Skylanders is a misunderstood game. Let's wind our clocks back to the year 2011. When Skylanders was originally announced, it got a lot of negative criticism because it seems that they shoved Spyro into the game. But let's put that aside shall we? As on release day things changed, it was praised for it's genius way of linking both video games and toys, something that has not been see before. Let’s see how much genius is in Skylanders.
Likes talk about the concept behind the toys-to-life genre, and why it sets apart. Mixing together video games and toys has been a largely untapped resource before Skylanders came along in 2011, but thanks to series who pioneered the idea, it was finally been brought together.
Firstly, you have the figures that act as characters. At any point during the game, you can place a character onto the round base called the portal of power, and the character will come to life within the game. You can switch characters at any time, so you can always have the right character for the job. Each character will retain his/her stats, upgrades and powers, meaning you can take the character around a friends house or different console and not lose any of your hard work.
To keep things interesting and fresh, every new Skylanders game has a new “gimmick” to the figures. Each brings something new to the series and are all forwards compatible, meaning no characters are locked to one particular game. Here's a rundown of the main different types of figures which there have been over the years, taking in mind each game has lots of gameplay additions.
> Spyro's Adventure introduced the core figures and the whole toys to life concept.
> Giants featured giant figures, which were twice as big and had different functions within the game. Giants also featured lightcore figures, which light up on the portal without batteries.
> Swap Force featured figures that could be split into two parts and mix and matched with other swap force characters, creating hundreds of different combinations.
> Trap Team featured trap masters, who could trap villains into special traptanium traps. These are real world traps, which when inserted into the special portal of power talk to the player through a speaker. The player then also can play the villain in-game too!
> Superchargers has vehicles, which come in three different types – land, sea and air. The special supercharger Skylanders all have a corresponding vehicle, and can also upgrade and modify supercharger vehicles.
> Imaginators allows you to create your own Skylanders, using special creation crystals. These new Skylanders are trained by Sensei’s and former villain-turned-hero Skylanders.
The Skylanders are the heroes of the series, so let’s talk about them. Adding all the main series Skylanders together, you get to around 150 – that’s an impressive number. This means no matter which game you are playing, you will always have awesome characters to play as. While I’m on the subject of Skylanders, there are two noteable heroes in the series. One is Spyro. Yes he is present and has his original moves of charging, fire breath, flight and head bash. The other notable character is Crash Bandicoot! After years of hearing nothing about the Bandicoot, he makes his playable comeback in Skylanders Imaginators! It’s such a thrill to be able to play as both characters in one video game.
With loads of different characters, you may have the fear like some games, having loads of playable characters all have very similar moves. The abilities and moves that Skylanders have vary considerably. Here are a few examples:
> Chopper has heat-seaking missiles.
> Gill Grunt has a water cannon and quick firing harpoon.
> Thrillipede has four arms that can loads of bombs.
> Magma Charge can pick enemies and throw them.
> Terrafin can burrow underground.
> Starcast has massive ninja throwing stars
> Stealth Elf can make copies of herself to fool enemies.
Look who's CRASHING the party!
Skylanders come in ten elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Life, Magic, Tech, Water and Undead, with Dark and light Elements from Trap Team onwards. Most areas in Skylands have an element to them. Using a Skylander from the same element, it makes your hero stronger, increasing their attack strength. The other thing to look out for are elemental gates. These gates are sealed shut, unless you have a Skylander of that element.
Your Skylanders earn experience from defeating enemies, and level up to increase total health. When you collect enough treasure you can unlock and upgrade their moves and abilities, meaning they become a lot more powerful and useful.
A common misconception with the Toys-to-Life genre is you have to purchase loads of figures to complete the game. That’s not the case, as you can finish the main stories with only the characters included with each starter pack. But you will be missing out if you do this. But it's the fun of collecting the figures and finding out which Skylanders are your favourites, is one of the best parts of the Skylanders series.
The main gameplay of Skylanders is mainly traditional platforming and exploration. As you would expect there's plenty of items to collect like story scrolls, hats, treasure chests, legendary treasure and loads more. You will also spend time helping the locals, solving puzzles (which involves moving blocks, teleports, shining lights and picking locks) and completing races are just some of things you will do on your adventure. The other is Skystones. It's gone through a few different variations over the years, but it generally involves placing characters cards on a board to defeat your opponent. These break up the combat nicely.
Speaking of which, the rest of the game involves battling and combat. While initial fears seemed like it was going to be repetitive, its simply not the case. The reason it doesn't fall into the trap is because of the different fighting styles and moves of the Skylanders, and loads of types of enemies. It very rarely becomes a chore, especially since you can swap out Skylanders at any time. Battle arenas are also present which focuses on staying alive and levelling up your Skylanders, but even these are rarity.
