Skylanders has always been considered the undisputed ruler in the world of toys to life, the game started the whole concept and has continued to do well among its fans for quite some time. The question that has always come to mind is where can it draw the line? There are only so many stories, there are only so many ideas that they can use, the franchise has already set so many feet wrong over its first four installments including releasing what is basically the same game. I personally quit halfway through Swap Force after being bored by the sheer lack of innovation and the need I felt for a much greater idea and this is what is offered with Superchargers.
It goes without saying if you have played previous games in the Skylanders franchise you will have played this one to some extent, each game follows the same basic formula which barely changes but a fresh idea breathes new life that I honestly thought was impossible. Superchargers changes up the longstanding formula and introduces vehicles to the line-up, at first I had my concerns with this idea, vehicles seemed like a distant idea that would break the ideas held within the universe. Thankfully vehicles fit into the games as seamlessly as Giants and it is a good thing, as vehicles take up a good chunk of the game.
Superchargers starts out at a high point showing why vehicles (particularly cars) are relevant to the experience as you race your way down a portal into Skylands, this excited me and got me all prepared for the excitement that was to follow and this excitement wasn’t misplaced. Unlike sections found in past games which were out of the way these car sections make up a fair chunk of the gameplay as you make your way through each level, there was no bypassing these sections but that was fine, I honestly looked forward to racing myself down the track set before me in each level. But, that’s not to say that these were always good, these sections are divided into a good section that I found to be quite fun and a more troublesome section. I loved doing the straightforward driving sections that had me driving down a linear path, while they were simplistic they commonly allowed for a simple boss battle or even just generally fun driving sections, it was when the game jumped to a more open sense, small sections that planted me in a field full of enemies and items are where I often struggled with controls, they weren’t bad but took a small learning curve which was initially frustrating.
Cars are a great inclusion for the game as they break up the monotony held within levels, but levels aren’t all bad, my usual complaint about levels growing tired didn’t actually occur within Superchargers, in part it was the use of the car, but the rest is some actually great level design. In one level you are shrunk down with the goal having your characters run through a garden, this opened the world up to many possibilities as I got to see the world the way insects do and there was great moments here. A rabbit I encountered along the level looked honestly terrifying, and it made great use of the idea of small things we take for granted as giants.
In an even cooler level we got to the inverse of shrinking as we grew to a monstrous size, and fought miniscule versions of enemies. Seeing what I believe was meant to be some kind of tropical resort crumble beneath Donkey Kong’s giant feet was just incredible and proved to be one of the ideas I have been waiting for.
But that isn’t even the best one, my personal favorite level has me running through the world of books, these levels played out like classic 2D side scroller platformers. They never strive much from the classic formula but that’s not what made these levels cool, the world basically came to life in front of you as enemies appeared and trouble occurred all to the words of the humble narrator who told us the story. The problem with all these levels is that they end as fast as they begin, as I was starting to find myself loving a concept it would be done, this of course is not the games fault and I think it is better that the games more unique and exciting ideas never outstayed their welcome. But where the game really shines is in the fact that most levels tend to have some kind of exclusive feature which made them exciting, something that was few and far between in previous installments in the franchise. For the most part levels are still the same tired routine we have done a few times over in the previous games which means you pretty much know what you are getting into.
Outside of the main story the game offers races, given the use of vehicles this was a no brainier to appear and what we get is something we have seen a thousand times before. Vehicle races are basically Mario Kart but with a bigger lack of excitement, you simply race through a course trying to come first, meanwhile you will collect power ups to offer speed boosts, or health restoration. The power ups are where my biggest problems lied with this, from what is basically Mario Kart with Skylanders I didn’t expect much but the game fails at one of the most easiest points, the power ups lack inspiration and are simple and predictable and this is even without the fact they activate as fast as you get them which I felt ruined the fun.
I will admit to one thing I did love when it came to races, the courses certainly thrive in creativity and using the games material in an interesting manner. I previously mentioned a level where we got shrunk down and had to make our way through a garden, a race course uses this idea as we get shrunk down and race through a garden full of truly menacing looking chompy’s. Likewise at one point we also got the opportunity to race down a dragon’s spine which is quite different even if it took inspiration from an earlier level in the game. The problem is that racing suffers from the same problem we encounter in any Mario Kart game, while courses are exciting to begin with, they each move into the realm of monotony as you play them over and over, the courses may have come forward as a good variety full of great ideas but this mode really doesn’t become the standout highlight it could have been. I would suggest if they chose to revisit this feature they look at improving the mode and offering something different as well as fixing the relentlessly annoying ideas.
Beyond cars the game does add two additional vehicle types to the adventure, most levels you encounter rely heavily on side sections which include boats (or submarines), or planes. To get the most out of Superchargers you will need to purchase these extra two vehicles separately as the game does hide things behind this pay to play wall, instead of elemental gates this time we get sections which task you with taking out your boat or plane all to deal with some problem in the level. These sections can be skipped but I never found you get as much value out of a level without them meaning you pretty much have to spend more money outside of the base game fee. I consider these two sections to be a yin and yang to each other, while both necessary for the gameplay one is certainly more fun than the other. Boat sections are pretty slow, most of these have you taking a slow dive underwater and dodging dangerous mines or enemies, I wanted to like these sections but they just dragged on and were ultimately boring, planes on the other hand were simply fun. Plane sections offered the illusion of freedom as you soar through the skies dealing with whatever missions the game gave, most of these were pretty simplistic to the point of take out a certain type of enemy but still these were definitely fun perhaps even more so then the car sections.
One of the things I was glad to see was the sheer volume of collectibles, while after the previous games I have grown tired of hats some of the other collectibles were something I looked forward to finding. Rather than have story scrolls I was pleased that the game shifted focus and instead allowed us a bit more insight into the often hilarious mind of Kaos through his diaries, I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of the things he would come out with which made each one a thrill to find. Another thing I always looked forward to finding was brand new Skystones, many of these now were characters who each had a place in the story and would help with varying effects in a match.
Speaking of Skystones, I loved how they reworked the system into Skystones Overdrive, as part of the vehicle focus of the game they completely altered the activity into a new manner which was more enjoyable then the past game. Overdrive plays out in part like a bad version of Yu-Gi-Oh! or even Duel Masters where your focus is to take out your opponents points to win, most vehicles could only be used every couple of turns and would offer benefits to the player such as instant damage to the opponent or health recovery. How strategy played out in this game was enjoyable as I tried to outmatch my opponent’s clever tactics, I looked forward to finding a new match and this is something I never did back when I played Giants.
One of the best parts about Superchargers is just how accessible this game is, if you missed out on any of the past games and their exclusive ideas then there is nothing to worry about. Giants, Swap Force and even Trap Team are all ignored in Superchargers, so at no point the game asks you to place a giant or try and trap an enemy, you can’t even swap your characters anymore. Superchargers takes us back to the beginning in the days of Spyro’s Adventure and has said to us that Superchargers is all that matters, so for first time adopters you have a self-contained game here.
It still bothers me with Superchargers just how annoying the need to swap characters and vehicles are, every time you swap over a figure you still need to watch a silly cutscene showing what you have put on and this does grow tired very quickly. I couldn’t help but think that its time they did away with these now tired scenes and find a better way to bring your character in.
The only real problem with Superchargers is the standard problems that plague the series, in reality Superchargers is a quality game and for the first time in the series five year history I can actually say they got the game right. There are some things that could really use refinement in this universe but going forward I really hope that Skylanders takes the fun of Superchargers going forward and brings us into better realms.
Reviewed on Wii U