(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4.5 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 3.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 4 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 5 Stars
- Bottom Line
Skylanders SuperChargers Starter Pack
- Street Date:
- November 8th, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- November 11th, 2015
- Game Release Year:
- Vicarious Visions
iOS version reviewed using an iPad Mini 2. Previously I reviewed the Xbox One starter pack and the Wii U starter pack, and this review focuses specifically what it's like to play the iOS version. The iOS version includes a wireless (Bluetooth) USB Portal of Power, a Bluetooth controller, collection poster, Super Shot Stealth Elf, Spit Fire, and Hot Streak. The game is downloaded digitally from the App store, and unlocked via the starter pack. I also had access to the Instant versions of the starter pack characters. Review time included use of an extra half dozen 'Skylanders SuperChargers' figures and vehicles beyond the Starter Pack, as well as the Skylander SuperChargers Sea Racing Action Pack.
Following last year's 'Trap Team,' 'Skylanders: SuperChargers' has a special version of the game that promises the "full console experience" for the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Apple TV. (See the bottom of this page for the specific supported models). 'SuperChargers' is of course, the Vicarious Visions' developed next step in the runaway 'Skylanders' franchise. 'SuperChargers' is a game packed with content and modes, but one specific highlighted aspect is the addition of vehicles for use on land, sea, and in air. Naturally, this vehicle focus has led to an entire kart-racing part of the game, which offers both on and offline multiplayer.
Stacking up to the console versions of the game is no easy task, and bringing peripherals like the Portal and controller included in the Starter kit to iPad is likewise no sure thing.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Having already been thoroughly impressed by the console versions of 'Skylanders SuperChargers,' I fired up the iOS version with that same question that always faces a game that has made the jump to another platform, will it measure up to the standards set by the original? Truth be told; however, I came into the game on the iPad with some strong impressions taken from playing pre-release iPad builds.
What's key to note is that 'Skylanders Superchargers' on the iPad is a version of the game that was developed concurrent to the console versions, but it's not a different game. This is a proper port, for which Vicarious Visions started off with the full, in-development, console versions of level and character assets, and dialed things back to make the game work on the iPad. As a result, this version boasts a massive feature set. There's the full co-op campaign, complete with cutscenes and voice acting, the racing modes, the challenge modes, Skystones, online/offline multiplayer, and upgradable/customizable characters and vehicles. On top of that, this version not only supports the Portal and controller experience, but it also has optional touchscreen controls and portal-less instant character and vehicle support. And that's just the stuff I've used. There's also special Apple TV support.
I haven't played 'Skylanders: Trap Team' on a iPad, and 'SuperChargers' is my first experience with where Activision is with their iOS efforts. The results are pretty much all around amazing. Everything that I loved in console versions is here, minus the visual quality (see below). My four favorite things in 'SuperChargers' include:
The co-op campaign with its great mix of vehicles and on-foot play and signature levels.
Leveling up the characters and modding the vehicles, which shows a tremendous amount of variety in powers and in looks that are visible during play.
The kart style racing which is so good at capturing that balance of casual and challenging racing. The iOS version cuts the numbers of racers down to four, which is a significant change. Nevertheless, it's still fun to race versus others or the computer.
Skystones, a card style game I like enough to wish it had a variant in just about every game I play now.
This is all here on a fricking iPad Mini 2. In fact, because the toys to life experience has been brought over to the tablet so effectively, I'm able to load up all of my leveled up and upgraded figures and vehicles and even see all of the unlocked powers or hats I've assigned. The SuperCharged versions of the vehicles when paired with right SuperCharger figures are here, and able to do everything that I did on the consoles. The levels are the same- packed with enemies, puzzles, vehicle star sections, bosses, Skystone matches, and various offshoots for secrets and mods.
Focusing in on the hardware, and it's all good news.
Unlike on the Xbox One and Wii U, this is a fully wireless Portal. It runs on three AAA batteries, which are included. It connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, but it's much smarter than the typical Bluetooth device. The same can be said of the controller, which actually can be stowed away inside the Portal. It's a nice touch, and a good way to protect the controller, which I wouldn't want to stomp on. The controller takes two AAA batteries, which are also included. The wireless controller also connects via Bluetooth, and it's also a smart connection. Basically, no pairing is required. When the game is running and Bluetooth is enabled on the iPad, both the controller and the Portal automatically connect. The Portal has a single button which wakes it up into a powered state. The controller's center button does the same.
In practice, this auto connecting system just works. I even tried downloading 'Trap Team' on my LG G4, and sure enough, both the controller and portal just worked in that same no-pairing required fashion. As a bonus, if the Portal and Controller sit unused for a few minutes, they will automatically power off, which ought to mean great battery savings.
The controller is styled a lot like a 360 controller. It has two analog sticks, which are offset, a d-pad on the bottom left, two shoulder buttons on each side, a pause button in the center, and a 360 style X, Y, B, A button cluster. This little dark gray controller, with its smattering of Skylanders element symbols, works great. The analog sticks in particular are good, and the whole thing makes for familiar, easy to control gameplay. My one true complaint is that it only works with the 'Skylanders' games, which is a shame because I would use it for any controller-enabled game on the iPad if I could. The other thing I find a little funny is that both the battery compartment on the controller and on the Portal use a single screw, which means a screwdriver is needed to get started.
