A simple twist is having a big impact on Skylanders.
Swap Force, the latest installment in Activision’s enormously successful toy/game hybrid, is the franchise’s highest-rated game to date, charming even critics who normally scoff at family-friendly titles.
The game currently boasts an 84 Metacritic ranking for the Xbox 360 version, with the PlayStation 3 version earning an 88. Next-generation versions for the Xbox One and PS4 will be released alongside the new consoles.
"I feared of franchise fatigue going into this review," writes Game Informer's Andrew Reiner, "but this installment shows us that a few great ideas can keep this action figure-based experience alive and well." He gives it an 8.5/10.
Destructoid agrees in another 8.5/10 review. "So much heart and soul is consistently poured into the Skylanders franchise time and time again, and Swap Force is no exception,” says reviewer Chris Carter. “In fact, it's the best one yet."
Critics are especially impressed with the game’s new ‘swap’ mechanic. Players can create new Skylanders by mixing and matching the top and bottom halves of the new Swap Force toy characters. It's both physically satisfying (thanks to strong magnets on the figurines) and creates a unique dynamic in the game, with the combinations creating a wide assortment of truly unique creatures.
While that certainly makes the game fun for kids, many sites note that adults may have just as much fun playing.
"If you have a healthy inner child (or, at the very least, no sense of shame), you'll discover that the Skylanders series is secretly a total blast," writes Joystiq’s Danny Cowan. "Skylanders: Swap Force continues that tradition, and if you can stand a few funny looks when your friends see you playing with figurines with ridiculous names like 'Grim Creeper' and 'Stealth Elf,' you'll discover that this is the best Skylanders to date." He gives it 4.5/5 stars.
The downside of the new twist is that it can increase the cost of the game for avid fans. IGN’s Steve Butts gives Swap Force a solid 8.2/10, but also notes "to get the most out of it, you'll end up paying the price of the game a couple times over."
Activision has released over 50 new Skylanders with the new game, 16 of which have the swappable tops and bottoms. Just two of those come in the game's standard starter pack, however, meaning you'll need to purchase more to play through specific areas only accessible to Swap Force creatures.
Official Xbox Magazine’s Francesca Reyes is even more direct in a 7.5/10 review.
"You can still technically play through the entire adventure with just one Skylander, but to scratch that completist itch you’ll need both a fat wallet and the willingness to hunt down specific physical character figures. In past Skylanders, the subtle push to invest in more toys felt less like a requirement and more of a gentle suggestion. ... Every time we ran into a new locked door that required an increasingly specific list of requirements, it put a (perhaps literal) price tag on getting the most out of Swap Force."
Activision is certainly hoping players stay invested, as the company needs every edge it can get in its battle with upstart toy/game hybrid Disney Infinity. Critics give Swap Force the nod, at least (Infinity rates a mild 74), though it’s anyone’s game heading into the busy holiday season.
- Arts & Entertainment