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I very recently bought Skylanders for Mr7 and Miss9. I keep hearing about it – the impression I got that was that Skylanders in someway was a better alternative to Minecraft, which I though was a pointless comparison, but interesting.

Skylanders is marketed by Activision Blizzard and rated +7. It’s a f merchandise game which works on you buying more and more ‘toys’ to feed your game experience. It isn’t actually made by them, but by Toys For BobIt is a kids game, so it’s not up there with Warcraft.

It’s the kind of game I typically avoid and is really nickle and dimeware. Skylander’s is remarkable in that it is basically the same level repeated over and over using plastic characters. You put the plastic toy on a special plastic dish and it magically appears in the game. Of course you need to keep buying them, as the game only opens doors and does certain things with certain toys. Here’s a decent PDF list of characters.

If you are old, think about this as collecting hot-wheels. Its the ability to see the same toy to one person many times. I dare not compare it to Pokemon, as it lacks the kind of narrative and cultural backdrop. Nor are they Warhammer type miniatures  as you don’t even get to paint them. They are, expensive plastic toys from the worlds most elaborate gum-ball machine.

It is essentially a repack of so many other co-op games such as Banjo and Kazooie or Crash but less. The adventuring is smooth and simple to get into. The controls handle well, the upgrades and improvements are intuitive enough.

It’s hard to say “it is a bad game” because it isn’t. It’s just not the kind of game-culture I’d entertain for long – for fear of turning my kids into consumer monsters. This is the same company that brought out half a dozen Guitar Hero games in a year after all.

Skylanders makes you buy more characters just to complete levels! It also makes kids share XP so there’s not enough to go around, so re-doing levels is common. It likes to give you previews of stuff you can buy as rewards (what’s with that?) so while playing it’s also advertising and telling you to spend more money. Skylanders is little more than exploitation of the children. This is Activision after all, who have fast become the douche-bags of gaming – according to PC gamers.

The online-upsell

You can now join Skylanders Universe. I played the video trailer to Miss9 and I could see the promo literally throwing invisible mind rays at her. As I tap this out, she’s gone off to play it, so I’ll get a test-pilot report later. The blurb says

“Seamlessly integrating with your children’s toy collection, Skylanders Universe extends and expands their game experience online with the opportunity to work with friends to visit far-away Skylands, earn achievements and points, and unlock new worlds and Skylanders.” – yeah right.

In terms of parenting … Skylanders is … terrible.

In summary Skylanders is probably the worst game you could choose. I was amazed there is so little written about is psychological nastiness and exploitative nature. It will demand money at every twist and turn, and probably be the latest craze in bullying and peer-trolling at school too. As a game, it is well put together – if unremarkable.

Skylanders is a million times worse that something like Minecraft in terms of having any educational value. If you just want a great game – Crash and Banjo are way better and just as much fun. Any game which seeks to nickle-and-dime kids via their parents is to be avoided – if what you buy is essentially the same experience. For example, I’m also playing Crysis 3. It’s not exactly a new game, more of an expansion of Crysis 2 – but it improved the ‘feel’ of some of the open areas and it felt like the game got better. Im not sure Skylanders is even interested in this. I am sure it will just keep adding more characters and more collectables.

It is interesting this nickel and dimeware with endless DLC is seen as okay (Skylanders is making plenty of money).  Perhaps due to immersion in app-culture – and that $15 is seen as a cheap way to keep kids busy. So after 3 days of it, I have questions.

  1. How long it took for your kids to start fighting over the characters
  2. Demand more characters. 
  3. How much have you spent on it so far? 
  4. Are there good sides to it I’m missing?
  5. How many hours are they playing?
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