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"Bring the Skylanders to Life!"
The first game of the Skylanders series, released in October 2011.
With The Legend of Spyro Trilogy finished and the upcoming movie cancelled, it was time for Activision to come up with another idea for a Spyro game. And they decided upon one of the most radical and controversial changes to the Spyro the Dragon franchise since, well... The Legend of Spyro.
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a game on multiple platforms. It's putting the mood back to lighthearted after the Darker and Edgier previous games, and as this is yet another Continuity Reboot, all the characters but Spyro and a couple carryovers are brand-new. Gameplay's also focused on puzzle-solving/shooting rather than the original games platforming or the Beat'Em Up style of Legend. But if Skylanders is not so different from classic Spyro, what's the big change?
See, the game comes with a device called a "portal," plus three toys. The idea is that if you want to play as a character, you put their toy on the portal and the game instantly switches to the new character. This can be done at any time, even in the middle of gameplay. With over thirty toys available, this does make this game Merchandise-Driven, but since the game comes with Spyro and two others - Trigger Happy and Gill Grunt - you don't have to buy extra toys unless you want to.
The toy gimmick is given an in-story explanation. An evil Portal Master named Kaos banished the Skylanders into the real world as statues, and it's up to the player, taking on the role of a good Portal Master, to stop him by summoning Skylanders into the game.
The singular game is actually multiple separate games, with the ability to port characters and their stats and equipment between them. The "main" game is the one on home consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii) and PC. There's also a 3DS version which includes different starter characters and is more of a platformer than the console version. Finally, there is Skylanders: Spyro's Universe, a browser-based Minigame Game with some MMO lite features such as the ability to wander around chatting with other players while using your Skylander as your avatar. An iOS arcade shooter, Skylanders: Cloud Patrol, was later released.
Common complaints lodged against this game include Spyro's radically different design and no other old Spyro characters returning (except Cynder). Common praises include beautiful graphics and fun-looking gameplay. The toy gimmick could go either way - it drives the cost up (similar to Activision's deceased Guitar Hero) and is a blatant merchandising ploy; yet it's novel and well-executed, setting it apart from being just another game out there.
Despite the complaints, Skylanders turned out to be a huge hit, selling out in many stores before Christmas 2011. In fact, a sequel was announced just months after the original game's release, even before all the toys made it onto store shelves. Skylanders: Giants added 16 more characters, eight of which are at least double the size of the regular Skylander toys and had the in-game strength to match.
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure contains examples of
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Every level has an Alliterative Name: Perilous Pastures, Treetop Terrace, Cadaverous Crypt, and so on.
- And I Must Scream: Kaos receives a very karmic one: After his defeat, he is sent to Earth, getting reduced to a mere toy figurine in the process.
- Baleful Polymorph: A stage in the 3DS version includes sheep statues you can destroy (and need to for a level objective), but doing so turns your Skylander into a sheep briefly.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Flynn does it during the first half of the Wii version's game credits; congratulating the player (and himself) for saving the Skylands and encouraging the player to go into the Playable Epilogue - and then this happens:
OK, so what we're doing now is something called "breaking the Fourth Wall"; and since I'm acknowledging that fact, does this mean that I am now breaking the Fifth Wall? I don't know. What I do know is, all this wall-breaking is making me hungry.
- Bullet Hell: Though certainly not as intense as those of arcade shooter fame, Kaos summons some pretty large swarms of elementally-themed obstacles during your battles against his minions. (The Doomsharks even give you HP bonuses for "grazing" the side of one without taking damage!) And then there's the Final Boss, where Kaos's Hydra not only launches the same swarms of obstacles at you, but even mixes them up. Can you dodge e.g. deadly laser beams and swarms of sharks at the same time?
- Continuity Reboot: The next one after Legend of Spyro.
- Creative Closing Credits: In the Wii version, Flynn engages in a little Fourth Wall-breaking.
- Deadpan Snarker: Glumshanks, Kaos' goblin sidekick. See Incredibly Lame Pun as well.
- Dem Bones: Chop Chop. A skeleton knight who remained alive due to his very literal Undying Loyalty.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The Core of Light. Nearly every level has you retrieving an Eternal Elemental Source or some other component of it.
- Doomy Dooms of Doom:
- Drop in Drop Out Multiplayer
- Dual Boss: When fighting Kaos for one of the elemental Cores, after failing to defeat you using his minions one at a time, he eventually resorts to sending out three at once (albeit with less HP apiece).
- Essence Drop: Enemies drop experience points when defeated.
- Evil Knockoff: Several boss battles involve Kaos summoning evil Skylander clones to attack you. He alternates this strategy with some Bullet Hell (see Sequential Boss).
