When I first started playing Skylanders for the review I was happy enough. It's a solid, well-made game with a funny script, interesting characters and a fun little gimmick. Before long, however, this gimmick would become the very thing that made me annoyed with Skylanders.
The gimmick in question - the Portal Of Power - is a little plastic platform that lights up and sits on your desk. When you place a Skylanders toy on the portal, that character appears in the game and lets you play as them. Want to swap characters? Simple! Just take the toy off the portal and put a different one on.
For the first ten minutes this is great fun, especially since each character's stats, wearable hat and nickname are stored on the toy itself. I entertained myself for a while by simply swapping characters and chuckling when the rude names I gave them appeared on the screen. But that's by the by.
About half-an-hour into the game, this happened:
(I skipped the cutscene by the way - it goes on for quite a bit longer showing off his moves and everything).
Here's the thing. The game comes with three Skylander toys, each representing a different element. There's Spyro (magic), Gill Grunt (water) and Trigger Happy (tech). There are 32 toys in total, representing a total of eight elements. This is where the problem lies.
Much like the LEGO Star Wars games, each level has certain areas that can only be accessed by specific types of character. Some rooms in LEGO Star Wars could only be opened by droids, some parts in LEGO Harry Potter can only be accessed by small animals and so on.
The point in those games was that you would play through the levels the first time around and see areas you couldn't reach, then you would get the required characters later in the game and could go back, replaying the level to explore new parts.
Skylanders follows a similar route - there are some areas that can only be accessed if you're using a Skylander of a certain element. But if there are eight elements in total and my £49.99 game only comes with three figures, then I'm looking at buying another five figures at £7.99 RRP a pop before I can see every area on my disc. That's £89.94.
Granted, there are some triple-packs you can buy for about £17.99, potentially knocking a few quid off that, but the point remains - you're paying a lot more than the standard £39.99 to see every part of this game.
Then, if you want to take it to the next level, each Skylander has their own special challenge and the game gives you achievements for collecting a certain number of them. This means if you're the sort who obsesses over completing games 100% then you will need to collect all 32 Skylanders.
Going by the £7.99 rule that means you could pay (at most) £281.70 to 100% the game. That's more than a Wii and a 3DS put together.
Sorry, but this is disgusting. It doesn't matter how good the game is or how well the portal works when this perfectly normal gameplay mechanic is no longer a free part of the game.
What would you do if you played a new LEGO Star Wars game and it said: "sorry, you need a Jedi to enter this area - head to your nearest LEGO retailer and buy LEGO Luke Skywalker for £7.99"? Many wouldn't put up with it.