Review: Skylanders SuperChargers (PS4)

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Title: Skylanders SuperChargers
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (15 GB)
Release Date: September 20, 2015
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions, Beenox
Original MSRP: $49.99 (Digital Download Game Only) / $74.99 (Starter Pack) / $99.99 (Dark Edition Starter Pack)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Skylanders SuperChargers is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and iOS.
The PlayStation 4 Starter Pack version was used for this review.
A copy of this game and all available characters and vehicles was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 443 of the podcast.

The release of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is 2011 kicked off the Toys to Life craze. Skylanders SuperChargers comes along as the fifth console iteration in the series and the first to feature vehicles alongside the venerable characters.

Gameplay:
Kaos is back, of course, and he’s bent on destroying the connection between the Skylanders and us. Fortunately, our buddies in Skylands have found a way to break through the interference and reestablish the connections. Pairing Skylanders with specific vehicles will super charge them allowing you to take down every bad guy in sight.

Where Disney Infinity is more of a sandbox style of play with the LittleBigPlanet creation model thrown in, Skylanders is more of a tight 3D action-platformer modeled after early PS2 games like Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper. This allows for a much more focused gameplay experience with a few hidden pathways just beyond that fixed camera angle.

As with every Toys to Life game, part of the business model is to get you to buy more toys, and minutes into the game Skylanders reminds you of that. You’ll quickly come across two areas that can only be accessed with a Sea Vehicle and an Air Vehicle, neither of which are part of the Starter Pack.

Let’s be clear, you can play through the entire story with just the characters that come in the Starter Pack. What you’ll miss out on though are a ton of side missions with opportunities for more powers ups and collectibles. You also won’t have access to two-thirds of the races.

Yes, the races. Since vehicles are the new addition, a racing section was inevitable. You can even access it directly when starting the game, deciding to go to the story mode or directly into racing.

… upgrading your vehicle …
Six modes are available in racing, with three locked off unless you have a Land, Sea, or Sky Action Pack, business model yo. Immediately available are the single race, time trial, and online. The races themselves are actually a lot of fun and a great diversion from the rest of the game. They’re even integrated into the story in a clever and natural way.

Mario Kart-lite is probably the best way to describe it. You have the weapons your vehicle comes with and a host of small power-ups scattered throughout the course. Driving over one of these power-up boxes triggers the weapon, boost, or shield automatically, you can’t hold it for strategic use later like most kart racers.

This changes things up in terms of strategy and from what I’ve found, more often than not, winning a race comes down to upgrading your vehicle. This is done throughout the story campaign with the collection of hidden chests and tool boxes along with gear bits. Having an upgraded vehicle is almost critical for competing in multiplayer.

There are only four tracks per vehicle type so twelve total. This is why you may want to invest in an Action Pack or two to unlock the other race modes for the twelve available tracks.

… Toys to Life games don’t come cheap …
We have the Sea Racing Action Pack which retails for $34.99. It comes with Deep Dive Gill Grunt, the Reef Ripper Sea Vehicle, and the Sea Trophy, which unlocks the other three race modes.

Skylanders characters cost $12.99 each and the vehicles are $14.99 so when buying this pack you’re essentially paying an extra $7 to unlock the other race modes, but only for the class of vehicle you have. The Toys to Life games don’t come cheap, so know what you’re getting into.

Is it worth the extra $7? From what I experienced, yeah I’d say it is. But, keep in mind to unlock these three modes for all three types of vehicles, Land, Sea, and Sky, you’ll need to buy an Action Pack for each. You’ll be spending over $100 to access all the races but you’ll be adding three more characters and three more vehicles to your collection as well.

The first race mode unlocked is Boss Pursuit. This race has you chasing down villains from across the Skylanders universe so you can capture and then use them in other races.

… Land vehicles become a little quirky …
The Supervillain Cup is a four race tournament against the villains and you need to win that to access the third, the Mirror Cup which flips the tracks horizontally forcing you to remap all the turns in your head.

Vehicles handle great during races when the camera is directly behind them. There a times when things become a little more frustrating however. The Land vehicles become a little quirky when you’re dropped into the 3D arena areas but fortunately those are a very small part of the overall experience.

Back in the story, you’ll spend a lot of time collecting treasure and hats(!) while fighting a wild assortment of enemies, standard Skylanders fare. The game is elevated though by all the little diversions and the way they change things up to keep the experience fresh.

Beyond the differences between land, water, and air vehicle sections, the rest of the game’s stages have a ton of variety in terms of their look and actual gameplay. The Cloud Kingdom is covered in (duh) clouds obscuring your view making upcoming enemies and hidden collectibles harder to spot.

… bullet-hell shmup!! …
Another area has you walking on the walls and ceilings as you pass through portals from section to section while another still has you shrinking and enlarging chickens and enemies alike to solve puzzles and do battle with them. And that’s just a fraction of the variety in the game.

Just wait until you hit the library. Entering books to learn more about your next objective changes the gameplay completely. You’ll go from a straight side-scrolling platformer, that looks entirely hand drawn by the way, to a side-scrolling, then vertical, then bullet-hell shmup!! I was blown away by the idea that I was seeing these things in a Skylanders game, and I loved every minute of it.

There’s also basic card battle game called Skystones Overdrive where you’ll take on AI characters in a one-on-one match. You can use a random deck or build your own based off of cards you’ve found or won throughout the game. It’s fun and can actually require a bit of strategy whether you’re using the random deck or building your own.

