Activision has revealed more of its new Skylanders game at E3: Skylanders SuperChargers adds vehicle and character team-ups both in toy and video-game form.
As before the game uses toy figurines to access characters within the game. Additionally a range of 20 smart vehicle toys also unlock the related in-game cars, boats, planes and submarines. It's a simple change that substantially changes how the game feels to play.
The toy vehicles themselves have sensibly done away with the static plastic base. By hiding the tech inside they are each articulated and feel much more like proper toys. The cars can roll along the carpet, for example, while the submarines have working propellers and tail fins.
Each of the vehicles matches to a similarly styled Supercharged Skylander. Use them together to get a health boost and modifications to upgrade each ride. At any point you can pause the game and switch in and out different parts of the vehicles. It's a nice touch that offers some different strategic gameplay.
Players can purchase the game via a Starter Pack as before, but this year Portal owners - that's the base on which toys are placed - can opt for a cheaper digital download instead. Even Portals from 2012 will work with the new game, something that adds considerable value.
As ever you can also use all your old characters too - although only new SuperChargers will be able to modify vehicles or enter special zones.
In the levels on display at the E3 expo this looked impressive. Branching routes through a level called for specific character abilities to deal with the different enemies. Children will enjoy swapping in just the right hero and vehicle combination.
One character in particular stood out: the combination of Dive-Clops and the Dive Bomber submarine creates an amphibian team-up pulled straight from gleeful child-like imagination. In the game this opens the option of going under as well as over the water. Above the waves many bonuses and hidden levels can be found, while below you're invulnerable to certain attacks that can't penetrate the waves.
Less positive is the continued existence of the Soul Gems promotional videos. When collected these trigger a short video designed to excite the player about new characters that can be unlocked by purchasing the related toy. That's a suposed get your wallet out moment.
Provided parents remember that the game can be completed with just the Starter Pack, Skylanders SuperChargers offers a lot of value. Additional characters and vehicles are good pocket money toys that can be saved up for as optional extras rather than necessities.
SuperChargers will be released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iPad, and Nintendo Wii U. The game releases September 20 in North America, or five days later on September 25 in Europe.
Overall, Skylanders SuperChargers proves again why the franchise remains so strong. The level of innovation and creativity on display is impressive.