The Skylanders series is one of Activision’s yearly releases, as much of a part of the retail landscape this time of year as Santa Claus and Black Friday ad leaks. Once a dominant franchise, however, the Skylanders series has been facing two unique challenges in recent years. No longer the only gaming franchise with a direct action figure tie-in, the Skylanders franchise has been dealing with a number of competitors while its young fan base has grown older. For the purposes of this third Holiday Gamers Gift guide review, I involved my 10-year-old son, a fan of the Skylanders franchise for many years.
Skylanders SuperChargers aims to freshen up the franchise by including vehicles to the mix. Gamers can now place a character and vehicle on the portal to create a never-before-seen kind of combination on screen. Vehicles bring about gameplay concepts that are new to the Skylanders franchise, though none of them are particularly new to an experienced video game player. These changes do add a little variety into the game mode itself, which otherwise is essentially the same style of Skylanders game we’ve all seen before.
On the Nintendo Wii U version, Skylanders figures and vehicles for Nintendo’s own Donkey Kong and Bowser characters are available for in-game play. This is a neat concept that, on the surface, makes the Wii U version of the game the more desirable, but the end result is more appealing for collectors than players. In the game itself, neither character really adds enough exclusive content to exist as much more than a footnote. These two characters can also be used as part of the amiibo line, however, adding in a little crossover appeal that might mean something to other Nintendo franchises in time.
In a private presentation at E3 2015, Activision reps stated that the Skylanders SuperChargers vehicles were designed to be used in both in-game and offline play. The idea they expressed behind the concept saw children connecting more with the characters and vehicles through playing with them as if they would play with traditional action figures and vehicles. In the case of my child, this did concept did not take hold. While not gaming, my 10-year-old Skylanders fan was never compelled to touch his expansive Skylanders collection nor the new vehicles.
In fact, out of the last several Skylanders franchises, my son seemed less interested in Skylanders SuperChargers than he was in previous releases in the series. He was really into Skylanders Trap Team and Skylanders Swap Force, playing those games all the way through and excitedly returning to the games to try again. In this case, however, he quickly lost interest and has been choosing to play games such as Super Mario Maker and LEGO Jurrassic Park instead. Thus far, he hasn’t asked for any additional Skylanders figures for Christmas, either. This might simply be due to him continuing to grow up and finding interests in games made for a slightly older audience, but it could also be seen as evidence that the additions of the new vehicles simply isn’t enough to breathe new life into an aging franchise. Your mileage may vary. At the game’s heart is a solid Skylanders experience, but perhaps it is time for the franchise to evolve and mature.
Activision provided a starter pack for the Nintendo Wii U version of Skylanders SuperChargers for purposes of this review.