If you don’t play video games or care about them you’ll probably want to skip this post. Let me preface this by telling you I’ve been an avid video gamer since I got my Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas when I was 5 or 6. I love playing games, especially Nintendo games, and now that I have kids I love playing games with them (Well, with my 5 year old son. My 10 month old daughter just watches).
My favorite game to play with my son is Skylanders Giants. It is really fun and well designed so that a child can navigate the menus and play the game without much frustration. For those of you unfamiliar with the Skylanders series, one of the most fun things is you collect action figures which attach to the game by placing them on a portal, then they show up in the game as a playable character. You can give them nicknames, dress them up, build up their levels and earn new powers for them. This stuff is all saved in the figure, so friends can bring them to each others’ house and all info will be there.
Oh, and there’s a lot of these figures, many of which come in special variants and are rare. And they all control pretty differently. Some can be hard to find, which is part of the fun. You don’t need them all to play, just the ones that come with the game, but it is a lot more fun if you collect them. Especially if you have a collector’s mentality to begin with.
Oh, and the game is available on virtually every system, and the figures interchangeably work on every one of them. So it doesn’t matter which version of the game you or your friend have. Also, Giants is the 2nd Skylander game, we don’t have the first one. But all the old figures work on the new game, and many of them returned with enhanced series 2 versions for the new game, in addition to brand new figures for that game. The third game in the series, Swap Force, comes out today and offers the fun twist that many of the figures come apart in the middle so the bottoms and tops can be matched up in different combinations.
Well, Disney saw the success of the Skylander series and decided to copy it by making their own video game with a portal and collectable figures based on their iconic characters.
I was pretty excited when I heard about it. My acquaintance Adrian Ropp, who draws Chim Chum and the Portly Samaria, and has done some guest art for us in the past was one of the developers working on it, so I got to see him hype it on Facebook for months.
It happened to come out the day before my 30th birthday, so I decided my present to myself would be this game and I pre-ordered it. Mostly because I was excited to play it with my son.
I’ve had the game for almost 2 months now, and I have to say it is incredibly disappointing. First of all, I bought it for the Wii, which is the main system my son and I play with. The Wii version costs the same price, and prior to the game coming out Disney did not announce that the Wii version would have limitations compared to the other system versions. Unfortunately it does have many limits.
Firstly, the graphics are pretty terrible. I understand the Wii is an older system, not really known for its graphics, so I would expect them to be worse than the current gen systems. But these graphics are really sub-par. Almost all my Wii games look significantly better than this, including launch title games that didn’t have the benefit of seven years of programing experience on the system.
While that is annoying, it is not really a big deal for me. What is a little worse is that the game is glitchy, often not recognizing figures and power up when they are placed on the portal.
But the major limitation with the Wii version is the lack of multiplayer. The hub world of the game is known as the toy box, while the parts of the game that resemble traditional levels are contained within playsets that have to be placed on the portal, or the “base” as they call it in the game. One lame thing about these playsets is they are based on particular movies, and you can only use characters from those movies in the playset. So the whole fun of mixing and matching Disney characters from different movies is negated in these areas. You’ll also need to buy extra figures if you want to play multiplayers in these sets (The game comes with Jack Sparrow, Sully and Mr. Incredible plus their worlds).
Here’s where things really suck in the Wii version. There is no multiplayer in the playsets on the Wii. So I couldn’t even play the best part of the game with my son. We had to sit there and take turns.
And here’s the next problem, the game is too complicated for kids! Everything is done in convoluted text menus, some of which are so complex that I had trouble navigating them myself. Unlike Skylanders, which wisely uses symbols the kids can recognize for menu items, this game is all text. So unless your kid is a comprehensive reader he’s going to have trouble. Also, many of the missions are complex and set up poorly. So expect your kid to get frustrated.
The playsets themselves are pretty fun, but over very quickly (You can finish them in about 4 hours, even when taking your time). I’ve heard they are also shortened for the Wii version, which seems to be true because the videos and commercials I’ve seen contain footage of things that I never found in the game. But reviews I read made it sound like these other versions aren’t really much longer anyway.
There are a couple of other playsets you can pick up, but they are similar in length. One of the other problems with these playsets is that they are not divided into levels, so they aren’t really worth going back to replay later.
What Disney was hoping would separate this game from Skylanders is the toy box aspect. Think of a light, Disney themed Minecraft. These are basically level editors, and you’ll have to play the rest of the game to get the building pieces. This is supposed to be the game’s big selling point and innovation. That’s where the “Infinity” comes in, “infinite possibilities”.
Nice tagline. Too bad it is inaccurate. On the Wii these toy boxes are divided into different categories, which contain different items to build with. Unfortunately they are incredibly limited because you can barely place any items down before it says the toy box is full. So you can’t really do much. Also, the editor is really poorly made and hard to use. I’ve seen better editors on most other games that contain a feature like this. And remember, this is the only part of the game that contains multiplayer.
Oh, and while other versions of the game share toy boxes online and have new downloadable toy boxes available regularly, the Wii version is left out again, despite having perfectly functional internet capabilities.
So the toy boxes, and by extension the multiplayer are pretty boring and useless. Oh, and you have to buy power-ups/accessories in a blind bag format, so you waste a bunch of money on duplicates of things that don’t really do much. And sometimes cause glitches. You can level your characters up, but it doesn’t actually do anything besides give you tickets for buying toys and add ugly medals to your plaque in the Hall of Heroes. And all the characters basically feel the same when it comes to controls (Aside from the cars from the Cars movies, which control like when the other characters drive a car).
I could go on with other issues, but there really is no reason. The bottom line is my son and his friends don’t like playing this game because it is too complex, yet they love playing Skylanders. I wish I didn’t waste my birthday money on it and just held off for Swap Force. It just isn’t very well made or very fun. Some of these issues are Wii specific, and the other versions are definitely a step up, but they still have quite a few of the same core issues. Basically they’ve made a sloppy game and relied heavily on the licensing appeal of playing with Disney stuff to sell a bad game.