Video Game Review: Skylanders SWAP Force – A New Twist and Turn

skylanders explores the world of Skylanders SWAP Force from Activision.

The “Skylanders” franchise is well known throughout the world.  For those unfamiliar with “Skylanders,” it is a video game that allows action figures to actually enter the video game by way of a portal of power.  The initial game release was in October 2011 and was called “Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure,” while the first sequel, released a year later introduced kids to “Skylanders Giants.” As of 31 July 2013, worldwide retail sales have exceeded $1.5 billion.  “Skylanders” has proven to be a phenomenally successful product.

The entire “Skylanders” universe includes well over 100+ characters, and each is classified under one of 8 elements, Magic, Water, Tech, Fire, Earth, Life, Air and Undead.  “Skylanders” associated with certain elements are sometimes required to progress further in the game.  Two “Skylanders” figures can be placed on the portal of power at the same time allowing two players to work together on the same adventure.

Now for 2013, Activision is releasing “Skylanders SWAP Force.”  For the first time, players can actually swap the top and bottom halves of these new “Skylander” characters among 16 new figures (250+ unique combinations).  Of course, there is a new adventure to challenge youngsters and adults too.  And yes, the old “Skylanders” figures continue to function just perfectly with this new iteration.  The new figures also have some new powers and abilities never before seen that further enhance the overall game experience.

We got a hold of an early “Skylanders SWAP Force” Starter Set for the Playstation 3 (PS3).  Keep in mind that all “Skylanders” video games can also be played on Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Xbox, but you must be sure to purchase a set with a game disk/card that matches your system.  The actual figures are fully compatible with all systems.  “Skylanders” is also ready to go on Xbox One and PS4.

We play tested “Skylanders SWAP Force” over a 3-day period with all of the staff members participating.  The PS3 Starter Set included 3 figures, Blast Zone and Wash Buckler (both SWAP force characters) along with Ninja Stealth Elf.  In addition to the game disk, the set included a new portal of power, which plugged directly into the console using a USB connection.  The previous version of the portal of power was wireless and did have a tendency to act up from time to time.

During game play, we immediately noticed much sharper animation and better close-ups of characters on the screen, especially during conversations.  We also thought the screen transitions moved much more quickly than ever before.

The swapping ability worked perfectly and added another element of fun to the game.  In some cases, certain paths required a character to possess two different elements before moving forward.  A simple swap between the top and bottom of two different figures solved the problem quickly, and the halves attached with ease  using a magnetic connection.

The figures were also able to fly occasionally in this new version of the game, and Kaos is back with another evil plan.  Various attacking creatures, including Greebles and Chompies fill the game with exciting moments from start to finish.  There are also many new puzzles and mini-games, along with loads of things to collect and purchase.

As with the previous versions of the game, “Skylanders SWAP Force” can be played by kids as young as 6 years old, if they have an adult helping them just a little bit.  For example, the PS3 controller requires knowledge of only a few basic buttons to maneuver the figures around the landscape.  However, the game is really best for those 10 years old and up, as some reading is required and many of the adventures provide a bit of a challenge for younger players.

We seldom say this, but honestly, this is a “must have” item for Christmas 2013.  The “Skylanders SWAP Force” starter set retails for $74.99.  Additional figures can also be purchased in single packs ($14.99).  Check things out at
— RJ Cullen

Posted in Apps and Video Games