What is Skylanders Superchargers?
Skylanders Superchargers is a platform/adventure game for up to two players, which sees the titular Skylanders heroes take on the nefarious evil overlord, Kaos, who is once again trying to take over the Skylanders with a dastardly plan.
Like other Skylanders games, SuperChargers mixes real world figures with a virtual game world. By way of some sort of magic, placing a figure of your chosen Skylander onto the game's included portal will let you play as that character in game, with the option of buying extra toys to access certain areas, or to play as different characters.
In the Starter Pack, you get two character figures, one vehicle, the all important portal, and the game itself - although which figures you get will depend on which version of the game you buy. On PS4, PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, you'll get figures of blue dragon Spitfire, returning classic-character-now-supercharged, Super Shot Stealth Elf, and a land vehicle, in the form of Hot Streak, while Wii U players will get Super Shot Stealth Elf and a dual Skylander/amiibo, Turbo Charge Donkey Kong, along with his vehicle, the Barrel Blaster. While extra figures are available, the starter pack comes with everything you need to complete the game's story mode. For those who are completionists and want to see everything Skylander's story has to offer, you'll only need to buy two extra vehicles - an air, and a sea one - to access all the bonus areas in the story mode. Other add-ons, that unlock certain races in the game's Mario Kart style racing mode, are also available.
How do you play Skylanders Superchargers?
The game itself is a fairly standard LEGO-style adventure, where players beat up bad guys, complete platforming sections and take on simple puzzles to progress through the levels, whether you're pushing blocks around to line up lasers, or pulling a few switches, adding a bit of extra brain teasing to the levels. With easy to pick up and play controls, a few button presses are all you'll need to perform all of your Skylander's most impressive moves, with nothing in the way of overly awkward combinations to be memorised.
New for this year's game are the vehicles, and each level has a specific section that can only be accessed with that type of vehicle, whether it's a land race section, aerial dog fights, or some water-borne bad guys to take down. Up to two people can play together in co-op, both in the traditional sections, and in the vehicular parts too, with one Skylanders for each player. When driving a vehicle in co-op, the vehicle controls are split so that one player drives while the other fires the weapon, and, in a nice touch for families, players can switch roles at any time with the press of a button.
How easy is Skylanders Superchargers to pick up and play?
In terms of accessibility, Skylanders is fairly easy going - although there is one gotcha parents will want to be aware of.
With a fully-voiced story mode, reading isn't a necessity, which means younger players will have no trouble figuring out where to go or what to do next. The ability to play in co-op helps keep the difficulty level low, too, as a novice player can bring a more experienced friend - and their higher level Skylanders - along to help! There's a range of difficulty levels on offer, too, which adjust not only the amount of damage you'll deal from enemies (taking the difficulty down a level will drastically reduce the damage you take), but also appears to affect the complexity of the puzzles themselves, which appear to scale depending on the difficulty level you choose. On Nightmare, we found certain sliding blocks puzzles to be much more complex than on Easy - and with a choice of four difficulty levels on offer, you can tailor not only the challenge enemies give you, but the challenge of the puzzles to suit.
Really, there's not too much here that should make younger players stumble, with fairly linear levels (barring the odd bonus section) providing little opportunity to get lost. In fact, the only thing that might prove a bit of an issue is that once a Skylander runs out of health, they need to 'rest' for a while, making them unplayable for the rest of the level. You do get two characters with the Starter Pack, which effectively work as two 'lives' in which to finish each level, but if both Skylanders are defeated, you'll have no choice but to restart the level, and try again. If you're playing in two player, where each player needs their own figure, this ends up being just one life each in practice.
Your Skylanders do earn experience, though, which in turn makes them level up and grow stronger, with more health letting them take more of a beating, but this is still a unique system parents may want to be aware of. On the plus side, every single Skylander from every single earlier Skylanders game is compatible with SuperChargers, so if you've built up a collection of old figures, you'll be able to call on them again here - and if you don't have a ready made collection, figures from the older games can be found for just a few quid in shops, making them well worth picking up alongside this.
In terms of mature content, Skylanders Superchargers is pretty clean - there's no sexual references, no bad language and no gore whatsoever. Players take on various fantastical creatures, such as elves, trolls and insects, in slapstick combat, using a variety of different attacks - from punches and kicks, to gunfire and magical projectiles, to burping and rainbow-firing attacks. When defeated, enemies simply disappear, leaving behind brightly coloured orbs.