Skylanders Battlecast isn't the first app-specific outing for Activision's swathes of cartoon characters but it is one of the most intriguing.

That's because as well as the free-to-play game that's available on app stores now, it combines with physical, collectable cards in a similar way to the toys-to-life titles that inspire it.

The game itself is a battle card game. It is a free download and comes with a starter pack of cards so you can launch yourself in without having to invest any further. However, to acquire a better deck and, therefore, conquer the game more speedily, you can add booster packs of either physical or digital cards.

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The former is the better way for kids, we feel. For starters, they get collectable cards of their favourite characters and power-ups, including rare gold foil editions. Also, to get a card into your deck, you have to use the magic of augmented reality.

A physical card can be scanned using a phone or tablet camera and the character comes to life in 3D on the screen. That might have been seen a few times before, but it works really well on this occasion and kids will never tire of seeing their real-world objects transition into the digital.

Cleverly, each card is individual, so once scanned it is locked to that specific player's account. That means you can't swap them with friends, but at least you'll feel like it's specific to you.

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As we've said already, you can buy packs digitally, but you miss out on the most fun part of the process.

You can also purchase digital cards with in-game currency, so parents need not worry that Skylanders Battlecast will cost them the Earth. Especially as there are around 300 actual cards to collect.

Once a card has been scanned and/or added to a player's in-game collection, decks can be created to battle with. Before each bout, three Skylanders are chosen, each with different abilities and strengths, and the cards are used as benefits and powers to aid in a fight.

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Fights are rendered in 3D but much like most card games on iPad, Android and the like, Battlecast is turn-based. You choose what cards you want to play, which Skylander to use for that round and away you go.

There are a couple of game modes to play. A single-player campaign is available, where you can fight your way through eight different elemental islands and 60 missions in total. There is also a Hearthstone-style PVP mode to battle online friends.

First Impressions

Skylanders Battlecast works so well for the franchise that it's a wonder that it's never been done before.

The Skylanders and their different talents work so well for a statistic-based card game. It is also beautifully presented so bouts are interesting to watch.

It won't be a replacement for Hearthstone for older players. This game is more simple because it is aimed squarely at a younger audience. But there's still plenty of fun to be had for adults too, especially when battling their own kids.

The collectable card system works very well and the AR scanning is a nice touch. We'd like to see some rules to be able to use the cards as part of a tabletop game too, to give them extra purpose, but apart from that we think Activision once again has a hit on its hands.

The Skylanders Battlecast game is available now for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire tablets, as a free download from the respective app stores. Skylanders Battlecast Battle Packs of cards cost £9.99 each, a Booster Pack costs £4.99.