Published on November 29th, 2013 | by octaneblue4
Review: Skylanders SWAP Force – Wii U
Developer(s): Vicarious Visions, Beenox (Wii), n-Space (3DS)
System(s): Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii, 3DS
Release Date(s): October 13, 2013 (Wii U, PS3, 360, Wii, 3DS), November 15 (PS4), November 22 (Xbox One)
Note: The 3DS version is a completely different game with different gameplay & settings and will be reviewed separately. The Wii version is scaled down from the HD versions and may be missing features noted in this review.
In 2011, Activision published Toys for Bob’s Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, which introduced the figures-to-life concept associated with the franchise. Players could take their purchased figures, place them on the special Portal of Power included with the game, and the figure’s character would appear on-screen in the game. The game was a massive hit for Activision, so it was no surprise that a second game, Skylanders Giants, was announced and released the next year. This iteration featured the titular Giants that had special abilities.
The third game in the series, Skylanders SWAP Force, just arrived to a variety of consoles. With a new developer, Vicarious Visions, in tow, a wealth of new features has been added to the established gameplay formula, most notably the addition of the SWAP Force, characters that can swap top and bottom halves to create new characters with a mix of abilities – and there are over 250 combinations to create! With several new gameplay additions and improvements, this is easily the best Skylanders game yet. Read on for the full review of Skylanders SWAP Force!
In Skylanders SWAP Force, Kaos is once again up to no good, this time in a previously unexplored area of Skylands called Cloudbreak Islands. He’s got quite a few new tricks up his sleeve, and it’s up to the Skylanders, including the long-lost SWAP Force, to put a stop to him once again.
It should be noted that anyone that picks up SWAP Force must purchase the Starter Pack. The reason is that the new Portal of Power included can read the data for all previous figures AND the brand-new SWAP Force characters. Included in the standard Starter Pack of the console version is the game, the new Portal of Power, three figures (Ninja Stealth Elf, Blast Zone, and Wash Buckler – the latter two are SWAP Force characters), trading cards and stickers, and a poster. Just like with the previous titles, you can complete the entire Story Mode with just what’s included in the Starter Pack. If you purchase more characters, you can unlock additional content, including new areas in each chapter. But the purchase of more Skylanders figures is completely optional.
What is likely the first thing players will notice about the game is how flat-out gorgeous the game looks on the HD consoles. Previously, the games were initially developed on the Wii, then ported and upscaled to the HD consoles; for this game, the opposite occurred. The difference between the graphics of the previous games and SWAP Force is huge; the game looks absolutely amazing and you’ll benefit from having an HDTV to view the game in all its high-definition glory. The in-game cutscenes and overall animations are improved as well. In the sound department, the series has been known for mostly upbeat tracks and orchestral scores in some instances too, and SWAP Force is no different. The voice acting is great as usual, and the trademark humor found in previous iterations of the series is still here too.
In terms of gameplay, SWAP Force shares similarities with the first two games. The gameplay consists of beat-’em-up style combat, with some puzzle and light RPG elements thrown into the mix. Each of the game’s levels are divided into chapters, and the main goal is to get from the starting point to the end, fighting enemies, solving puzzles, exploring collecting items, and playing through whatever each particular level has to offer. Skylanders SWAP Force includes a big amount of new additions to the gameplay formula, all of which are very welcome to the series. One notable addition is that every Skylander can jump – this ability existed in the 3DS versions of the games, but never the console versions until now. This adds in new platforming elements to each chapter. The jumping mechanic is definitely well-implemented, and is certainly not something that feels tacked on.
But perhaps the biggest and most notable addition to the game is that of the SWAP Force characters. The SWAP Force, which consists of 16 different Skylanders, are special Skylanders imbued with the magic ability to swap their top and bottom halves, creating new Skylander creations with a name that is a mix of the two SWAP characters, and includes special abilities from each one. You can mix and match each of the SWAP force characters to create 250+ combinations of characters.
