The Skylanders have returned with Vicarious Visions at the helm and they’ve brought supercharged land, sea and air vehicles with them. Kaos is back and determined to beat you and take control of Skylands. By locking down the portals and capturing your friends, there’s no way to enter Skylands and summon the Skylanders, but what Kaos hasn’t counted on is the new SuperCharger vehicles.
A rift engine powers each vehicle – the days of elemental portals are over – these new vehicles create their own portals to navigate around Skylands and summon new characters in to battle. Unlike previous Skylander games, you only need one of each vehicle type to be able to play through the entirety of each story level.
The Starter pack comes with two characters and a vehicle, Spitfire, Super Shot Stealth Elf, and the land vehicle Hot Streak. By combining Spitfire and Hot Streak the vehicle becomes supercharged and gains a new look – doing so also gives access to an exclusive mission. Other than that, any Skylander, including the full complement of figures you may have collected from previous games, can be used with the vehicles, although you must use a SuperCharger character to customise each one.
Hot Streak looks great, has moving wheels and is sturdy enough for my son to use with the rest of his toy cars. I also picked up Sky Slicer, an air vehicle, which lacks moving parts but is just as fun to play with – according to my son that is!
The game can be played on a variety of difficulty settings. Beginner is ideal for younger players like my son, and Nightmare is great for when he is in bed and I want more bite from the fight. Not only do all the Skylanders in your collection work with the game, traps from Trap Team also work, although instead of trapping villains they give you special ammo and a unique Skystone tile for the game’s simple card-based battle mini game.
Skylanders SuperChargers perfectly brings together platforming, brawling and Mario Kart-esque racing into one game. There are some wonderful ideas to the levels, including a gravity flip and a “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” level. The gameplay moves at such a pace that it doesn’t dwell on one particular style for too long, keeping my son far more engaged than many of his other games – it’s most impressive and an absolute joy to play through, both with him and on my own.
While playing cooperatively a leash tethers you together preventing adult or child from charging ahead or becoming separated. The vehicle levels place one of you at the wheel while the other handles the shooting and boosting – a job my son was particularly proud of as we three-starred a race challenge! You can also team up with one of your friends to play cooperatively, although there is no matchmaking for the campaign, which keeps the game in a closed environment for your little ones to enjoy without someone coming in to ruin their game. Competitive races can be played in splitscreen or via matchmaking online. Currently it’s harder to find a match for the sea and air vehicles, but with everyone having access to a land vehicle, matchmaking a land race wasn’t an issue.
Each vehicle controls by simply moving the stick in the direction you want to move, which in open areas felt a little awkward to start with – moving the thumbstick left made you go to the left of the screen rather than turning left in the direction that your vehicle was facing – perfect for younger gamers.
As with previous games in the series, each character has a skill tree, and new to the game, each vehicle can be modified to make them faster or stronger but you must first find the mods before you can install them. Gearbits are earned in the vehicular levels and can be used to invest in weapon and shield strength.
Lock mini games return with Live Wire and you must navigate around an engine to find and turn on the ignition – collecting optional sparks as you go. Finally, there’s a Portal Master rank that can be increased as you play or for earning emblems for achieving milestones in gameplay – ranking up rewards you with buffs for your Skylanders or extra rewards.
There’s plenty to keep you entertained throughout the game’s 12 hour campaign, and once you’ve finished the story, there’s daily quests and challenges to keep you coming back for more. The racetracks of SuperChargers will keep you somewhat happy, but are restricted to how many vehicles you own. There are two tracks for each type of vehicle, with a further two unlockable if you purchase the Action Pack, which comes with a character, vehicle and trophy. Purchasing these also unlocks Boss Pursuit, Supervillain and mirror cups – it’s a bit cheeky, but I’m happy that the campaign is far more accessible with fewer additional purchases than in previous games. Only one level in the campaign demands you use an air vehicle and is skippable if you don’t own one.
Character elemental gates may be no more, but there are a set of time trial races that are locked to vehicles of a certain elemental power – they aren’t integral to the game so can be missed entirely without feeling like there’s a huge chunk of the game missing.
Skylanders SuperChargers is as sleek as its visuals – the cutscenes in particular look great – the animation wouldn’t be out-of-place in one of my son’s TV programs. After Trap Team, my expectations were rather low and I was beginning to look over the fence at LEGO Dimensions, but the new game has sufficiently ‘supercharged’ my enthusiasm. SuperChargers dips its toe into a variety of game styles and it manages to pull it off with no one style ever feeling out-of-place – well played Vicarious Visions!
Thanks to Xbox and Activision for their support
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