Skylanders Swap Force Gamescom 2013 preview: Hands-on with next-gen toy fun

Skylanders and Skylanders Giants have been incredibly popular with kids of all ages, more so than even Activision expected when it first took the plunge into toy manufacture, but something tells us that it hasn't even reached its peak yet. We suspect that, come the release of Skylanders Swap Force, the series will go stratospheric.

This is partly thanks to the new gameplay mechanic where you can take the top off one Swap Force Skylander and place it on the bottom of another, making an all-new controllable character. And partly thanks to a very simple in-game addition: all Skylanders can now jump.

Just by introducing that basic gaming standard, Skylanders Swap Force has turned from a cutesy action adventure game into a Mario 64 rival, and there are many other aspects that remind us of that classic 3D platformer too.

The mini-games - which have appeared in previous Skylanders games but are perhaps more rounded this time - offer an enormous variety of gameplay styles, therefore requiring more and varied skills to complete. And boss battles come in many guises too. How six-year-olds can play these games with little or no help from parents is astounding. We struggled with Manic Minor back in the day... And we were 12.

In our hands-on session with the PS4 version of Swap Force we were thrust into an icy world where technology-based characters would do better than most. However, bar a few cool moments where we blasted the muck out of several enemies, the main reason to play this area was to experience one of the new side games.

For this we needed a spinning Skylander to unlock the mini-game, and thankfully Activision had provided one - a new character to Swap Force Free Ranger. Once placed on the portal we entered the game, which really reminded us of Sonic Spinball. We had to bash through rotating blocks to get to the centre of a map. If we zipped off the edge of the cylinder we fell to our doom, and it was about as easy to control as a pinball.

Unfortunately, we didn't manage to get to the end level of this side-game as our interview slot with a senior bod at Bungie awaited, but we saw enough to know that, with Swap Force, Activision and developer Vicarious Visions have really upped their games. Literally.

The PS4 version is simply beautiful, but we would expect the current-gen line-up to also be as well loved by young and old too.

Skylanders Swap Force will be out on 18 October on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. It will hit PS4 on 29 November in the UK, and Xbox One when the console becomes available.