Skylanders is a game that is made to sell products, little figurines that depict the characters within the game. It's a well-made game with some cool tech, but at its core that's what it feels like, and that's its greatest problem.
Skylanders, which is laughably subtitles Spyro's Adventure for some reason (he is about as important as the other 31 characters in the game, and has no relevance to the plot whatsoever) begins when a magical world needs your help. You, a portal master, have the ability to summon in creatures and use them to save the world from the evil machinations of Kaos - voiced by the same guy who did Invader Zim, one of my favourite cartoons.
Saving the world involves going to a variety of colourful locations to collect plot doodads to save the world, fighting enemies, solving puzzles, and collecting all things collectible along the way. The gameplay isn't complicated, but good for the age group that this title is aimed at: each creature has two attacks to take down enemies and barriers. Some places require you to use tools or solve puzzles to proceed as well, but again, nothing complex. There is a surprising amount of levels to play through, though, giving you perhaps 20 or so hours of gameplay if you're not running around trying to find everything.
It's the technology that really has Skylanders sticking out. See, as a portal master, you have access to a portal, through which you can place Skylander figurines on to summon them. Bringing in a character is literally as easy as placing the figure on the portal and watching them appear on screen. Want to play two-player? Simply put another figure on. Switching characters can be done at any time, and again, is just about pulling the old character off and throwing the new one on. This simple action is great for kids who just want to play as their favourite character; there are no menus to wade through, no loading to sit by and watch.
Each Skylander has its own moves, its own skillset, and the ability to level up and upgrade its abilities, which it can do by collecting experience and cash, respectively. Interestingly, this data is saved to the figurine itself, meaning you can take the progress you've made on one character and bring it to a friend's place to show them off. This is a pretty cool idea, similar to a memory card that's easier to use.
Though the game can be played with the three characters you get in your starting pack with the game, it's impossible to access all the content in the game with them. There are eight elements in the Skylands, and each character applies to one element: fire, water, air, life, undead, earth, tech, and magic. Throughout the levels, apart from areas where certain element are stronger, you'll find gates that require you to be a certain element to bypass. These gates are never necessary to beat the level, but many of them (if not all) are necessary to get everything the game has to offer.
This means, of course, that unless you buy at minimum five new figurines (one for each element), you can not get everything in the game. This is one of my biggest complaints for the title: it feels like you're being sold an incomplete game. It's one thing to offer a game, then offer extra parts of it for money, but to blatantly remove entire paths of the title simply to sell toys is too much for my liking.
As a gamer, I don't like Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. I don't like what's it's trying to do and I don't like how it does it. On the other hand, the game is perfect for a younger audience, and the technology behind the little figurines is pretty cool. This is a great game for kids, and a terrible one for your wallet, so just know that if you get this for a younger gamer, you may eventually be picking up all 32 of the figures eventually. It's fun, with a colorful style, simple gameplay, and a whole lot of interesting places to explore. Just know what you're getting into.