- Fantastic Recruitment Drive: Several character bios make mention of being personally invited to join by Eon.
- Field Power Effect: Unusually, there doesn't seem to be a flat Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic; rather each area has a specific type that gets a boost.
- Fish People: Gill Grunt, and you meet some others while searching for the Eternal Water Source.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: A lot of gameplay stuff was integrated into the game's universe, besides just the whole "toys in our world" thing. Those glowy bits that serve as EXP? Enemies drop them even in cutscenes, and Kaos uses them himself during the final battle. And how a Skylander says a phrase when you summon them? According to a story scroll that's not just a game interface thing, shouting a Battle Cry is a Skylander custom.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: One of Kaos' fire puns during the Eternal Fire Source battle is "make an ash out of you."
- Gurglefin the gillman drops "holy carp" a couple times.
- Plus one of the challenges, "Bombs to the Wall".
- Holding Out for a Hero: Surprisingly subverted. Instead of sitting around and letting the player save the day, the Mabu villagers from the first chapter go out and form their own military to help fight Kaos' army. They actually help a surprising amount, locating several of the components of the Core of Light themselves.
- Hub Level: The Ruins
- Hurricane of Puns: A number of characters are fond of making them. During the battle over the Eternal Fire Source, Kaos even lampshades it by commenting "I could do this all day."
- Incredibly Lame Pun: When Kaos tells Glumshanks to sabotage some train tracks:
Kaos: There's more than one way to derail their plans!
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: There is one dragon Skylander per element: Spyro (magic), Cynder (undead), Zap (water), Bash (earth), Whirlwind (air), Sunburn (fire), Camo (life), and Drobot (tech).
- Kaizo Trap: Cynder's Heroic Challenge level tasks you with collecting 13 "amber medallions" in a catacombs. The last one is on a small platform you teleport to, with no enemies in sight ... easy, right? Except for nearly a dozen zombies that pop up out of the ground and swarm you as you attempt to get it.
- Kill It with Fire: Zombie enemies can only be killed by fire-based attacks (e.g. a Fire Skylander) or other sources of flame. Medieval cannons also pack enough "fire"power to destroy them.
- Large Ham: Kaos.
- Meaningful Name - All characters except Spyro and Cynder have one.
- Medieval European Fantasy - The classic series started this way and Skylanders seems to be returning to this setting in comparison to Legend's "Middle-Earth" feel.
- Mood Whiplash - The previous game was the darkest in the series; this one has gone back to lighthearted. Slightly justified in that this is a new continuity. However, the producer of the Legend Of Spyro games is in charge so who knows?
- Mutually Exclusive Powerups: A lesser example occurs in Kaos's level; while traversing the main path, you will occasionally find the path blocked, and a set of collectibles to either side. Pick one to open the path forward, locking off the other one in the process.
- Mythology Gag: Sheep resembling those in the PS 1 games appear here and there as a Running Gag; they don't release butterflies this time, and are in fact completely indestructible, but they react in different, amusing ways to each type of attack. One of Spyro's upgrade paths is even called "Sheep Burner Spyro".
- There's also a special "Dark Spyro" figure, with similar coloration to the Super-Powered Evil Side from the Legend of Spyro trilogy, only available with the 3DS version.
- Near Villain Victory: Kaos managed to destroy the only thing keeping the Darkness at bay and all but destroy the Skylanders before the game even started.
- Never Say "Die"
- Did your Skylander just get defeated in combat? He wasn't "killed", not even "knocked out" or "fainted" (unlike Pokémon), he just "needs to take a rest".
- Hugo says "[Master Eon] survived the blast, but was changed: he became a spirit." Oookay, if you say so. KAOS refers to it as "bodiless oblivion".
- Character bios for undead Skylanders like Hex and Ghost Roaster merely say that they were "transformed" into their present condition. Kaos' version of Hugo's explanation also fits.
- No Ontological Inertia: What happened to KAOS's Hydra after the battle? You didn't land a single blow on it during the fight.
- Underground Monkey: Dark Spyro and Legendary Skylanders have different stats from the normal versions.
- Reformulated Game: The 3DS version is compatible with the same figures as the console versions but is a completely different game, taking place in a different part of Skyland (the Radiant Isles) and with a different Big Bad called Hektore. It also comes with a different set of figures in the box (Dark Spyro, Ignitor, and Stealth Elf).
- RPG Elements: Though the game is primarily action-platformer, you can collect experience points to level-up your Skylanders. The only real benefit, however, is increased HP; increases to other stats are acquired by purchasing upgrades.
