I think one of the biggest surprises for me this year has to be Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure.  I will be honest and say I’d never even heard of the game until I found myself wandering around the thousands of toys at Toys R Us. Specifically in the middle of the video game section, where a demo station for the game was set up.  I started to play with the demo and I was hooked.  Hooked: line and sinker, descaled, batter fried and served with fries (or chips if you are on the other side of the world). Oh yeah, add a pint of beer.  Clearly you’re likely asking yourself why someone that is not under the age of 13 is so passionate about this game.  The answer is simple…it is awesome! Ok, now go buy it.

The End

Kidding!  Timing is important, and with the holidays and unholy sales of Black Friday coming, I’ll explain with detail why on Earth you should get this game not only for your kids, but for yourself as well.  Skylanders (and notice I don’t keep saying Spyro’s Adventure every time I say it because Spyro is as far away from this game as you can get), is a game that offers a new experience and what we all have been wanting from the Pokémon series for ages.  The best way that I can describe it is if you grab the “got to catch them all” mentality, add a little bit of the elemental monster controls from that 360 launch title Kameo, a dash of  puzzles,  a cup of collectable card games, and top it with awesome technology, you have Skylanders. Spyro is just a character in the game, and if you don’t like the little dragon, you don’t even have to use him.  He is not the main character; it’s really more of an ensemble cast and you could go through the game without seeing much of him.  If you are a fan of Spyro, all you have to do is play more with him and you get your fix. Win/Win situation :D

It’s a fun and addicting game that takes you to a land where Lord Kaos (yes, with a K) voiced by none other than Richard Steven Horvitz, aka Zim from Invader Zim (Lord Kaos looks a bit like Zim, too, hmm…). Anyways, Kaos has been trying to get rid of the Skylanders and somehow, he won.  The Skylanders were pushed to Earth where they became toys and now they need a new portal master (that’s you!) to help them get back to Skylands by the use of the portal.

The starter pack comes with three figures, the portal, and the game.  Now, you can finish the game without any other Skylanders, but where is the fun in that?  You could beat your neighbor with the sixty card starter deck for Magic: The Gathering too, yet you made sure to buy a few boosters; same with this game. In order to get all of the secret areas, of which there are plenty, you’ll need a Skylander from each elemental type.  They are eight different elements:  fire, water, magic, tech, air, undead, earth and life. The starter pack brings you a magic, tech, and water Skylander to start your adventures.

Each character can be renamed to whatever you like, plus the addition of hats as you find them. The hats are not just for fun either.  The hats increase your  stats and you can play with the stats in a way to either make your Skylander have more on damage, defense, or make him more balanced. The figure also comes with a stats card and stickers.   As you play with your character, he levels up and becomes more powerful. Going through the levels give you coins that you can later use to upgrade your Skylanders powers to make them super bad-ass! For example “Gill”, who I named “Kill Gill,” starts with a harpoon. By the end of the game, he had an infinite water pack, water pressure, and was completely unstoppable.  Many Skylanders will get amazing upgrades and there are two different type of upgrades once you get the basics.  I have the Spyro that came in the box and I bought the Toys R Us exclusive limited edition pack.  So I leveled both of them up, one has a range attack, the other is more of a tank.

Hex: not yet released...but I want her!

The fun does not stop there! In order to play co-op  all you have to do is turn the second controller on and put a second Skylander on the portal!   Switching between Skylanders is as easy as just picking them up, and removing them, chose a new one and TA DA!  Your Skylander is ready to party at whatever point in the game you are in.  This comes in very handy when fighting bosses.

The game does not stop there.  Even though it has a really nice story, bosses that can give you a run for your money, and a great cast of characters and voice actors, you can take all this fun with you everywhere.  Want to go to your friend’s house and kick his… uh, I mean, play co-op on his system?  No problem!  Your stats (including level up, coins, and hats) are saved in the figure itself, so even if he’s stuck with a Wii that he bought for his kids while you rock the 360 or PS3, it’s compatible across all systems.  Your Skylanders will play with any version of the game.

If you think this game can not possible get any cooler, you are wrong.  Connect your Portal to your PC and visit the Skylander site.  Once there, get an account and you can play online (kind of like Facebook mini games), upload all your characters and stats,  buy pieces to make your own private Skyland room, and so much more!

Wow! All this in one game?  Yes!  It is going to be really hard for me to go back to a Pokémon or Pokémon-like game after playing Skylanders if they don’t feature at least half of what Skylanders have to offer.   The game plays wonderfully, there’s no lag when switching characters out on your portal, and they are releasing adventure packs (see also: paid downloadable content), so the game is never over.  A ton of characters have not been released yet and we are hoping that some of them will be available this Christmas.

Trigger Happy doing what he does best!

The few downsides that I found about the game was that I could not adjust difficulty.  In some areas I wanted to have “hardcore mode” where more enemies would come at me,  but I had to remind myself that they really target it for kids, which is a shame.  Signing up to the online PC portion of the game is easy, but it kept saying things like “With your parents permission” or “Parents section” and I could not help but feel bad, as it felt as if I was not welcome.  I understand that the game is geared to a way younger audience, but it is so well done that all adults should play it.  It should be a universal game, no matter what the age is.  It is like LEGOs, and specifically, the LEGO games in that sense.  A large population of adults enjoy them as well!

I’m not a kid and I loved it.  My 13 year old neighbor and his “bad-ass” friend played it (even though it’s for kids and stuff) and I could not get them off the TV even though food was involved with the bribe. I had to agree that if they got off the game, they could come back another day to play it!  It’s addicting, it’s fun, and it’s definitely a game you want to get to play with your kids.  If not, get it for yourself…you won’t be disappointed.

PS: It also has PvP arenas ;)