You’ll be leveling up both your characters and vehicles along the way with gold coins and gear bits respectively. Completing each of the side missions in a level will help increase your Portal Master Rank, and that in turn will allow you to unlock useful bonuses for your vehicles and characters.

… fun to use as real toys …
The physical versions of the characters and vehicles are all nicely modeled with a ton of detail as with pretty much all the Skylanders characters. What’s nice is that a lot of the vehicles have moving parts making them fun to use as real toys as well.

This is where my three-year-old son comes in. He jumped on Disney Infinity simply because he recognized so many of the characters. It was our go to game for weeks on end so when Skylanders SuperChargers arrived I was a little nervous.

My main concern was that he wouldn’t like it at all and it would make my finding time to play it for the review very difficult. Fortunately the moment he saw Hot Streak, the car that comes in the Starter Pack and its cotton candy blue wheels, he was hooked.

His favorites are Dive-Clops and his Dive Bomber, Super Shot Stealth Elf and the Stealth Stinger, and Fiesta and the Crypt Crusher. It’s fun to see him learn the names of each and tell me which ones he wants to use as he switches them out on the Portal.

… a slot for the trap …
One other thing to keep in mind is that all the Skylanders characters from previous games will work in SuperChargers and any character will work with any vehicle. Pairing them with the “correct” character will supercharge the vehicle giving a small stat boost but it isn’t a necessity.

Interestingly, traps from the previous game Trap Team even work. The Portal has a slot for the trap built right in. The speaker is gone and the trap won’t light up, but you’ll get an elemental weapon boost and if you have a villain trapped, as we tried out, you’ll get a special Skystone card of the character.

Visuals:
The Skylanders games have always had a unique visual style and they’re not doing anything here to reinvent the wheel. Many fan-favorite characters are back as always but what they’ve done in terms of the look of the new characters and vehicles is great.

Obviously the addition of the vehicles and their unique levels makes for a very different experience and the visual effects in all three areas are fantastic. It really helps make the game feel fresh and unique which is something the franchise needed.

It’s a cartoon-like style of course since it’s aimed at kids but it’s still a really great looking game.

Audio:
Always a strong suit of the franchise, the audio truly shines. The voice acting has always been great and of course all the main characters are back. It’s a huge and talented cast with the likes of Tom Kenny, Laura Bailey, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Patrick Warburton, Ashley Johnson, Rob Paulsen and so many more. The writing is, as always, sharp and witty and the actors really deliver their lines well.

Anyone familiar with the Skylanders games in general will find some familiar stuff here. The music is as good as always, with a rousing, adventurous score that accentuates the action and really provides an extra kick to the overall proceedings.

… you won’t be waiting around forever …
Online/Multiplayer:
Local co-op is still available as in previous titles but it changes up a bit in the vehicle sections of the game. Since it wasn’t built to have two vehicles on-screen at once, one player will control the vehicle while the other takes the weapons. A bit of a compromise for sure, but it works to a certain extent.

Going online for races is simple and a lot of fun. From what I could tell, voice chat is enabled for people on your Friends List only, this is a game aimed at kids after all.

Before you start a race you can invite up to three friends to join you. Otherwise, you’ll be dropped right into a lobby and the moment someone else joins a thirty second countdown will start. This ensures you won’t be waiting around forever to fill up a race and it keep things moving along nicely.

AI characters fill in the remaining slots in a race and you’re off with a random track. Everything runs smoothly and I experienced no slow down or hiccups at all. Right after the race ends you’re back in the lobby with the people you just raced against and the timer is counting down to the next race.

… more than just a gimmick …
It’s simplistic compared to just about any other online racer but for what the game is and the races are, it really doesn’t need to be that complex.

Skystones Overdrive is also available against real players online through the table in the Academy. I wasn’t able to try this out unfortunately but I have to believe that it would run just as smoothly as the online racing does.

Conclusion:
Skylanders Superchargers is a positive step forward. The addition of vehicles is more than just a gimmick. It opens up a new world of gameplay and it really is a breath of fresh air for the franchise.

Yes, you can play through the story with what’s included in the Starter Pack but you’ll miss out on so much that’s available. It certainly isn’t cheap, adding in all the characters to access everything the game has to offer but I’d think just about everyone should know that going in at this point.

Skylanders has its roots in Spyro, one of the legendary action-platformers from the original PlayStation. If you’re looking for that type of game and you understand what you’re getting into in terms of the money, then this is your game.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4 with the exception of the white background character and vehicle shots which were provided by the publisher..

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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  • Makai Ookami

    So you did update the 8.5 to a 9.0. I hope there’s a good bundle for Christmas. In the meantime I need to platinum the PS3 and 4 Swap Force, and platinum the PS4 Trap team. So I can have my 5 platinums for the series and make this my 6th.

    • When I started the audio version of the review on the podcast I had 8.5 in my head but after I finished talking it was clear that I felt it was even a little better so I went with 9.0

      I hadn’t really written down any of my thoughts at the time so it just kind of worked out that way.

  • Jahonius

    I know I’ll never play this game, but a great review!

    I’m thinking about buying a Mario Amiibo to put on my desk even though I don’t even intend on playing any of the Amiibo games.

    And I also heard Disney Infinity figurines are surprisingly cool as legitimate toys.
    I kind of hope I were 7 years old…

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