- Secret Level: Four levels unlocked with their own toys: Pirate Seas, Darklight Crypt, Empire of Ice, and Dragon's Peak. These tend to be based on gimmicks; Pirate Seas is broken up by Concentration-style card games, and Darklight Crypt features Dual World Gameplay.
- Secret Character: The characters bundled with these levels (Terrafin, Ghost Roaster, Slam-Bam, and Sunburn respectively) have their Soul Gems hidden in the levels they come with. So you can only watch their demo videos after you already have the package that includes them.
- Sequential Boss: Battles against Kaos's minions generally unfold in these phases: 1st minion, 1st obstacle swarm, 2nd minion, 2nd (tougher) obstacle swarm, 3rd Minion, (sometimes with a third obstacle swarm), then finally everything at once.
- Shout-Out: Those trolls with the Wolverine Claws? They are actually called "Trollverines".
- The achievement unlocked for purchasing all the upgrades for one character? "Gotta buy them all." Made all the more hilarious given Pokémon's similar Merchandise-Driven nature.
- Terrafin looks a little Jawesome.
- Wrecking Ball, in name, design, and abilities, shares similarities to the Nintendo 64 game Iggy's Reckin' Balls.
- The achievement "The Answer" in Cloud Patrol. You get it by dying on level 42.
- One of Trigger Happy's upgrades, a Wave Motion Gun, is called the Golden Yamato Blast.
- Spiritual Successor: The game plays out much more like a Kameo: Elements of Power sequel than a Spyro game. To wit - you play an elemental master switching between a horde of googly-eyed collectable elemental monsters, either solo or co-op, through an Action Adventure / Beat'Em Up fantasy world floating in the sky filled with googly-eyed, brightly colored creatures; each of these creatures has three skills which can be upgraded in ways that change both the monster's and the attack's appearance. All while being advised by the floating disembodied head of a grandfatherly wizard. The general plot (an evil apprentice betrays their kingdom, curses the kingdom's elemental monster protectors to gain control of a floating world) is fairly similar, too.
- The 3DS version plays a lot like the original Spyro games, and some have even compared it to the classic Crash Bandicoot games.
- Spotlight-Stealing Title: Reviewers were quick to point out that it's not really Spyro's adventure as the title would suggest - he's no more important in the grander scheme of things than any other playable character, and so his name was likely just used in the title because he's a well-established video game character.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Quoted almost word for word before you head off for Kaos' lair.
- Time for Plan B: When Kaos' initial invasion is repelled by the Skylanders, his sidekick suggests going to Plan B. Kaos nixes it, skipping all the way to Plan Z. Which, surprisingly, works perfectly.
- Too Dumb to Live: The trolls. Apparently, their leaders actually have to tell the soldiers not to juggle live grenades in the middle of a battle, among other equally insane things.
- Took a Level In Badass: The Mabu villagers from the first chapter who you have to save? Later on in the game they've formed their own military and prove surprisingly helpful storywise.
- Many Skylanders themselves also progress like this. The ones that seem the weakest at lower levels often end up being the most badass and strongest characters once all their abilities have been purchased.
- The Unfought: Captain Dreadbeard and Vathek aren't actually fought. Dreadbeard has to be beaten in a card game and Vathek sends a large swarm of minions to fight you. When he tries to take care of you personally, Flavius takes the throne while he's concentrating on you and turns him to stone with it. Out of the three bonus level exclusive Big Bads, only Occulous is actually fought.
- Verbal Backpedaling: Kaos tries not to be surprised when you defeat his minions in battle or dodge his elemental magic attacks, but it doesn't always work.
Kaos: (during the battle for the Water Source) "Impossible! You survived my best water spell! ... Ahem. I MEAN, you survived a very MEDIOCRE water spell, that I found lying around ... somewhere. I AM NOT IMPRESSED!"
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Sheep from Perilous Pastures are invincible. You can Zap them, Burn them, Soak them, flatten them (and they'll soon recover from it), even knock them off a cliff. On the other hand Hugo thinks that Sheep are evil, so...
- There is actually a part where you have to attack them to prevent them from eating the apples off a trees.
- Not to mention almost every NPC can be attacked, and they all shout in pain when you do.
- William Telling: Hats sometimes appear on the trolls in Cloud Patrol so that you can blast them off. Played with in that you're trying to shoot the trolls and their hats.
- You Have Failed Me: As the final battle wears on, Kaos smites his own minions and gives their experience points to his next set of minions; when the last group fails, he collects all their experience points to refill his own HP, and rely solely on his Hydra to fight you.
- it's synonymous with "ember" or "burned material"