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March 2018

Skylanders SuperChargers

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2015 (US), Sept. 25, 2015 (EU)


WiiU/PS4/XOne Multiplayer Preview - 'Skylanders SuperChargers'

by Adam Pavlacka on Aug. 10, 2015 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

At the helm of powerful, tricked-out land, sea and sky vehicles, Portal Masters can engage in a high-octane action-adventure videogame like never before.

Since vehicles are the big "hook" for this year's Skylanders game, having a dedicated racing mode seems like an obvious choice. After all, driving around the world is one thing, but duking it out against your friends is a whole other experience. We met up with Activision and a handful of other media folks to go hands-on with one of the new multiplayer modes in Skylanders SuperChargers.

You could always play with a friend in the Skylanders games, but much like the LEGO titles, were limited to local co-op. Skylanders SuperChargers keeps the local co-op but also adds online co-op, local split-screen and up to four-player online competitive racing. We were able to try out the last option, with each of us taking control of a PlayStation 4 and a handful of Skylanders.

One of the core elements of Skylanders gameplay has always been the swapping of characters on the portal. When you want to switch to someone new, you just do it. That works for local play, but with online racing, the idea of swapping out at any time introduces some problems, so Skylanders SuperChargers makes a few tweaks to how things work. Instead of swapping characters on the fly, you can instead "register" up to four drivers and four vehicles during the pre-race setup. You can swap between the registered characters between races from the game's menu. There is no need to worry about changing out the physical characters once the action starts.

There are a total of six different courses to race on: two land, two sea and two sky. All of the courses are immediately available, assuming you have a vehicle of the appropriate type. The Skylanders SuperChargers starter set comes with a land vehicle. You'll need to buy sea and sky vehicles to race on those tracks.

We decided to go for a sea course first, so I chose Dive-Clops (if there was such a thing as a Skylanders version of a Big Daddy, he was it) and the Dive Bomber sub. The first course was the Mystical Vault, which is a fairly large course set inside something that looked like an old temple. There were target gates that switched between red and blue, depending on a countdown clock. Going through the currently highlighted gates meant a speed boost.

Playing the game immediately reminded me of Hydro Thunder, albeit a simpler version of Midway's arcade classic. The water looked good, and boats had just the right amount of "floaty" movement to them. The ability to temporarily dive underwater was a plus, allowing us to discover hidden speed boost rings. Multiple paths through the level were evident, though none seemed to provide a speed advantage. All routes were of similar length.

The second sea course, Frozen Fossil Festival, was set outdoors. Maybe it's because I'd already had a chance to explore the prior level and was eager to dive, but Frozen Fossil Festival seemed to have more hidden routes than the Mystical Vault. Visually, the ice motif made this track more impressive than the last.

Across both courses, weapons and special items were in full use. All items activated immediately on pick-up. This is good for younger players, but it does remove some of the strategy that Mario Kart veterans are used to, as you don't have the option to save key items for later.

After two rounds of racing, we decided to give one of the supercharged challenges a try. Loading up a course titled Buzz Off!, it was time to take to the air with the Super Shot Stealth Elf. This mode wasn't a race in the traditional sense. Instead, we were all playing for a high score. The goal was to fly through a canyon and shoot down as many bees as possible. Continuously shooting targets increased the score multiplier.

Flying through the canyon was easy enough, but this challenge certainly lived up to its name. Learning how to properly target enemies took a little getting used to, as the reticle auto-targets when close to an enemy. This works well in a standard race when there are only seven other racers, but it can be a bit disconcerting when there are multiple enemies all swarming the same area. After the first lap, things started to make a little more sense. Of all the vehicles I raced during the multiplayer session, the sky vehicles felt the most responsive.

Finally, it was time to hop into one of the land tracks. For this, my car of choice was the Crypt Crusher, for no real reason aside from the fact that the toy looked cool. Shark Shooter Terrafin was my driver for the exact same reason.

Dragon Spine starts out by racing in a town, but after a few seconds, you are racing right down a large dragon's back. There are multiple dragons (and small towns) that make up the course, so while the first half is warm and sunny, the second half is covered in ice. Speed boost pads here are of the typical type, though weapons work the same as they did in the sea and sky courses. Racing down Dragon Spine was fairly straightforward, with some basic jumps but nothing crazy. If anything, it played like a course that was meant to introduce players to racing.

The final course we played was Chompy Garden, which was set, as the name implies, in a garden. All of the Skylanders were shrunken down to mouse size, so everything making up the course was huge. Multiple jumps across lily pads gave the track a feeling of danger, though it was the focused sunbeam coming through the magnifying glass that was the real problem. Hitting that was a good way to drop back a few places. Of the two land tracks, Chompy Garden is definitely the one I wanted to come back to for more.

As I mentioned earlier, each race has a total of eight racers participating. Four of those can be human players, but the remaining four are always AI players. Skylanders SuperChargers uses the AI players along with some rubberbanding techniques to help ensure that races are always somewhat close and no one wins with a blowout.

Although you can start racing as soon as you get the game, playing with a specific vehicle offers long term benefits because they can be leveled up (and customized) just like the regular Skylanders characters. The garage area allows you to adjust horns, performance mods, specialty mods and weapons on your car.

After playing for a little over an hour it's easy to see the appeal in the multiplayer race mode. No, it's not going to offer the cutthroat competition of Mario Kart 8 or the detailed options of Forza Horizon 2, but as an option within Skylanders, it could be a great way to get younger players introduced to the fun that is online racing. It's also a feature that should help Skylanders SuperChargers stand apart from Disney Infinity 3.0 and LEGO Dimensions.

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