Like a Yoplait Light, it's a swapportunity.
Not taking Skylanders seriously is easy. It's a family-friendly kids game with simplistic gameplay and bright, happy colors meant for its age group. It's about as far away from hardcore gaming as possible. But that's only if you think that making money isn't hardcore, because if you combine all of the sales in 2012 from the Skylanders video games and their numerous, inexpensive, surprisingly well-crafted figurines, it dominated every other toy brand. We're talking bigger than Call of Duty, bigger than Transformers, even bigger than Star Wars. Skylanders: Swap Force will only feed the beast.
If you've read my first, pre-E3 preview for the title, you'll know that Swap Force is all about detachable figurines, split into top and bottom halves held together by magnets. Thus, every purchase of one of the new sixteen Swap Force figurines will yield double the number of possible combinations. (That's 2n for you math geeks!) Just make sure you or your kid doesn't lose half of one or leaves half at their friend's house. It's bound to happen…
So that means you can combine the swashbuckling pirate octopus Wash Buckler with the magnetized, single-wheeled robot Magna Charge and create two options: Wash Charge, The Single-Wheeled Pirate; or Magna Buckler, The One-Eyed Robot Octopus. Either one works. (As band names too.) While this is certainly an incentive for fans to purchase every Swap Force figurine, as well as the eight new core figurines and the Series 2/3 versions of their favorite past Skylanders, this gimmick expresses itself through the gameplay.
Not only can players combine the powers of two separate pieces however they choose, but they'll need the help of a user-crafted Skylander to open dual-elemental gates. The only other way to unlock them is to play cooperatively, using the handy drop-in/drop-out multiplayer system, and place two Skylanders of the correctly paired elements. (Or I suppose players can cheat the system by activating co-op even if no one else is around and then revert back to solo mode after taking care of the gate.) Either way, the new Portal of Power will be a necessary upgrade in order to recognize the different top and bottom halves.
Swap Force works exactly as you would expect a Skylanders title to—hats and all—with minor adjustments. Chaos returns once more, this time attempting to "evilize" otherwise peaceful creatures with petrified darkness. But it's still about exploring linear levels upon islands in the sky, collecting treasure, knocking out waves of enemies, and figuring out the occasional box puzzle.
That said, the level cap has been raised from 15 to 20, every Skylander can now jump, and the graphical fidelity has been improved dramatically to suit both current and next-gen consoles. For added replay, both Hard and Nightmare difficulties will net players more experience and gold, and timed challenges and score attack challenges will unlock after playing the game once through.
As one of the very few family titles releasing for both next-gen systems, Skylanders Swap Force is slated for October 13, 2013 for Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo 3DS, and is setting up to be a launch title for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.