By land, sea, and air!
To Activision's chagrin, Amazon accidentally outed Skylanders SuperChargers several days ago, and I know what most Skylanders fans were thinking when they heard about this new installment from Vicarious Visions: "Oh crap, yet another portal to buy." So let me be the bearer of good news: You will not need to purchase the new Portal of Power, at least in physical form. This time, you can simply purchase a digital Portal Owners Pack and plug in any old portal you own. Yay for backward compatibility.
So with that sigh of relief, the core offering of SuperChargers boils down to the addition vehicles, for land, sea, and sky. Kaos has returned once more and has created his Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction that is creating tears in space, sending a call to action by Master Eon to the elite pilots comprising the SuperChargers. Each of the 20 new vehicles will come with a new Skylander specifically paired with it. Yes, you can mix and match the vehicles with the Skylanders as you wish (this includes the approximately 300 legacy Skylanders that already exist), but if you couple the right Skylander with his or her vehicle of choice, that will unlock its Supercharged version with better speed, enhanced weapons, and neon-glowing auras.
In a hands-off demo of an early PS4 build of the game, producer Chris Wilson started with Hot Streak, a land-based vehicle with furious engines and blue-green wheels, along with the Skylander Stormblade. Using her speedy daggers and falcon-like dashing ability, she decimated every enemy storm cloud with ease, making the traditional platforming sections a breeze. The same goes for Spitfire, who has deadly claws for melee attacks and can create fiery vortexes just by spinning, as well as Super Shot Stealth Elf, who wields a Splinter Cannon and can go invisible while turning the cannon into a turret.
As you might suspect, every level has the occasional puzzle (in this case, Stormblade had to rotate laser beams) and has its own gimmick. In Cloud Kingdom, that amounts to having a limited line of sight where can only see past the clouds—a fog of war, if you will—about as far as the width of the screen. There’s also an unnamed level that will take place in a temple on the back of a dragon, as it sways back and forth, as well as a farm where you’ll need to shrink and grow objects to proceed.
Eventually, you'll encounter a section that requires a vehicle, and while you'll only need a land-based vehicle to complete the game (Hot Streak comes in the Starter Pack), you probably won't want to miss out on the sea- and sky-based portions. That said, all of the vehicle sections work similarly with both the land and sea vehicles needing to evade obstacles, collect gear bits, dive off ramps, and zip through speed arrows.
To add a point of difference, sea vehicles like the Dive Bomber can descend underwater not just to evade spiked rotating logs but to discover an entirely different tier to the level. The single sky course I saw, featuring the Sky Slicer, was an on-rails stage where you can pilot planes through hoops. One other neat feature for vehicles is that once you collect one of the vehicular mods, some in plain sight and some found in somewhat hidden divergent paths, you can immediately switch out the mods for alternate looks and stat boosts.
As you might suspect, Skylanders SuperChargers will bring back several features from the franchise. The new Live Wire Lock mini-game, which you’ll encounter when your Skylander faces a locked door, will have you lead a bite-sized character through a precarious maze to a lever. Skystones also makes a comeback with Skystones Overdrive, which hasn’t been detailed much yet, but if you own the trap pieces from the previous installment and have a villain inside of them, you’ll get their Skystone in this Overdrive variant of the game.
The vehicles-to-life Skylanders SuperChargers is slated for release on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, and iPad on September 20 in North America, September 25 in Europe, and September 24 in Australia. The Starter Pack will remain at $74.99 and include Spitfire, his paired vehicle Hot Streak, and Super Shot Stealth Elf. Each new Skylander will cost $12.99 and each Supercharger vehicle will cost $14.99. There’s no word on additional bundle offers, but I would like to see duo packages that bundle the vehicle with their paired Skylander (would make sense, no?).