Review: Skylanders SWAP Force (3DS)

Can you save Boom Town from crass capitalism?

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 11/14/2013 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Storable Skylanders; entertaining dialogue
Poison Mushroom for...
No multiplayer; typical platforming gameplay

Count Moneybone and his machines strike against Boom Town in the 3DS version of Skylanders SWAP Force, and it’s up to you to fight them off. Your weapons? Your 3DS, a bundled Portal of Power, and the three figures that come with the game: Rattle Shake, Free Ranger, and Volcanic Eruptor. Oh, and of course, as many figures as you can buy. Why not?

At its roots, Skylanders SWAP Force is a platforming game– even more so than its Wii U counterpart, which is largely a brawler. Players control the ubiquitous Skylanders, colorful creatures with attitude and pizzazz, jumping, fighting, and generally button mashing to get through every level. There’s platforms to traverse, disappearing roads to escape, and a memorable, if generic, villain to face off. And if you’re thinking of getting this game for your niece or son, this will probably be enough to woo you– except for the inevitable begging that’ll ensue when your tots beg for new Skylanders.

New to this generation of Skylanders are the SWAP Force Skylanders, who can switch body parts with other SWAP Force Skylanders to gain new movement abilities and elemental attacks, both of which are important to complete the game in its entirety. Certain areas of the game, in a clever (and diabolical) marketing move, are barred off only to certain Skylanders with the abilities necessary to traverse the gap. Fortunately, these parts of the game are never gamebreaking– but they’re nice to have, for the extra in-game currency or collectibles.

The 3DS version of Skylanders SWAP Force facilitates your Skylanders in a completely unique way. While it comes with a Portal of Power– a plastic circle that you can scan your Skylanders into the game with– you don’t need to have your figures on the Portal of Power the whole time. In fact, unlike any console version of the game, you can import your Skylanders figures into the 3DS card, after which you’re able to access any Skylander at any time using the touch screen on your 3DS. You can even choose which body parts to switch in-game, making this the most convenient Skylanders game ever. (Though there is one small inconvenience– to save your progress into a specific figure so you can carry around your experience, you’ll have to rescan each figure you want to save.)

But its gameplay is where the first disappointment of the 3DS version of the game lies: it’s essentially the same way throughout. Despite holding nineteen stages across seven worlds, the platforming is mostly uninspired. Whereas in the Wii U version, stage monotony would be broken up with platforming puzzles and interesting enemies, the 3DS version throws generic foes at you in similarly generic locales. Meanwhile, it’s the gated areas that hold the most innovative parts of the game, meaning no one player is usually going to be able to see the whole game they’ve bought. Sometimes, the main stages are just one long path, which is fine for younger folk, but a little mind-numbing if you’re more experienced. The kicker? It’ll probably take you only around five or six hours to beat, with getting the various collectibles scattered throughout the stages providing the only replay value.

The saddest part, though, is the lack of co-op multiplayer. The game is single-player only, with the only multiplayer component being in its StreetPass function. Passersby can give you a “ghost” of the last Skylander they used, and you can give the Skylander a test run in your game. However, you won’t be able to level them up, or dress them. It’s a nice idea, sure, but not quite as nice as real co-op gameplay.

Meanwhile, the graphics usually do the job– the figures of the Skylanders are relatively faithfully represented in the game, even if the game’s bird’s eye view rarely gives you a chance to admire them; it’s definitely clear that the 3DS’ power doesn’t do the models justice, however. But it’s the Skylanders’ enemies that suffer more, as their models are usually so tiny you can barely see what type of enemy it is– not that it matters, because enemies go down extremely quickly with this low-difficulty fare. Though it might get a bit harder when you turn the 3D on, as the framerate goes down noticeably, though never to gamebreaking levels.

The thing is, while this version of Skylanders SWAP Force certainly gets the platforming job done for a little while, it just doesn’t live up to the golden standard the console versions have set. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game– it’s pretty decent, and serves as a great vehicle for its eponymous Skylanders. But with simple platforming and no multiplayer, it could be much better.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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