Activision's Skylander game, while not strictly a core experience, struck us as interesting enough to tell you about anyway. Shown in the massive Activision booth, its presence was obviously dwarfed by titles like Modern Warfare 3 and Prototype 2. However that it still shared a reasonable amount of airtime with those titles was enough to convince us that Activision believes in the title to no small degree.
Not familiar with it? Here's a recap. Featuring Spyro, of vintage PlayStation fame, the game is much less about him than it is about its massive cast of other creatures. Each is based on one of eight elements in the game (a concept familiar to Pokemon players), each of which has various abilities, strengths and weaknesses. That's not the interesting part. The interesting kicks off with the knowledge that each of the characters is also a real, physical toy that gamers can hold in their hands.
Similar to a collectible type game where you get trading cards (like the one supporting World of Warcraft), players are able to purchase more toys to extend on the team of three that come in the box with the game. Then, to play with them in the title, they place the figure on a portal connected to their console of choice and like magic, the toy is transported into a digital version which appears right there in the game - wherever the player might be.
This opens up a number of gameplay possibilities, one of which was demonstrated to us on the show floor. The friendly person from Activision went for a run around with “Prism Break”, a green dude who specialized in blasting stuff to bits with his lasers and crystals (hence the pun), until she got to a locked gate. It required a different type of creature to open it, so she simply picked up the Prism Break figure from the portal (at which point the green dude disappeared with an accompanying woooosh sequence) and plopped down the required type in its place. Bam, the new tree thing appeared in the game and the gate was opened.
Figures can also level up (in-game) and their new stats (including items collected, etc) are then saved into the figure itself. As demonstrated, you can just pick up your lava monster thing, pop him on another console’s portal and ta da...there’s your guy in the other game, complete with that nifty hat you just collected. This even works between things like the Xbox 360 and 3DS versions of the game, with no boundaries or limitations imposed between transfers.
We didn’t get to see the 3DS version of the portal but we were assured there is one, and that it’s similar to the USB-connected device that connects to the other consoles (this doesn’t sound like a game you’ll be able to play on the bus, though). The portal we did see looked pretty cool and glowed green, looking about the size of a stack of saucers. It’s priced competitively in the US, however pricing hasn’t been determined for NZ as yet. Our estimates at this stage would put the game bundle in the $110-$130 range, depending on platform, and the extra figures will likely set you back about $12. Once we have the actual prices, we’ll let you know and you can score us on our estimation abilities.
It probably still sounds a bit gimmicky but for those who like collectable miniatures (Pokemon etc) the concept will no doubt be appealing. The world in which the game is based may be unfamiliar but isn’t that how all new franchises start out? We went into the demo somewhat skeptical but came out thinking about the potential for the tech, which is a pretty good sign for jaded hardcore gaming journalists looking at a kids game in the glare of Modern Warfare 3.
Pros: Fun, literal, engaging tech.
Cons: Needs more core in its...core.