The Skylanders, toy/video game characters in the successful same-named franchise from Activision, continues to remain one of the gaming world's strongest brands, with the first two installments, "Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure" and "Skylanders: Giants" setting records by exceeding sales of $500 million sooner than any other toy property in history. The Skylanders are playable on virtually all platforms, including Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, 3DS, Wii and Wii U.
Recommended for ages 10-and-up, part of the "Skylanders" appeal is the special portal that allows figures to appear in the video game when placed on the portal. The sequel to "Giants," and the third installment in the series, "Skylanders: SWAP Force," takes the interactive aspect of the game a step further by adding not only sixteen new characters, but designing them with interchangeable parts, allowing players to "swap" characters to create entirely unique pieces with which to play. The new "Skylanders" have upper and lower detachable parts which can be "swapped" with either other new characters or even with figures from previous "Skylanders" versions. The "swapping" feature encourages experimentation as well as adding a unique visual "reward" via the 3-D environment of the game.
"Swapping" is most beneficial to players when encountering physical obstacles that may stymie an individual Skylander, but after "swapping" either an upper or lower body part with a different character, allows the Skylander to either leap or fly over the obstacle, power through it, or even burrow under it, depending on the unique "swapped" skill-set. The interchangeable "jumping" feature is completely unique to "SWAP Force," not included in the earlier installments.
"SWAP Force's" storyline introduces a brand-new adventure for Portal Masters (or players) to experience, although the enemy remains the evil Kaos and his subservient underlings, and the Cloudbreak Islands again provide the scene of battle(s). There are several side (or 'mini-') quests (puzzles, encounters with new enemies, etc.) for Portal Masters to complete, each revealing new characters to assist players in meeting the newest challenges. Unlike similar games with often-distracting and non-relevant side adventures, "SWAP Force" offers story-driven quests that make the overall game "fuller" and never seem to be merely "filler."
As in the earlier installments, "SWAP Force" is visually stunning, with the 3-D environment giving players eye-catching depth and color graphics that only add to the experience. With the addition of the "mix-and-match" feature, with players being encouraged to experiment with unlikely combinations of characters, "SWAP Force" has introduced an original gaming aspect that's certain to become a "tour de force" among dedicated gamers.