One more thing on the Portal, which is easy to miss until it's time to play. On one side there is a single angled, rubberized groove. This groove holds the iPad up like a stand, which leave the hands free for using the controller and shifting figures and vehicles around. In the little stand groove, I can still plug power in iPad, and I can still reach all the buttons.
This Portal plus controller set-up makes the stellar iOS version be that full toys to life realization that is also available on the consoles. This is the best way to play on the iPad, though it's even better with a second controller for local co-op. That said, it's not the only way to play.
Picking up the starter kit, having the right iOS device, and having internet access is the way to go. But for those times when having the Portal and controller set-up aren't an option (like maybe in a long car ride), the game also has touchscreen controls. There's a digital d-pad that floats to where the left thumb lands and a touch button cluster on the left.
On the iPad Mini 2, I found this way of controlling the characters and vehicles quite serviceable. I think it's good for short sessions, but I much prefer the fun controller to the workable touch controls. On the figure and vehicle side, going without a Portal means buying Instant Characters and Vehicles. This is done using In-App purchases, and the pricing is less (around 20%) than the physical figures. With that pricing I much prefer the physical toys which can be used on multiple platforms, but the digital Instant figures take up no room and won't be lost. They are still upgradable as well, which means they fit right into my four favorite features listed above, not to mention all the rest of the game's activities. As I had access to a handful of Instant Characters for the review, I can see the value of having a mix of digital characters (again for road trips) and physical ones.
One big key when playing on the iPad is that the game is downloaded in an on-demand manner. Basically, that means that when putting a new character on the Portal for the first time, the game downloads the relevant data right then. That means Wi-Fi is required.
It's not just characters either, race tracks work like this as well. The downloads were super quick for me, and I appreciate that the game only takes up as much room as it needs.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The series is known for bright palettes and very creative character designs, and 'Skylanders SuperChargers' has taken those strengths to another level. Going from the Xbox One to the Wii U was a step down, and in turn, going from the Wii U to the iPad is an even bigger step down. All the tricks in the porting handbook are evident. The level geometry has been reduced in complexity, texture layers have been combined and removed.
See the flattened out Greebles in the Greeble Dispenser:
Particles and filtering effects have been simplified. This has all been done to fit the hardware, but because of the high starting point, the end result can be very interesting as many models, textures, scenes, etc. look much nicer than everything I'm pointing out would indicate. For example, the non-player characters look great.
Even with all of these visual changes, the game still looks very good, and the large levels full of enemies and ships and so on haven't been reduced in size. This couldn't have been done on a Wii, for example with much more significant changes.
The Skylanders and vehicle are still extremely detailed, and the various upgrades and ability changes are still quite evident. The Instant version of the characters use skin variations (much like promotional versions of various characters), and it's fun to look over the changes. Dive-Clops is a favorite of mine and seeing that the Instant Dive-Clops is primarily gold in coloring helped me know instantly which version of the character I was using.
Playing on the iPad Mini 2, and the smaller screen is a change. When the camera zooms out (say when doing tricks with Hot Streak) the characters and vehicles can get very small. It's not an issue as such, but a bigger iPad might be better.
The change in detail level is noticeable for sure, but what's more likely to draw some ire is slowdown. When there is a lot happening on screen, the framerate drops significantly. This is mainly a rendering issue, and I never felt like I wasn't in control of the character. The iPad Mini2 is two year old now, which is a long time in iPad terms, and it's entirely possible that a faster iPad would cope better.
I won't make too general an assumption here, but I don't think most younger players will fret too much about the relative visuals. If they understand the difference visually between a DVD and a Blu-ray then that's different story.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
On the iPad, 'SuperChargers' is a stereo affair. With all of the voice-acting, music, and sound effects intact, it's still a charming presentation. I felt like the humor of 'SuperChargers' was a nice upgrade over the past installments, and that enjoyable characteristic is here on the iPad for everyone to enjoy.
This is the whole enchilada. The starter pack alone should keep players entertained long after they beat the sizable campaign. Not only are the racing modes and Skystones sizable additions in their own right, but there is a multitude of challenges to complete. Some of these challenges happen in their own special levels, while others send players back into campaign levels with special goals. Tracking down all the mods and special abilities can be fun even without ever picking up another character.
Personally, I think adding a single sea vehicle and air vehicle to the game just makes sense, as each opens up huge parts of the game. So with the Starter Kit and two extra vehicles, players can feel pretty good about the whole "add-on" content concept for this game.
Even after seeing impressive pre-release versions of 'Skylanders SuperChragers' on iPad, I though the end result would be too much of a compromise. Now that I've had to set up the hardware myself and play the game I know so well from the consoles, I have to conclude that 'Skylanders SuperChragers' is one of the most ambitious and successfully executed console to iPad transitions ever. Everything I enjoyed on the console is there on the iPad, and with 'SuperChargers' that is a lot of content.
- Compatible with:
- Apple TV
- iPad Air, iPad Air 2
- iPad 3, iPad 4
- iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4
- iPad Pro
- iPhone 5s, iPhone 5/5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus
- iPod touch 6
- Online Co-op
- Online Versus
- System Link
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