Skylanders: Swap Force
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Skylanders: Swap Force is the third installment in Activision's popular action/adventure game series that lets kids transport physical toys into a virtual world to do battle against a variety of evil fantasy creatures. The combat is frequent and involves lots of weapons and stylized attacks, but it's also decidedly cartoonish. There's no blood or gore, and defeated enemies simply fade away. Plus, the Skylanders are clearly good guys working to protect helpless folk and defeat an evil menace. Parents will want to keep in mind that the $75 starter pack, which comes with three Skylanders, could be the start of a costly hobby. Players are encouraged to purchase additional characters, as certain areas of the game can only be accessed by Skylanders of different elements and -- new to Swap Force -- movement types. The game can be completed with the Skylanders included in the starter pack, but even kids bringing their collections from the first two games will need at least eight new characters to unlock all the bonus areas in the game.
What kids can learn
Thinking & Reasoning
- solving puzzles
- meeting challenges together
Engagement, Approach, Support
Using the portal to "transport" action figures into the virtual world is an intuitive and deeply rewarding play that ought to engage most kids almost instantly.
Players will feel empowered by the swapping functionality, which lures them to explore character abilities and develop strategies for success. Also, puzzles in each level help kids practice thinking logically.
Instructions are presented during play. Several unofficial but vibrant online communities have sprung up around this series, providing forums for kids to discuss and share strategies.
What's it about?
Evil mastermind Kaos has returned to wreak havoc in SKYLANDERS: SWAP FORCE, the third entry in the game series that popularized the idea of kids collecting real toys that can be transported to a virtual world. The adventure begins with the discovery of the peaceful town of Woodburrow, which has been nearly laid to ruin by dark forces. With a little help from constant companion Flynn, the Skylanders embark on a series of adventures that leads to the village's reconstruction. They also gradually reveal Kaos' latest maniacal scheme, wherein the diminutive villain uses the power of dark crystals to "evilize" creatures, turning them into his minions.
The starter pack comes with three new figures, including two new Swap Force Skylanders composed of magnetically connected bottom and top halves that can be swapped with one another to create more than 250 unique character combinations. Each of these special Swap Force characters is propelled by one of eight movement types -- such as spinning, climbing, teleporting, or bouncing -- that are required to unlock specific challenges within the game. What’s more, the top and bottom halves of each character are leveled up separately and have their own distinctive ability growth tracks. Kids also can use all the figures they've collected in previous Skylanders games.
Is it any good?
Innovative interchangeable figures aside, Skylanders: Swap Force gently evolves the fun and polished formula established by its predecessors. The biggest change may simply be the ability to leap, which gives rise to some interesting running and jumping challenges that force players to skillfully bound between stationary and moving platforms and to hop up to higher areas. Activision also has included new mini-games like Shock Lock, wherein players move pairs of sparks around electrical labyrinths in an attempt to make them meet. There are dozens of secondary goals and accolades -- such as opening a certain number of Giants loot chests -- that will help players increase their Portal Master ranks.
The real reason kids will keep playing, though, is as it's always been: the collectible Skylanders figurines. The characters made for Skylanders: Swap Force are finely detailed, high-quality toys that will kick kids' imaginations into overdrive, all the more so because they get to see them come alive and gradually evolve within the game. It's a brilliant melding of real and virtual worlds that most kids will find both fascinating and deeply engaging.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about being responsible consumers. Budgets are finite, and a game like this one can prove costly. Chat with your parents to figure out how much you can afford to spend, research the characters you're interested in purchasing and how they will affect your play experience, and then shop accordingly.
Families can also discuss the impact of violence in media. Do you find third-person action games more or less intense than first-person games? Do you feel different after playing games with lots of frenetic combat?