This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with what’s expected to be one of this holiday season’s biggest sellers. If you’re thinking PlayStation 4, you’re not too far off, as this particular game will available be on Sony’s next-gen console. However, what I experienced was Skylanders SWAP Force, the next entry in Activision’s hit toy-game hybrid franchise. Already, SWAP Force has become the most pre-ordered Skylanders game ever. Fans of the game will not be disappointed, either. Swap Force brings more variation to the action-RPG gameplay, and even to the toys, to keep Skylanders competitive against new challengers like Disney Infinity.
The SWAP Force character figures are the most notable new element. Each one has a torso and abdomen that are held together by magnets. The real treat comes from being able to create your own top and bottom combination by swapping parts, then playing as that unique character in the game. The top half primarily dictates how the character fights, while the bottom determines how he or she moves. While basic, the swap mechanic is a big change for the better by allowing players to find the custom character that gels with their playstyle. I had fun trying to find a top-bottom combo that piqued my interest, and once I did, the game grew quite satisfying. With 16 SWAP Force figures at launch, there will be over 250 possible combinations to create. And that means another way to add replayability to SWAP Force.
It’s also worth noting that all previous Skylanders figures are compatible with the SWAP Force game. Vicarious Visions, the studio behind SWAP Force, took the time to remaster all existing Skylanders characters and make them playable for SWAP Force. I found that using one of the older figures worked without a hitch and is sure to please fans with large collections.
Once I started playing the actual video game, I noticed an action at my disposal that is long overdue for Skylanders: the ability to jump. I recall demoing the first Skylanders game and feeling perplexed why I couldn’t make the character jump. Skylanders looks like it could be a platformer, after all. At long last, Skylanders can jump, and with that, the game designers at Vicarious Visions are able to add platforming and verticality to levels. If that wasn’t enough, some Skylanders in SWAP Force can fly, dig, climb, and even teleport.
Another way Vicarious Visions breaks up the brawling combat Skylanders is known for is with puzzles and other activities. For example, in one campaign mission I played, I had to move blocks around to trigger a way for me to walk across a pit or let a light beam through to hit a target. Puzzles like these are fairly simple, but should give kids just enough of a not-so-frustrating challenge. I encountered unique gameplay moments in Swap Force, as well, like manning a snowman-shooting cannon from a side perspective to shoot down enemy airships. Variety is clearly a key goal Vicarious Visions has for SWAP Force.