Skylanders Superchargers already looked strong this year, offering proper playable toy vehicles along with the usual on-foot figurines and on-screen antics.
Ahead of Gamescom most assumed that this action-adventure game would be matched by a Skylanders racing game on the Wii/3DS, and this would be unveiled in Cologne. However, Activison had kept much more of its powder dry than anticipated.
At the show it unveiled a fully online kart racing experience for every version. The Wii and 3DS retain their racing focus, but the other versions on PlayStation, Xbox and Wii U also get in on the karting action.
This adds both four player online and two player local racing, along with special Supercharger racing challenges. This challenge mode is unlocked in the Academy by bringing a Supercharger pair (character and vehicle) into the game.
Each of the challenges are different for each Supercharger combo. For example, Super Shot Stealth Elf and Stealth Stinger offer a Galaga style bee shooting challenge. It's a timed attack round where players aim to chain hits together to achieve score multipliers and high scores.
It was impressively fully featured, and with one of these for all 20 of the Superchargers it’s a substantial amount of content. Speaking to Guha Bala, studio head of Vicarious Visions, he described it as "another way of playing the same tracks with a different experience. For every 20 Supercharger pair you get a different challenge with different gameplay."
The online upgrade also extends to the main campaign where players can play over the internet with voice chat on every version of the game. Although still limited to just two players and on a shared screen space, it answers the much requested call for online in the main story. Certainly, families who can’t be in the same place but want to enjoy the game together will appreciate this.
Bala explained the logic behind keeping players tethered to the same screen even when playing online each with their own view of the world. "For us the goal is creating a special experience, from the get go the design is around a vehicle adventure. Four-player split screen would lower the level of detail so instead we focused on four-player online. Of course it also combines sea, sky and land racing to create a novel mix.”
The racing mode of the game can be expanded by Racing Action packs that not only unlock new tracks but also the villains behind them. Beat the tracks and defeat the villains and you can then take charge of their vehicles and characters — a bit like Trap Team. This will go down well with fans who have long wanted to be able to take control of Kaos, the comedic bad guy from the Skylanders series.
This just leaves the Wii and 3DS versions of Skylanders Superchargers to be seen. They weren’t on show at Gamescom but Beenox has developed these versions and the online racing modes. Bala spoke briefly about these two Nintendo variants, "By focusing on the Wii and 3DS as a complementary experience we can really invest to make it a great game. I can say it will be a racing experience but it is unlike what you're seeing on PlayStation 4 here. It will offer all different tracks and progress. The Racing Action pack expansions also have a function on Wii and 3DS."
Skylanders Superchargers will release on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Wii U 20 September in North America, 24 September in Australia/New Zealand and on 25 September 25 in Europe.