releases, the Nightmare setting is available from the start, and as always, you will need to be careful and use every scrap of food to keep your health up if you want to beat the game in this setting.

My main playthrough was on the game's middle setting, and I found this to be a nice sweet spot that let me easily get through the game, but it still felt challenging enough to keep me entertained. That being said, the higher the difficulty, the more rewards you are granted as you defeat enemies, so if you are looking to level up your characters fast, you might want to up the difficulty a bit. Then again, if you just want to play through Kaos' latest scheme, then the very casual lowest setting is all you really need to experience.

Game Mechanics:

Since the first game came out, Skylanders has had me hooked. It preyed heavily on my need to complete collections and oh did Activision and Toys for Bob know what they were doing. From the start, the game was heavily geared towards showing the player what they could do, if only they had the right figure or right type of figure. Every iteration since then has compelled me to not only get all of the Skylanders for that game, but also their variants, even if those differences didn't affect gameplay at all. The mere existence of variants shows just how much the companies knew about those of us that are compelled to collect.

Unfortunately, I don't feel quite the same way with Skylanders: SuperChargers. It's taken me a week or so to work it out, but I can see a few different reasons for this shift. For one, it doesn't feel like there are as many figures to collect this time around, and while that isn't really the case, it feels that way. Most games in the past have come out with four or five characters for each element. Sure some were reposes of earlier characters, but they were still for that game (and bonus, they could be used in older releases). At first glance of the list of figures coming out for SuperChargers, the number of figures feels small, only two per element (and one for the two new elements, Light and Dark). That's just 18. You have to consider each of the vehicles to get that number closer to the typical release count, but the problem is, unless you are actually doing something vehicle-specific, it's the characters you see. Consider a fan of the series that isn't enjoying the racing aspect of the game. They can still play through the Story Mode and as long as they have one Land vehicle (since that's what comes packaged with the game), they can actually beat the game. If a player is only interested in the main story, then the number of figures they are compelled to collect drops a lot.

Personally, I've found the races and side missions to be enjoyable, but not everyone is a fan of those kinds of games. But the other element that seems to be missing and doesn't seem to be pinging off the part of me that has to complete the game is the list of items that I did or didn't get at the end of each level.

This is an element that I didn't know I would miss until it was gone. Before, when a level was cleared, check marks would appear next to the story missions you completed, but it would also let you know if you found all of the treasure chests, soul gems, story scrolls or whatever other collectibles happened to be tucked away. This always led me to replay levels in order to find everything I could. Now, when a level ends, you only really get to see if you completed the three vehicle quests, and those aren't even hidden - they are always in your path to the end of the mission. The game does let you know if you've found all of a new type of treasure chest, but for several levels, I just assumed that this was the only in-level collectible until I started stumbling upon locked chests and hat boxes. As it is, without looking up a strategy guide, I'm not sure if I've actually gotten everything I could out of a level.

That being said, not everyone plays Skylanders that way. I know of several younger games that just pop into whichever level they want to play and play it. For them, the replay value doesn't seem to be limited, but for me, I found myself having a far smaller drive than normal to jump in and complete everything I can with what I have on the first day. While SuperChargers is still a fun game, it just doesn't seem to have the same punch as the last couple of games.

Editor's Note: We received the following toys from Activision to help aid in the review process:

  • Sea Racing Action Pack
  • Hurricane Jet-Vac, Jet Stream Dual Pack
  • Dive Bomber
  • Dive-Clops
  • Sky Slicer
  • Stormblade
  • Crypt Crusher
  • Fiesta
  • Sea Shadow
  • Smash Hit
  • Stealth Stinger
  • Shark Shooter Terrafin
  • Burn-Cycle
  • High Volt

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

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