Skylanders Superchargers Review (PlayStation 4)
Skylanders Superchargers is the latest iteration of the popular toy-to-game series coming out of Activision and Vicarious Visions. In addition to the 117 fully playable characters from the previous entries of Skylanders comes 20 new characters, some brand-new and some favorites re-imagined, for the new adventure in Superchargers. The most notable update is the inclusion of 20 new vehicles that bring road, water, and sky-based levels and travel to your battles against the villainous Kaos. Superchargers supplies a distinctly unique and refreshing change to the usual Skylanders game, though this adventure isn’t quite the entirely fine-tuned ride it set out to be.
The game follows the regular formula for a Skylanders entry. Using the portal platform supplied with starter packs of the game, the player will place a figure on the platform to port that character into the game for play. However, in Superchargers, a vehicle must be placed alongside the Skylander to access the game. Any Skylander can be played alongside any vehicle regardless of element or type and characters and vehicles can be swapped out at will. However, each of the 20 vehicles acts as the specific signature vehicle for one of the 20 new Skylanders. Playing a Skylander with its signature vehicle supercharges that vehicle, making it stronger and unlocking new upgrades.
The story mode of the game is split fairly evenly between segments of traveling around a level as your Skylander and driving segments in the vehicles. In each location, there are land, sea, and air missions to be played. Because each starter set is packed with a land vehicle, some driving portions of the game are mandatory, but the sea and air segments are pretty much side quests and can be skipped if it just so happens you don’t have an air or sea vehicle. I found this to be a solid workaround for those who want to get started on the game, but don’t want to shell out the extra money for extra vehicles from the get go.
Gameplay in the story mode as a Skylander is your standard fare of blasting through minions and doing small missions for multiple characters throughout each area and the set of chapters therein.
The drivable segments are often split between racing along a set track to a goal or free-wheeling around a given area defeating specific enemies or going after objectives. As you go along, there a myriad of collectibles to pick up. As a Skylander, you can find accessories such as hats that you can equip. Equipping an accessory will supply a stat boost such as higher chance of criticals or more health. Just as well, in vehicles segments you can find tool kits throughout that give you vehicle parts. Besides adding a cosmetic flair to your vehicles, vehicle parts also add bonus stats like higher top speed or armor. Sometimes you might need tighter handling on vehicles for a track with hard turns or an extra boost on a low level Skylander you haven’t used often. The Skylander accessories and vehicle parts are the route to giving you that extra edge, so they’re well worth scouring a level and taking the extra steps to find.
Collectible currency is also split between the two segments of the game. As a Skylander you collect treasure that can be used to unlock skills and new attacks for that character. However, in the vehicles, you’ll collect gearbits that will go towards upgrading your vehicle’s weapons and armor. One thing that has always bothered me about Skylanders is the inability to share treasure between characters. Unfortunately, now it’s a twofold problem with gearbits. Just like previous Skylanders, there is no aggregate amount of gearbits you collect. The gearbits collected are attached to the vehicle you collect them with and there’s no way to share them amongst your collected vehicles. I can see the argument where this gets a player to spend the time on getting to know a character and vehicle, but for me, it just meant limiting myself to a handful of characters and vehicles I favored to upgrade them faster. I still found myself wanting for a way to get lesser characters or vehicles I had up to snuff in situational areas.
Speaking of situational areas, there are still plenty of them. Elemental zones return in Superchargers and play a part in how effective a character or vehicle is in a given area. All elements can travel through any story level, but having a certain element makes it much easier to blow through obstacles with relative ease. That said, the elemental zones don’t really translate all that well to racing segments where you’re not so much worried about defeating enemies as driving to the end of the track and trying to collect everything on the way. All in all, a specific element in a specific area for vehicles often simply amounts to that area just being slightly easier to clear. It’s another optional thing for those who like to play with variety.
Skylanders has always offered a pretty simplistic level of control and that extends to the vehicles in this game. For all vehicles, accelerating, decelerating and steering works generally the same. Each vehicle, like each Skylander, has a couple unique abilities for smashing through any enemies you come across in your fast travels. In most cases it feels easy to handle, although I do lament that there’s still nothing to directly control the camera. This was mostly problematic in free-driving areas where I wanted to see the situation to the sides and behind of me. It can be downright troublesome sometimes, especially in the flying areas where even in a free-flying arena, the camera is set perpetually behind your vehicle.
Between levels, you’ll find yourself at the Skylander Academy, which acts as a hub where you can access a ton of features. From here you can upgrade your vehicles, take them for test drives, do likewise with your Skylanders, check your stats, etc. You can also check into racing here. There’s a variety of races offered for online and local play. Playing through a few of the races, I wouldn’t say they were Mario Kart-level affairs, but the tracks were significantly unique enough to provide interesting diversions to the adventure. There are also challenges to take on. Challenges can range from fairly easy to quite difficult, with some tasking you with using a specific-terrain vehicle of a specific element to take on unique missions.
Skylanders Superchargers went a long way in trying to change itself up from its predecessors and it did a pretty good job. From playing around with a bunch of the unique characters to riding around in their vehicles, the game engages itself in being accessible while giving you a lot to do and see. The journey is cute and I enjoyed the range of play from driving up the spine of an enormous dragon to fighting a maniac tyrant holding a kingdom in the clouds captive. It’s not without flaws and feels a little too coddling sometimes, trading risks and thrills for simplicity, but the new system offers a lot of interesting things to do and explore.
This review was completed with a retail copy of Skylanders Superchargers, as well as additional figures, provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.