Skylanders Battlegrounds Review
Skylanders Battlegrounds is out for iOS and is aiming straight at your wallets! The toy-collecting, monster-fighting phenomenon can now be taken anywhere. Is it worth the price of admission and unlocking frenzy? Find out how we'll fare against Kaos inside!
Skylanders is a merchandising juggernaut! Toys and video games? Combined?! Why didn't they have this stuff around when I was a kid? But like with My Little Pony, I've only had very limited exposure to this craze. The difference here is that while I might have become a brony, Skylanders doesn't have me whipping out my wallet to collect all of the Skylanders. At least, not yet.
From what I understand, Battlegrounds is not a straight port of the console games. But it is, however, the closest thing to the console game that's out for mobile devices. Instead of platforming action, Battlegrounds takes place on Overworld maps where characters can move tile-by-tile, giving the game a bit of strategy. You can move your Skylanders however you want and can either go for the gusto and attack enemies, or craftily sneak by without triggering battles. All of this can be done in an effort to defeat Kaos' warlords!
There's sort of an action-RPG feel with this system and it works well. A downside is that it can be quite time-consuming to clear a map of enemies or to sneak around avoiding encounters in order to complete objectives on a map. If you do trigger a battle, you'll zoom into an area where you can control your Skylanders, RTS-style. Everything is simplified though, so all you have to do is touch a Skylander and drag an arrow to where you want it to move or attack. That's it. Now that is what I call intuitive.
You can have two Skylanders in your party at a time. Battles are fought in waves and are relatively easy. It also helps that your crew recovers health after every encounter, so you don't have to worry about quaffing down potions when HP bars get low.
Portal Masters can use their Skylanders' special abilities in a pinch, but must be judicious when using them because the skills trigger a cooldown. They can also use their own special Portal Master abilities on the sidebar, like dropping healing potions on their fighters or anvils on enemies' heads. Anyone who's ever watched Looney Tunes and has always wanted to do that, raise their hands. *raises hand*
If you need to switch out your party members, it's as easy as tapping their portraits and selecting a replacement. Of course, this is assuming you already have a stable of Skylanders at your disposal. If you haven't collected any of them and are new to the game like I am, you can purchase an iOS starter pack that comes with a Bluetooth Portal of Power peripheral and a few figures to get you on your way.
Don't feel like burning the cash for plastic just yet? Then you can use the gems you earn in-game to unlock characters. They all currently cost 200 gems each, which is roughly $4 a pop. You can earn gems simply by fighting, but it will take a long time to build up enough of a cache to buy the entire roster.
The graphics aren't anything worthy of a Retina display, but they're pleasant and the character designs are cute enough that I can't begrudge this cash grab for trying. The sounds are so-so, standard fare for a Spyo-inspired game. You know the kind: goofy and light-hearted, yet still somehow adventurous. Hearing the Skylanders yell out is a bit funny too. But alas, I can't give the game full marks because the gameplay is pretty repetitive and it requires real-life purchases in order to get the full experience.
But Battlegrounds does have me looking around online retailers for console starter sets, so maybe Activision's magic is working after all? Who knows. I've already become a brony. So maybe this time next week, I'll be opening up a package full of plastic toys that come to life in a video game.