For example, the top and bottom halves for the figures of Blast Zone (a Fire Skylander) and Wash Buckler (a Water Skylander) can be removed, swapped, and combined (via magnets) to create Blast Buckler and Wash Zone! They will then have the primary attack from the top half and secondary attack from the bottom half. There’s also a bit of a strategic element with the combinations, as you can overcome the flaws on a particular SWAP Force Skylander by swapping parts with another. Wash Zone in the example has sword and bubble gun attacks but also jet boosters, allowing him to move around a lot faster. Needless to say, you can have wildly different experiences with each character and it’s incredibly fun to test out the combinations. The SWAP Force Skylanders can take several seconds to load into the game, which does interrupt the flow of the gameplay when it happens. It’s a minor issue overall, but one worth mentioning.
The SWAP Force characters unlock special in-game SWAP Zones throughout the game’s chapters. Each SWAP Force Skylander belongs to one of eight different SWAP Zone groups, indicated by a logo on their bottom halves. And only the bottom halves with the correct logo can enter that zone. Each of the eight different zones contains various gameplay types, ranging from a racing game to a 2D platformer to an obstacle course in which the Skylander must fly through rings. Completing these SWAP Zones earns in-game treasures and hats.
In addition to the SWAP Force, there are new “Core” characters introduced as well – these are the non-swappable, regular-sized Skylanders. The 16 new additions include Zoo Lou, a magician that can summon animal projections, Grim Creeper, an Undead Skylander that attacks with his scythe, and Slobber Tooth, an Earth Skylander that has crushing bite and tail swipe attacks. There are also new Series 2 and Series 3 figures, and these are reposes of characters from the first and second games. Also returning are LightCore Skylanders, which, upon placing them on the Portal, attack with a “Light Bomb” attack that hits all enemies on-screen. All figures from the first and second games are compatible with SWAP Force, and that includes the Giants from the previous game. While there aren’t any new Giants in this version, the Giants do play a role in this game too – there are treasure vaults that can only be opened by a Giant. These aren’t required to open in each level, but it’s definitely good to see that the Giants still have a purpose in the game, even if it is a smaller one.
Just like in the previous games, a second player can drop in or out at any time during gameplay. There is a larger emphasis on teamwork, as the second player can assist during the SWAP Zone sequences, and the lock puzzles seen in various chapters involves both players this time. Multiplayer is incredibly fun overall, especially with character customization with the SWAP Force characters.
On the Wii U version, the GamePad functionality is useful as it was in Giants; players can view and switch between the current Skylander’s stats, the mission objectives in the chapter, and the online leaderboard. The leaderboard is a new feature and is available on the HD consoles. This compares chapter completion between you and your friends. While the Skylanders series could use more in-depth online functionality, the leaderboard are at least a nice new addition. It’s also worth noting that the Wii U version of SWAP Force works just as well as the other versions; the Wii U version of Giants got a bit glitchy at times, particularly during multiplayer.
There are 13 main chapters in SWAP Force and 4 boss fight chapters, for a total of 17 chapters. While there are a shorter amount of chapters in the game compared to previous iterations, the chapters here are much lengthier; the chapters could have even been split in half and been two separate chapters. As with previous titles, there are plenty of collectibles to find in each of the levels, which extends the playtime. Overall, it takes maybe around 13-15 hours to go through the game and gather all of the collectibles. In addition to the main storyline, there are several other diversions in the game, including the Survival Modes, multiplayer Battle Modes, Bonus Mission Maps, and more. Completion of the main game unlocks the Time Attack and Score Attack Modes, so needless to say there is plenty of replay value in the game. And there are also additional chapters available to purchase via the Adventure Packs.
Skylanders SWAP Force is the best game yet in the Skylanders. It’s chock-full of content, replayability, and it’s a very entertaining multiplayer title overall. With a vast number of new additions and improvements, it is highly recommended for series veterans and newcomers alike.
+ Overhauled HD graphics
+ Entertaining SWAP Force characters
+ Improved gameplay
– Occasional long loading times for SWAP Force characters
Final Score: 4.75 out of 5