If there's one aspect of the Skylanders series that has seen great improvement are the graphics. The designers have done a brilliant job of getting the best out of the graphics, with the environments look stunning. Skylands is made up of many locations with varying environments like grassy fields, travelling underground, exploring lava caves, snowy mountains, castles or volcano's, they sure look fantastic!
At the time, the concept was unique. No other game had the level of connectivity between figures and gaming. It was a truly unique concept which I am really glad has gone really well for Activision, as it has meant that each title in the series has brought forward more innovation for the Toys-to-Life genre. The trick to really enjoy Skylanders, as don't think about it as a Spyro game – think of it as a new series entirely.
My One Big Highlight
I could mention a few moments throughout my adventures throughout Skylanders. One of the first moments I do remember is playing Dragon's Peak, from the very first game. I was sad that the pure Spyro series is no more, so when I did play that particular level, (along with the awesome music) it really did feel like a Spyro level. So much so, that I won't play the level with anyone but Spyro!
Elephant In the Room
There is a problem (not just with Skylanders) with the toys-to-life genre – its expensive. To start with, you need to buy the starter packs, and then you can spend hundreds of pounds buying all the figures. You can get through each game with just the starter packs, so you don’t have to buy all the extra figures if you don’t want too.
Video Game soundtracks have generally been under appreciated compared to movie scores. Times are changing, with movie composers like Lorne Balfe now handling video games. A rise of quality is the result of this. The music in all the Skylanders games have been excellent, so it was a tough ask to whittle the list down to just 25 tracks. But here it is!
Note: I am aware that Lorne Balfe didn’t return for Imaginators, and instead stock music was used instead of new music. I thought I’d include all the games, so this is my definite ranking.
#25 Mirror of Mystery – Evil Mabus (Trap Team)
My first pick takes us to one of the story packs from Trap Team, so some of you may not of heard this theme. The story packs generally use remixed versions of pre-existing themes, whereas this level doesn’t and uses new ones, including this one. Good start!
#24 M.A.P. (Imaginators)
The M.A.P. (that stands for Mysterious Ancient Place) is a brand new hub world for Imaginators, which is massive and has loads of places to explore and stuff to do. This cheerful piece of music reflexes this well, with the track building as you explore.
#23 Secret Vault of Secrets (Giants)
This level is one of my favourites from Skylanders Giants, because it mixes the gameplay up. The majority of the level involves you controlling a giant Arkeyan Mech. This is reflected in the track, with the size of Giant Mechs and battling, especially the part at 1:30.
#22 Rumbletown (Giants)
I’m always debating which Skylanders soundtrack is my favourite, and this is one of the first tracks that I thought: yea, this soundtrack is going to be pretty good. The sense of adventure is littered throughout Skylands, and none so more than this epic track. A great level, a great track.
#21 The Swap Force (Swap Force)
This theme starts well, ends well, but I’m not a big fan of the electric solo at 1:05. That said, it still feels like a Skylanders theme, but never reaches the heights of the other Skylander themes.
#20 Exploring the Ruins (Spyro’s Adventure)
After the main theme, and Shattered Island this is probably the third track heard in the original Skylanders game. It’s a really mysterious track, which captures the essence of Skylanders well. I love the part when it turns up a notch, which my favourite part is at 1:48.
#19 Leviathan Lagoon (Spyro’s Adventure)
This is a really peaceful track and quite a peaceful level for the most part. This is one of few levels in the original game that allowed you to explore in the water if you are a water Skylander. That, coupled with the music, makes it a joy to explore.
#18 Aerial Attack (Giants)
You may of noticed (if you have skipped ahead to the No #1 pick) that the original Skylanders theme isn’t on this list. Instead, I prefer this action packed version from Giants. Here, Flynn’s Ship (which uses a different version of the original theme) is under attack, hence the faster feel.
#17 Abandoned Amusement Park (Imaginators)
Imaginators stock music varies in quality, but this is probably the best action packed theme. Even not knowing the level it is from, you get a sense of adventure and excitement – what an action packed Skylanders track should sound like.
#16 Chompy Mountain (Trap Team)
Trap Team has probably the most diverse soundtrack of any of the games. One minute you have the fast flowing theme, next you have a mysterious Know-it-all Island, now you have the upbeat Chompy Mountain. It’s a little underused in-game, but it really does give a nice cheery feel to the level – which counteracts Buzz’s erm, way of talking to his troops. Wait to 2:03 for the track to become even louder.
#15 Rift into Overdrive (Superchargers)
Now we have a track from Superchargers. An another great selection of music, and another great theme. It takes a little while to get going (it kicks in at 0:44), but then it keeps going with a melody and some great drum work.
