What is Skylanders Swap Force?
Ordinarily, breaking your toy in half would be a bad thing - but in Skylanders Swap Force, it's what makes the game so special. Like other Skylanders games, Swap Force is a mix of the physical and digital, as placing a real life Skylander toy on the (bundled) portal will let you play as that character, as you bash, puzzle, and jump your way through the platforming adventure. New for Swap Force is the ability to snap certain figurines in two, letting you mix and match their top and bottom halves, and play as new characters in the game. Switch Wash Buckler's top half with Blast Zone's bottom half, for example, and you'll find yourself playing as Wash Zone. Held together by sturdy magnets, there's over 250 possible combinations to create (if you own every Swap Force figure) - but there's still plenty of fun to be getting on with straight out of the box.
As always, the Swap Force Starter Pack comes with everything you need to get going - three Skylanders (blue squid pirate Wash Buckler; explosive knight Blast Zone; and Ninja Stealth Elf), the portal itself, and a copy of the game. Both Wash Buckler and Blast Zone are swappable figures, letting you experiment with the possibilities from the off.
How do you play Skylanders Swap Force?
A light platforming/adventure game at heart, your time with Swap Force will mostly be spent playing through the game's many levels, bashing enemies, solving fairly simple puzzles, and completing quests that range from rescuing sheep to collecting hats, and everything in between. With full support for drop-in, drop-out co-op, and now with the ability to jump, there's a lot more depth to the fantasy-themed levels - and plenty of reason to try out the various different Skylander combinations on offer.
Playing through the game and defeating enemies will earn your Skylander experience points, which in turn will let it level up, giving it more health, and letting it withstand more damage. Both the top and bottom half of the new swappable Skylanders level up independently, with their own selection of moves. Although there are various paths, boxes, and quests that can only be completed with a certain type of Skylander, none require you to own a specific toy, instead only asking you to own a certain type - a fire Skylander, an ice Skylander, or a Skylander that can teleport, for example. You'll need to buy extra figures to see and do everything in game, but you can complete the main game on your own, or in co-op, with what comes in the box.
How easy is Skylanders Swap Force to pick up and play?
In terms of accessibility, Swap Force is pretty easy to get stuck into. The learning curve here is nicely shallow, with nothing in the way of overly complex button combinations to learn, simple controls, and fairly linear levels that ensure you won't really get lost. While the levels do feature puzzles, they're mostly fairly basic ones that involve pushing blocks around, or angling mirrors to direct lasers, so nothing that should be too complicated. The ability to play in co-op makes tackling any tricky sections that bit easier, too, as you can always draft in a more experienced friend to help!
In fact, most of the difficulty in Skylanders Swap Force comes from the limited number of lives you have with which to clear a level. Rather than a traditional lives system, in Skylanders, each figure you own essentially represents one life - when your figure gets defeated, you'll need to switch it out for another Skylander, or restart the level. There's no way to revive your figures mid-level, and no way for another player to bring you back to life. In essence, then, the number of figures you own shows how many "lives" you have to complete a level - if you only own the Starter Pack, you'll have three "lives" with which to make it through - or, if you're playing in co-op, you have one back up Skylander between you, just in case. If you own any of the earlier games, though, every Skylander from any of the earlier games are fully compatible with this - so you can use your old collection to give you a helping hand.
For the youngest of players, the game is mostly voiced, so reading isn't a necessity - although a reading ability would be useful for navigating certain menus, applying upgrades, and double checking your objectives. It's mostly fairly basic English though (things like "Get to Woodburrow" and "Press Y to shoot a bubble that will trap an enemy for a short time"), so those who're just starting to get the hang of reading shouldn't have too much trouble - and thanks to the co-op mode, they could always play along with an older sibling, or a parent, if they find themselves struggling!
Aimed squarely at the child market, there's little for parents to worry about in Skylanders: Swap Force. Although you'll be whacking plenty of baddies as you make your way through the level, it's all handled in a cartoony style, with no realistic impacts - enemies simply flash red when they're hit, then faint and disappear when defeated. There's no bad language, and no sex involved, either.