Published on February 25th, 2014 | by octaneblue0
Review: Skylanders SWAP Force – 3DS
Developer(s): n-Space (3DS), Vicarious Visions (Wii U, PS3, 360, PS4, Xbox One), Beenox (Wii)
System(s): 3DS, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii
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 than the console versions. A review of the Wii U version can be found here.
With each release of Skylanders games on consoles, a handheld version on the 3DS has launched alongside them. The 3DS versions include different environments, villains, and gameplay styles than the console adventures, providing gamers on the go with an alternate adventure they could take on with their Skylanders.
The first Skylanders game on the 3DS was developed by Vicarious Visions, which is the current team behind the HD console versions of Skylanders SWAP Force. Since then, development on the 3DS titles has been handled by n-Space. With the release of SWAP Force on the 3DS, several improvements have been made over its predecessor, Skylanders Giants, making for a more convenient experience overall. Read on for the full review of Skylanders SWAP Force on the 3DS!
In SWAP Force on the 3DS, Flynn, Cali, and Hugo are in Boomtown, the hometown of Flynn. The citizens are holding a celebration for Flynn, which is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Count Moneybone and his forces. He kidnaps Cali and sends his minions throughout the area. It’s up to the Skylanders to defeat Count Moneybone, rescue Kali, and restore order to Boomtown.
SWAP Force on the 3DS is very similar in structure to Giants on the 3DS. There are several worlds to go through, with sets of levels in each one. Each level contains a number of objectives to complete, which range from finding treasure chests, opening elemental gates, opening SWAP Force Zones, and so on. None of these are required to finish the level, so you can beat the game with the bundled characters, which includes Volcanic Eruptor, Rattle Shake, and Free Ranger. But Skylanders of every element and a SWAP Force character of each type are required for 100% completion, if you’re looking to do that.
The graphics look similar to Skylanders Giants on the 3DS. The character models have some nice animations, but the main draw here are the level designs. The level designs are often spectacular and there are very cool locales that players will explore throughout the main storyline. Sound-wise, the game still has compressed audio like in Giants on the 3DS, but there are some nice tunes found throughout the game. There aren’t any particular tracks that really jump out, but they’re suitable for the levels. There’s more cutscenes and voice acting found in the game than in previous games, so it’s definitely nice to see a bigger production value on the handheld version.
The gameplay is like the previous 3DS iterations, with a large focus on platforming. The platforming sections are a big difference between the handheld and console versions, as the latter is mainly focused on action/beat-’em-up gameplay. SWAP Force on the consoles introduced a new mechanic: jumping – this was previously the niche of the 3DS versions. However, on the 3DS versions, all of the Skylanders can double jump, run, and some can even hover for a few seconds, which are all helpful abilities throughout the game. The game’s levels are quite vast, perhaps even more so than the ones found in Giants.
New to the game are the SWAP Force characters, which can swap top and bottom halves to create new character combinations with unique abilities. The SWAP Force Skylanders unlock SWAP Zones in each of the game’s levels. These are really neat, primarily consisting of obstacle courses that must be cleared with the unique SWAP Force ability that was required to enter the SWAP Zone. For instance, in the Speed areas, you’ll be required to use the super-speed ability (activated with the L button) to zoom past dangerous buzzsaws. The SWAP Zones of each type can actually be quite different depending on the level you’re on, so there’s a good amount of variety with these. Also new to the game is the ability to select a difficulty level. Giants on the 3DS was a bit on the easy side, so it’s nice that the developers added in this feature for players that would like a bit of extra challenge. Even so however, the game will still be a bit on the easy side for veteran gamers.
But easily the biggest and best addition to SWAP Force on the 3DS is the ability to save and switch between the Skylanders in your entire collection at any time during gameplay. Previous games only allowed players to scan in two characters at a time, so this is a very convenient feature. Scanning your Skylanders takes place after the first level, where a hub area is available that contains a Portal to warp in your Skylanders, done in real life with the included mini Portal. Switching is simply done by going through the bottom screen menus, where all eight elements are shown. And from there, you can choose your playable characters. SWAP Force characters have a unique trait where you can just select whatever top and bottom halves you want, an incredibly convenient feature.
There are seven worlds to explore, with 19 levels altogether, including the boss fight stages. More levels are available by purchasing the Tower of Time and Sheep Wreck Island Adventure Packs. The game is surprisingly lengthy if one is going for 100% completion – that is, clearing all of the objectives in each of the levels for a 3-star ranking. 100% complete runs can take anywhere from 8-10 hours, but going through the levels without completing all of the objectives takes about 3-4 hours. After beating the game, there isn’t much to do aside from finding any missed collectibles or completing missed objectives. It certainly would be nice to see some side-missions or mini-games, like the Skystones game from Giants, to add more replay value to the title. But as it stands, there unfortunately isn’t much replay value here.
Overall, Skylanders SWAP Force on the 3DS is an improvement over its predecessor. New convenient features, along with some nice platforming gameplay, makes this one a recommended title for fans of the series or platformers in general.
+ Stores Skylander collections in-game
+ Great level designs
+ Simple gameplay
– Compressed audio
– Lacks replay value
Final score: 4.25 out of 5