#14 Rainfish Riviera (Trap Team)
A spiritual successor to Cutthroat Carnival, it follows a similar pattern in terms of style and structure. It doesn’t quite beat it in my books, but it’s still just as fast flowing and adventurous! 0:35 onwards has great use of drums, while the melody is still playing in the background.
#13 The Cloud Kingdom (Superchargers)
I quite this track for a number of reasons. The composer has managed to capture the old skool feeling of the original game, which is a nice call back. It also has a few different sections which keeps the track feeling nice and bouncy throughout.
#12 Giants Theme (Giants)
Skylanders Giants is still my favourite game from the series, and one of those reasons is because of this fantastic theme. It has a very grand scale feeling to the track, which keeps on building and building… until the track ends. It doesn’t have an interlude like the Swap Force theme, and is more action packed than the original.
#11 Sky Schooner Docks (Spyro’s Adventure)
If I had to pick one track that defines the beginning of the Skylanders universe, this would be the one. It screams mystery, adventure and danger all in one track. It’s when I first heard this track while playing Spyro’s Adventure for the first time that I knew the soundtrack was going to be something special, and I wasn’t wrong!
Look at Terrafin, he doesn't look too happy! Maybe Kaos hasn't given him his $5 back...
#10 Know-It-All Island (Trap Team)
This is quite similar to Gadfly Glades in a lot of ways. Very calming, very peaceful, and shows that Skylands isn’t just about beating the bad guys, it’s all about exploring new locations and finding it’s treasures. And that’s this track in a nutshell.
#9 Goo Factory (Spyro’s Adventure)
Many composers use aspects of the game’s main theme in various other tracks, and the first Skylanders is no exception. Based in a war setting, here we have a very different version of the game’s theme played with a very dangerous, war-like sound, especially when it kicks in at 1:35. I’m still surprised why this wasn’t included on the official soundtrack.
#8 The Superchargers (Superchargers)
There was a little confusion when the official soundtrack for Superchargers got released. Is this the game’s theme, or is the track Rift into Overdrive? We now know it’s the latter, but this could of easily of been the game’s theme. It slowly builds up until 0:30 with an action packed rift. It’s one of the strongest tracks that Lorne Balfe has done to date.
#7 The Senseis (Imaginators)
Another excellent stock music choice, I was conviced until proven otherwise that this track was actually composed by Lorne Balfe. It feels like a progression of the main Skylander themes, and so it turned out to be one of my favourites.
#6 Surviving Motleyville (Swap Force)
I was a little disappointed with some of the levels in Swap Force, but this level is by far the best in the game, and one of my all time favourites. The music that accomplices the track is loud, has interesting use of voices and has a very adventurous feel. The track builds as you progress through the level, until you here this version in the above video. What a great track.
#5 Trap Team theme (Trap Team)
Here it is ladies and gentlemen, my favourite Skylanders theme. This is a funny track, as I thought it was a bit underwhelming at first, that is for a Skylander main theme. But the more I heard it, the more impressed I was by it. So much so, that it overtook Giants as my favourite.
#4 Dragon’s Peak (Spyro’s Adventure)
Many of us Spyro fans were a little disappointed that Skylanders wasn’t a true Spyro game. But this adventure pack level filled that void nicely. Set in a dragon world (which I think is the same world as where Spyro comes from), it has a very Spyro 1 feel to it, right down to the music. Still one of the best extra levels in the series, this music really gets you in the mood for some classic Spyro action!
#3 Gadfly Glades (Superchargers)
Here comes my favourite track from Superchargers. It’s a beautiful piece of music, with a very relaxing style, which unlike some other tracks stays that way throughout it’s duration. It really works with the level it’s used in, and I hope there is some sort of remix of it in the future.
#2 Cutthroat Carnival (Giants)
I was blown away the first time I heard this track, and rightly so, as it’s one of the bustiest tracks in the whole series. Many instruments are used in Cutthroat Carnival, including fantastic use of percussion and that pirate sounding instrument, which really gets you in the mood for the level.
#1 Arkeyan Armory (Spyro’s Adventure)
My favourite track in the whole Skylanders series. What can I say about this track? It’s a perfect compliment to the Skylanders as a group of heroes. It has a very epic feel, and the way it keeps building and building until the whole orchestra nearly explodes. If I could pick one track that represents the Skylanders, this is the one that I would choose.
Lorne Balfe has now composed five whole games, and each one still surprises with it’s quality and variety of music that’s on offer. It isn’t just a great video game soundtrack – it matches a lot of movie scores too. The music is still one of my favourite parts of the series, and I hope the composer stays on – because I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next.
Skylanders is an action platformer with a twist. By placing figures known as Skylanders on a real-life portal, you beam your chosen character into the game. With over 140 Skylanders to collect and six big adventures to explore, take down Kaos and the darkness by the way of combat, driving, creating, platforming, puzzle solving and boss battling.Purchase