Skylanders: SuperChargers Review: Tripping the Rift
Kalvin Martinez / Oct 27th, 2015 No Comments
By the time you get to the fifth entry of a series, things tend to get stale. Formulas have been too firmly entrenched that it all becomes a by the numbers experience. Trying something new and innovative often falls by the wayside for fan service and what’s expected. Luckily, the “toys to life” genre has become somewhat crowded over the last few years, which means even the originator can’t rest on its laurels.
Skylanders doesn’t fall victim to its own success and tries something new in Skylanders: SuperChargers. The addition of vehicles to the game adds a good deal of variety and replayability to the game. SuperChargers also experiments with new angles in terms of story, which results in some cool moments. However, the combat still has some shortcomings by virtue of the sheer variety of Skylanders.
Sometimes the Only Thing to Fear is the Dark
Times are dark in Skylands. The citizens of Skyland are imprisoned, the portals are closed, and Kaos stands on the precipice of victory. The one thing that can stop Kaos from succeeding is the quick thinking of Hugo, Callie and Flynn. They managed to re-activate a portal. This calls forth the SuperChargers and their powerful Rift Engine vehicles to help free them and stop Kaos.
Kaos has put Skylands and its citizens on its heels with his new doomsday weapon, the Sky Eater. This gigantic fortress has the ability to destroy all of Skylands forever. There is also something more sinister than Kaos lurking within the Sky Eater. Victory won’t be won easily as the Skylanders will have to journey all over Skylands and deep into its history. It will take everything the SuperChargers have to save Skylands.
Unlike previous Skylanders’ adventures, SuperChargers’ story manages to make Kaos seem legitimately threatening and give decent stakes to the danger occurring. The story has some interesting plot elements, starting with Kaos virtually winning by imprisoning everyone and forcing Skylands Academy to be on the run. There is also a cool meta angle on how the Portals are closed by Kaos thereby removing any threat to his plan. All of this makes what the Skylanders have to accomplish feel meaningful in the overall scheme of the story and the future of Skylands.
The story fruther delves into the history of Skylands, which fleshes out the world. Learning about the history between Skylands, the Ancients and the Darkness feels important rather than just extraneous plot points to extend the narrative. By exploring Skylands’ past, the story can go into unique locations that change up the look and feel of the game. Places like the Spell Punk Library are home to some of the most engaging moments in the game. But the story isn’t without faults. There are still the McGuffin quests that artificially lengthen the proceedings to the point of feeling bloated.
Hop in the Whip
The major angle for SuperChargers is the inclusion of vehicles for the new batch of Skylanders. Now the Skylanders can cross great stretches of land, vast bodies of water and open swaths of sky. Each of the locales you’ll venture to in your quest to rescue Skylands will have challenges involving land, sky and water.
These challenges are optional, but net some good loot, experience, star dust and good karma points. The side quests range from the creative — like dogfighting a gigantic rooster that shoots egg torpedoes — to the straightforward — like racing through straightaways. Often these vehicle missions are a diversion, which are good if you’re looking for a break from the melee combat.
Outside of the optional vehicle quests, the majority of vehicle gameplay involves movement. These movement bridges involve you having to drive a car or fly a plane from one land mass to another to facilitate a main mission objective. Occasionally, boss battles will involve vehicle combat, which throw some variety into the boss battles.
There are a few sections that feature only vehicle gameplay. For instance, a destruction derby and certain locked story moments in the end game require vehicles. The forced vehicle sections are mostly well done with terrain that compliments the vehicle controls. However, the major problem plaguing all the vehicle sections is the generally loose controls. The steering is gummy and the maneuverability of vehicles leaves a bit to be desired.
For those that can manage the controls, they will probably find some value in the extensive racing portion of the game. There are land, sea and sky races for players to try their skills at with different difficulty settings. Despite the vehicles’ controls being hit or miss, the racing portion of the game is well fleshed out with good track designs, power-ups and solid racer AI. There are standalone racers that aren’t as sound as this additional mini-game.
The Wii U Advantage
While the vehicle missions add a fresh spin on Skylanders gameplay, the combat remains largely the same from previous entries. Every SuperCharger has a few attacks at their disposal with several upgradable moves and two distinct advanced upgrade pathways. This results in combat being a bit one note until you can purchase more powerful upgrades. Then fighting is only as interesting as the movesets for the Skylanders you currently own. That is unless you have the Wii U/Wii version.
The special Nintendo Skylanders: Hammer Slam Bowser and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong bring the heat. Their unique move sets liven up combat significantly and they level up into powerhouses. Each has clever moves inspired by their history. Donkey Kong has the ability to play the bongos or drop falling ladders on enemies, and Bowser can summon Koopas and breathe fire one he turns into the devastating Molten Bowser. These special Skylanders change the entire feel of the game for the better.
Skylanders: SuperChargers manages to bring enough fresh elements into the established Skylander framework to keep things interesting. The story has some truly cool things going for it, but still suffers from the bloat that usually mars a Skylanders’ tale. While the gameplay offers a lot of variety and improves on the platforming elements, the combat can still be hit or miss and vehicle controls leave something to be desired. Whatever shortcomings there may be, Skylanders: SuperChargers isn’t content to leave good enough good enough.
tags: review , skylanders , Skylanders SuperChargers Review , Skylanders: SuperChargers , toys to life , Vicarious Visions