PALGN was recently privy to a function from the folks at Activision. not much was known before hand - we were promised to see an experience that would place an emphasis on interactivity and creativity and it would appeal to kids. Making the trip to Luna Park into the function room, there was smoke and mist all over the place - literally. For, you see, Activition had given Sydney its first glimpse of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. Just what did it entail, and what did we think of it? Read on, and the smoke will be cleared for you as well, dear readers.
The main point of difference that Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure has with other games of the genre is its portal system to select characters. Rather than simply select a character onscreen, players will use a portal to place a small figurine of the character they want to play as. Over thirty characters will be made available to play as across eight different elemental classes, with the portal device lighting up in different colours based on the elemental type of the chosen character. In our viewing we were able to see a handful of these characters in action. There was Spyro who, as expected, is able to fly around the screen and inflict damage. Spyro comes alongside Eruptor, a lava creature, Gil Grunt, a water beast and Ignitor, who uses fire to deal devastation. From questions asked by those in attendance, it seems that most of the characters will be of a "good" alignment, though there could be some room for changing loyalties.
The gameplay itself is of action-platforming fare, and character choice seemed to have an effect on the way enemies are fought and the ability to access areas. For example, Eruptor has a big emphasis on power-moves, but doesn't do so well in areas where speed is required. One part of the game that was demonstrated showed some barrels rolling down an incline, and the player switched from Eruptor to Gil Grunt to make it up the slope quicker before they could be hit by any oncoming barrels. A few moments later, there were crates that could only be destroyed with one of Eruptor's unlocked abilities, to access an area of further riches. Alongside the story mode, there was also a multiplayer mode on display, which allowed for players to battle against one another while still collecting treasure across the level for upgrades. It's also worth noting that Activision emphasised that there will be no online multiplayer for Skylanders: they told those in attendance that they wish to emphasise the social aspect of the game and encourage the young to meet up and play in person.
Following on from this, we were told that each figure is able to save that character's own data and upgrades to be used on the consoles of friends, and any treasures acquired on a friend's console (whether it be via the story or multiplayer mode), will be retained for later use on a player's own console. This also means that friends who own different figures are able to help one another out by borrowing and trading figurines to access ability and character-specific areas. There are also plans to have some form of multi and cross-platform functionality, though what form this might take any any further details are as yet unknown.
Outside of the gameplay elements, we also learned a bit about the powers behind the scenes that have gone into making the game. The story has been written by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, who are perhaps best known for their work in writing the film Toy Story. Backing up the story-writing pedigree, the music is being composed by Hans Zimmer, who has written music for such films as The Lion King, Gladiator and The Dark Knight.
At this point, it's hard to give a definitive opinion on whether or not Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure shall be a must-buy for everyone, without having had a hands-on experience. The concept of data carrying over for individual figures and cross-platform compatibility for them do offer up some interesting possibilities, and if the young are able to take up the co-operation and trading aspect then it could be a success for increasing social gaming. Only time, and in-depth playthrough, will be able to tell if its appeal is broad enough to encompass other ages as well.