Monday, July 31, 2017

Skylanders: SuperChargers (PS4)

Skylanders:  SuperChargers is the fifth game in the Skylanders series and is the iteration released in 2015.  It retains the usage of physical figurines to interact with the game via NFC and a "Portal of Power".

PACKAGING AND CONTENTS:


SuperChargers comes only in a Starter Pack, at least physically.  You can purchase the game digitally and you'll get a digital version of Hot Streak and Spitfire which is required in order to complete the game.


You can use the same Portal from Giants onwards, although if you want to use Traps, then you'll either need the Portal from Trap Team or the SuperChargers Starter Pack.


SuperChargers comes with three figures.


The first and most notable, which is in line with the theme this year, is Hot Streak, a vehicle.


There's a bit of added playability with the vehicles as their wheels roll.


Next is the new character, and a "SuperCharger", Spitfire.


Interestingly, the whole figure is cast from soft transparent plastic, with a lot of paint to show off the detailing.  One thing to Activision is that they have spared no expense in the paint and sculpting.


Lastly, it is everyone's old favorite, Super Shot Stealth Elf.


This time, she lugs around a cannon that spits knives.


Naturally, the Starter Pack includes a Portal of Power, this year's Portal is shaped in the form of an engine block with flames coming out of the exhaust.


It is thinner and lighter than ever, and has a Trap slot as well.  However, the reason for being able to be slimmer is the exclusion of lights and sounds.


There is also a poster showing off the new figurines.


And lastly, it comes with Battlecast cards of the two characters included with the pack.

THE GAME:


Skylanders:  SuperChargers is the fifth game in the series.  As part of the toys-to-life genre, you place physical figures onto the "Portal of Powers" in order to transport the character into the world of Skylands on your screen for you to control and battle enemies.  SuperChargers remains as a platformer with simple hack and slash gameplay.  The major change in this instalment is the addition of vehicles and heavier emphasis on racing segments.  Approximately 50% of the time spent in the game will be in vehicular gameplay.


The combat system has not changed at all.  Each Skylander has three attacks that can be upgraded with more moves and powers using the treasure that you collect throughout the levels.  Skylanders can jump and that's pretty much about it.  The game has a fixed camera so it can feel restrictive in the beginning where you can't look around.  The fixed camera is used to the game's advantage to hide treasure at first glance.  Skylanders can level up through defeating enemies.  The Starter Pack comes with Spitfire, Super Shot Stealth Elf (once again) and the vehicle Hot Streak.  Each Skylander has their own branching ability tree which gives incentive to keep swapping the Skylander to unlock new abilities and movesets.


You can use any Portal from previous instalments except from the first game Skylanders:  Spyro's Adventure, and all figures are backwards compatible.  Therefore, if you already have some Skylanders from previous games, you can use them in SuperChargers which is fantastic.  Traps from the previous game are used to unlock items called Skystones, but you cannot use the trapped villains anymore.  The vehicle segments include free-for-all combat, although due to the fixed camera, turning takes some getting used to in the beginning.


Vehicles don't control like RC cars, rather, it's relative to the camera.  You push in the direction you want to go irrespective of which direction the vehicle is currently facing at the time.  The other vehicle segment is races on a linear track with a few alternate paths.  They are fun although initially, they don't give you a good sense of speed; it gets better in the later levels.  The driving mechanics are easy to handle and are similar to kart racers but it is nowhere near as good as dedicated kart-racing games such as the almighty Mario Kart.


The graphics are colorful and the best yet in the series, finally feeling like it is using some of the extra power of the PS4 compared to the PS3.  Unfortunately, first impressions are that the pacing in SuperChargers is slower and the level designs are weaker than in previous instalments.  A lot of the fun comes from defeating waves of enemies.  Whilst it got somewhat stale with how much combat there was in previous games, in SuperChargers, they dialled down the amount of combat so much that it becomes quite boring instead.


Thankfully, the game overcomes the boringness by mixing up the gameplay mechanics from time to time, including a sidescroller level.  The second half of the game is also much more imaginative and fun to explore, as they are filled with nooks and crannies for hidden treasures.  As with previous games, there are certain parts of levels which are locked out.  These locked gates are not based on a Skylander's elements anymore, but rather they are locked out based on vehicles, which comes in one of three types:  Land, Sky and Sea, as well as the element of these vehicles.


The Starter Pack comes with a Land vehicle, which is required to complete the story, however, if you have any of the other vehicles, they can sometimes provide alternate ways to finish the level.  It's not so bad and the locked out content feels less intrusive than previous Skylanders games.  The story is simple but is excellently told.  Kaos has captured Eon, and you, as the Portal Master, must free him.  Kaos has also unleashed The Darkness, who is in the sky attempting to swallow the whole world.  The Player, controlling the Skylander, along with most of the characters from the previous games, travel around Skylands to find items in order to defeat The Darkness.


There is a lot of humor here which works really well.  There were a few detours at certain points in the plot where you don't really care but on the whole, the charming characters carry the weight and keep the player engaged.  The ending was a good twist, allowing the game to go out with a grand finale.  There are a total of 51 levels.  It sounds like a lot but these levels are fairly short, although still requiring around 10-15 hours to finish the story.  There are heaps of collectibles, in addition to the familiar collectibles such as treasures (for purchasing), Winged Sapphires (for discounts), Legendary Treasures (ornaments), Skystones (for the minigame) and Power Gems (additional abilities for specific Skylanders), you now have specific collectibles for vehicle upgrades.


There's a minigame called Skystones Overdrive, which is simple to learn and very fun.  You can expand the deck via defeating opponents and collectibles.  Lastly, there is a cooperative play for a second player, online racing and single player racing.  There's a lot of content here.  Overall, Skylanders:  SuperChargers is a fun game that's a breath of fresh air to all the realistic games or games with complicated controls.  While the toys-to-life genre is gimmicked, SuperChargers is fantastic and you don't really require anything in addition to the Starter Pack to fully enjoy it.  SuperChargers is another strong instalment to the franchise.

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