A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Skylanders: Swap Force is an action/adventure game for kids but one that could prove quite costly. Play involves a lot of cartoonish battles involving magic, brawling, and lots of weird-looking non-human creatures. The fighting is nearly constant but mild enough for the game's target demographic. More concerning is the amount of money kids and parents may spend as they collect associated toys that can be transported into the game via an included "portal" platform. Returning Skylanders fans can use all their existing figures, but they'll be encouraged to purchase the new, cleverly designed Swap Force figures, whose tops and bottoms can be separated and swapped with one another. At least eight of these $15 figures are required to open all the locked areas players encounter in the game.
What's it about?
SKYLANDERS: SWAP FORCE on Nintendo 3DS isn't the same game as the one released for living room consoles. It has a different story in which a new villain named Count Moneybone kidnaps Flynn's friend Cali, forcing the Skylanders to go in search of her. That said, the action is similar in nature to the console version: Players spend their time fighting a variety of cartoonish enemies, leveling up their Skylanders through battle, and searching for elemental gates and challenge zones unlocked by certain types of Skylanders. As in the console editions, a big part of the experience is collecting the new toys, which include dozens of regular Skylanders plus 16 new "swappable" Skylanders, the bottom and top halves of which can be mixed and matched, resulting in more than 250 possible pairings. All previous Skylanders figures are compatible, but at least eight of these new Swap Force Skylanders -- one for each of the eight new movement types (teleport, spin, speed, dig, climb, bounce, rocket, and sneak) -- are required to unlock all areas in the game.
Is it any good?
Although the 3DS edition of Skylanders: Swap Force looks and feels a lot like the version released for consoles, it's not nearly as satisfying. A big part of the disappointment comes in the way players use the toys. Kids don't get to remove and replace Skylanders on the portal whenever they like, which accounts for a lot of the fun in the living room games. Instead, they use the portal just once for each Skylander to transport them into the game, where they're stored. Then they simply select the one they want to use via the touch screen. This is especially disheartening in light of the new Swap Force characters, the fun of which comes from physically decoupling and recoupling their magnetic upper and lower halves.
As for the game itself, it's basically a much shorter and less challenging take on what players do in the console editions. Enemy tactics are generally limited to simply charging headlong into battle, and an unhelpful camera makes jumping to moving platforms a lot trickier than it needs to be. It can still be fun in a mindless way, but a lot of the fun of the console Skylanders games has been sucked out of this middling hand-held edition.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism. There's a good chance some players and their families will end up spending more on this game and its associated toys than they do on the rest of the games they purchase over the course of a year. Are you getting good value for your money? Why, or why not?
Families can also discuss Activision's decision not to include any female Skylanders in the new swappable collection. Would it matter to you or bother you if you swapped the bottoms and tops of boy and girl characters?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Subjects: Hobbies: collecting
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: logic, solving puzzles, strategy
- Price: $74.99
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Activision
- Release date: October 13, 2013
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Cartoon Violence
- Last updated: December 7, 2020
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