I'm sure I'm not the only mom who looked at this and thought, hmmm, collectible video game, my kids are SOOOO gonna beg for this! Especially since my son already loves Spyro! But, I wasn't sure whether this would be appropriate, especially for my son, who is not quite six and therefore a little bit below the target audience. Well, since I got a chance to get it through the Vine program, I thought I'd try it and see.
Now obviously I have not played through the entire game. I'm a MOM, I don't have the spare time to play these things all the way through! But I have played it for about an hour at this point, so for you moms out there who are trying to decide whether you should hit the 'Add to Cart' button, this is what I found out.
The video game comes with little toy accessories. To play the game, you put one of the little figures on a little 'portal' that comes with the game. Make sure you put the portal where it won't get knocked over mid-game, as this will disconnect the character! Fortunately it is wireless, so it's not hard to find a safe place to put it. But, do keep it accessible, because you have to put figures on the portal as you play. The figure you put on the portal controls which character you play in the game, and different characters have different powers, and are able to use different items and get to different areas in the game. You can also change figures mid-game if you decide you want a different power for a certain area - the game is actually designed for you to do this quite a lot. Also, a second child can join in by putting a second figure on the portal for co-op play.
As for gameplay, it's pretty basic. The bad guy, Kaos, is trying to destroy everything, and you are a Portal Master who controls the Skylanders (the figures) who are going to fight Kaos. There are lots of mildly threatening monsters to fight, lots of simple but interesting puzzles to solve, and lots and LOTS of things to collect - money, hats, places, and even something called Legendary Treasures that I can't tell you about because I haven't found any yet! If your kids have played other Spyro games, this is like that, but with more puzzles.
Yes, it's collectible. This has good points and bad points, and it really depends on your kids. If you have the kind of kid who just HAS to have ALL the figures, but more for the collecting than for the play, this game will make you nuts. Because not only are there 30+ figures for the game, but there are actually LOTS of points in the game where the game flat out TELLS you that certain things can only be done with certain characters, and THEN it offers to show you a preview of that character! Yeah, they know how to make the kids drool all right!
But there's a good side to this too. The game IS winnable with just the starter pack, you don't HAVE to buy anything else. (Well, supposedly, like I said, I have not finished the game yet. But, if you have the kind of kid who will actually play it through more than once, the extra figures (which are $8 each, or a 3 pack for $20) will add a LOT of replayability - basically, for $8 you can play the whole game over again, with different abilities and areas that open up. Let's face it - kids have a lot of collectible stuff marketed to them these days. I'd rather spend $8 for something the kids can actually PLAY with than $5 for a pack of collectible game cards, most of which they already have. It's a better value for the money. And, with the in-game advertising, it's a good opportunity for you to encourage the kids to think about exactly which character they want next and why, because they'll already have a pretty good idea what that character will bring to the game.
- It's CUTE. It's really well done - the art is gorgeous, the music is pleasant, the characters distinct, the story engaging. From the appearance of the figures, I had been expecting something a little less cuddly (they DO look pretty fierce as figures!), and a little more violent. I'm pleased to be able to report to the moms out there that this is a pretty adorable game!
- It's 'little kid' friendly. All the story dialogue in the game is both spoken aloud and written on the screen, great for beginning readers. A lot, but not all, of the in-game directions are also spoken aloud. You DO have to fight a lot of monsters, but there is no blood or anything gross, they just disappear. None of the main puzzles that I've encountered (in the admittedly short time I've played it) are so complicated that a kid couldn't figure them out eventually.
- it's 'big kid' friendly. While a smaller child could play this and do just fine, bigger kids will get more out of it. There are a lot of side areas, collections to complete, quests to follow that are not necessarily needed to win the game, but will add complexity and interest for the bigger kids. My 11 year old daughter previewed the game with me, and after I had played for about 15 minutes, she was BEGGING for a turn!
- The figures looks kinda mean, and the characters sometimes talk a little snarky. It's not extreme - this is actually how the Spyro games have been for awhile, so if your kids already play those, or watch Nickelodeon, this will be fine. But if you have a younger or more innocent child, you should preview first.
- The collectible aspect of it may make some kids get AWFULLY whiny. And that could get expensive. I'd really think hard about this if you have a kid who has a hard time making good decisions about advertising - remember, they are basically advertising the expansions within the game, it's not avoidable.
In short, this is a cute game, very appropriate for about the 5-12 age range. My son will be happy to find it under the tree!