I’ve always tended to veer away from the Skylanders franchise at game conventions due to my shallow and prejudicial attitudes that made me once believe the franchise was directed to a more Hot Wheels-based clientele. I’ve probably leant each title roughly 20 minutes maximum across different booths over the years before calling quits, but as I delved deeper into Superchargers, an instant regret ran over me for not giving the franchise a break in its last four years of existence
Skylanders seems to be in a race with itself, not just with its assorted designs of its outstanding toys, but within the videogame, outdoing each of its own predecessors and setting the mark higher each time. We’re seeing other Franchises like LEGO Dimensions dipping into the toy-to-life genre and Skylanders is still on the forefront of pioneering.
So, what’s new? A bunch of new vehicles, you think, as you glaze nonchalantly over this review. A new story, as per every sequel ever known to man? Well, yes... but there's more to it than that. I’m confused as to why I’m defending a game I used to think was uncool, but here I am at 3 in the morning, having the time of my life, because there is just so much to do.
The developers, Vicarious Visions, have gone out of their way to ensure the replayability of Superchargers well surpasses any of its precursors. There are multiple routes available to continue to the next level, be it across land, sea, or sky, with around 20 or so vehicle missions. Depending on which vehicle class you’ve placed on the game platform, you can revisit these locations and unlock new paths. Each vehicle type also comes with its own powers, like aerial dogfights, land combat and riding surf waves. In addition, there’s an array of new features like online and local play, Mario Kart-esque racing, adventure challenges, a well put-together in-game cardgame that in itself kept me just as busy as the main story, so think of this before judging the price of a starter pack.
Equally, you should make note of the care and precision taken to design and create the magnificent toys that Skylanders comes with. Compared to other titles that have trial-and-errored with the same concept, Skylanders has always come out on top, and reminds us that these are in fact, toys. The collectible figures are more in-line with what you should think of as posable action figures than the statues rather than the both kids and adults have come to expect. Superchargers shows that off more than any other Skylanders game, with a remarkable amount of articulation in each of the 20 new vehicles available. The wheels on the Hot Streak land vehicle actually roll, and double-up as a pretty awesome, durable toy to throw down the passageway.
The quo animo of the word ‘Superchargers’ in the title points towards the magic that happens when pairing the correct combination between vehicle and character. If they’re compatible with each other, an animation will play and show that they’ve become supercharged. The starter pack comes with one matching vehicle and character combo, and one other character (for which you should consider buying the matching vehicle if you’d like to explore more of the game).
The real brilliance lies within the design of the gameplay. There’s something like 20 vehicle missions that feel more like their own individual escapades, broken up by the multitude of pathways that lead to the same goal. Superchargers never lingers too long on a mission, but this is one of the handful of issues I picked up. There is so much going on in each level; your mind bends as you try to take everything in, while concurrently picking the best route. Even the most packed levels felt more like an introduction. This is probably why the on-foot gameplay feels more scintillating.
Unlockable content is plentiful on each level, but you’ll need to purchase the vehicles or characters separately that match up, to unbrick the entrances. One of the problems with this is, if you discover extended content, you’ll need to remember how to get there. There is no place in the menu that makes it easy to get back to these areas, you’ll just need to memorise the routes.
The environment in each location seemed to get crazier as the game progressed, and it’s impossible to predict what would be waiting for you on the next level. One of the major pleasures I that kept popping up were the constant nods towards other game themes. Countless times I’d be playing through with the feeling of familiarity passing over me, mostly Little Big Planet, and it somehow is all magical. I also think it’s fair to say that Superchargers should not directly be compared to the likes of the latest Mario Kart. Sure, there are obvious similarities in the races, and I did just use the words ‘Mario Kart-esque’, but both games are kings of their own realms.
The levels feel sturdy and flow luminously between each other. The humour is tasteful and just when you think you’ve seen it all, you find yourself right at the front of something completely new.
The racing aspect of the game is definitely the number one highlight. You can either pick this up straight from the start menu, or replayed later from Superchargers Academy. Four maps make up the online and local co-op play, where instead of split-screening and dealing with the visual dissonance of speed and utter mayhem, you’re placed in the same vehicle as your couch buddy, where one focuses on weapons and the other solely on driving. Once you’ve aced the game, daily challenges open up here, alongside a selection of extra games, so there’s always something to do.
All good feelings aside, I have a major bone to pick with the difficulty setting. All it seemed to do was increase the damage thwarted by enemies, and make them a little more immune, which I’ve been told is an age-old problem within the franchise. I thought that this would help extend the time I spent in each level, but I still ended up bowling through without really noticing anything but what was in front of me. One other thing is Richard Horvitz’s voice. He plays Kaos, the villain of the world and you might know him from the likes of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, or Pollyx in Ratchet and Clank. Nothing is more infuriating than the shrill of his voice; his cutscenes kill me.
There’s an endless supply of material in Superchargers to keep you busy, and I don’t believe there’s an actual end to the game. There’s always something to look at, unlock, or to buy to get it unlocked. As with previous Skylanders, Superchargers will accept all toys from previous Skylanders titles on its electric platform, but I still think having to buy the other two missing forms of vehicles to fully experience the missions and races is aggravating, especially when that’s where most of the replayability lies.
That said, Skylanders: Superchargers is an absolute blast to pick up and play, even if you’ve never had a single moment of experience with the franchise. The story delivers an opulent variety of different styles of gameplay and adds another solid rung to the toys-to-life genre. I never thought I’d admit it, but Superchargers is one hell of an amazing time.