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Skylanders: Swap Force

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii, WiiU, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2013 (US), Oct. 18, 2013 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS3 Review - 'Skylanders: Swap Force' Tower of Time Adventure Pack

by Brian Dumlao on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

Skylanders SWAP Force combines collectible real-world toys with an epic virtual game world, featuring 16 new SWAP Force characters, along with 32 core Skylanders characters and eight new LightCore characters.

With Skylanders: Swap Force, Activision is offering battle packs and adventure packs to add more content to the game. We recently received the Tower of Time Adventure Pack. Once the Tower of Time figure is placed on the Portal of Power, the game unlocks the new stage and plays a cut scene that shows a mysterious clock tower appearing in Woodburrow. While Tessa is apprehensive about checking it out, Flynn dives in and is sent to a place that controls time in Skylands. He learns that a bird named Cluck has taken over the clock tower and has initiated an infinite time loop with the help of his minions. It's up to the Skylanders to gather the necessary items to unlock the clock tower and set things right.

One thing that's impressive about the level is how closely it emulates levels found on the game disc. The cut scenes are filled with the game's trademark humor, and they're all fully voiced. The levels are multi-tiered in terms of goals and are filled with lots of secret areas and minigames. Like the levels in the main game, there are a number of areas that require new figures with specific abilities (dig and spin), and a few areas are locked to anyone who doesn't have specific elements (Tech and a Water/Life combo unless you're playing co-op). There's even a Giant crate available for those who have one. The game has an area for Climb abilities and an area for Air, so not everything is locked away for those who haven't purchased anything beyond the Starter Kit. Also, there are sections where the Air and Water elements are strong, so you're not at an immediate disadvantage until the final area, which strengthens Magic Skylanders.

The stage adds some new mechanics for interesting platforming scenarios. There are time switches all over the area, so users can temporarily freeze the environment — and enemy movement. The first half of the stage contains lots of steam switches that control platform behavior, though it does so with a delay in movement between switches. The second half of the stage contains water pressure pumps, which work on the same principle as water jets that push floating blocks in specific directions. Combined, there are plenty of situations where you need to hit switches and freeze time at just the right moment to safely cross or retrieve a key for the locked gate. While the puzzles aren't tough to figure out, you'll appreciate the thought put into some of them.

The new stage means new art assets, music and enemy types. Trolls replace the grunts from the main game, and most wield large hammers that hit pretty hard. They have a few variations, including ones who throw explosive barrels. Clock Geargolems are large and spin around, making them impervious to any attack until you freeze time. There's the Time Spellpunk, who may be weak on attacks but nullifies the time switch abilities, so they're high-priority targets when Clock Geargolems are around. Then, of course, there's the boss, Cluck, who performs a series of shockwave slam attacks and occasionally spreads out laser fire. Like the main game, the enemies are well designed, though Cluck is the only one who exhibits any real personality.

As any Skylanders player will discover, stages don't scale in monster difficulty according to the level of Skylander in play. Early stages are a cakewalk in terms of combat while later ones can be troublesome if you only have low-level Skylanders at your disposal. To that end, the Tower of Time stage is meant for advanced Skylanders since the enemies inflict large chunks of damage with each hit and take some time to defeat when compared to enemies in earlier levels. For those who aren't accustomed to reading enemy attack tells and can't handle large enemy crowds, the battles here can be frustrating early on, and it only gets worse. Having said that, the amount of experience given per kill is very sizeable, and if you're patient, you can level up your characters several times over before you reach the halfway point. For example, just playing in the area where Air Skylanders are strengthened, a level 1 Free Ranger became a level 6 with plenty of experience to spare. If you're looking for a quick leveling fix, this is the area.

The Tower of Time figure also unlocks a battle arena that's roughly the same size as the other arenas in the game. You have a central platform that's surrounded by several moving gears, most of which have a tendency to drop and come back without much warning. Surrounding that is an outer ring that moves in the opposite direction and is much thinner than the rest of the platforms but contains teleporters that whisk the player back to the center platform. The stage is nice due to the amount of free space, though players can fall to their doom if they're not careful. It's perfect for Ring Out-style matches. Unfortunately, that's the only way to play the stage because a regular battle arena version isn't available.

Like all of the other adventure figures, the Tower of Time can be used as a weapon. In this case, clock pieces and gears rain from the sky and damage anyone in the area. The duration of the debris rain is short, but the damage is substantial enough to help you out in a pinch.

Two of the other figures are magic items that can be used in combat, though only one is useful in most situations. The Battle Hammer adds a powerful melee attack to your normal attacks, making it very useful in boss battles or against a crowd of tough enemies. Like all magic items, it can only be used once per stage. The other item is the Sky Diamond, which lets you get more money when enemies are defeated. The item is useful, but the associated timer moves too quickly, making it an item you only want to use when you know the enemies can be quickly dispatched.

The final figure in the pack is Pop Thorn, a Skylander of the Air element. A projectile-based attacker, his primary attack is a short-range barrage of spikes and his secondary attack is a long-range blast of air. While he isn't mobile when attacking, button-mashers will enjoy that he can dish out lots of attacks in a short time span. More frugal gamers will enjoy that the pack provides a Skylander with an element that's not available in the Starter pack. Though it isn't a Swap Force figure, it's one less element that's needed to unlock everything in the game.

The Tower of Time Adventure Pack is a great addition to Skylanders: Swap Force. The included figure has lots of useful attacks and is perfect for those who love ranged combat. The extra magic items are also nice, but the adventure is the most valuable aspect. With a stage that feels like any of the disc-based ones and contains lots of secrets to unlock, it's more than just an afterthought level. It's also a nice bonus that low-level characters can level up quickly. For those looking to expand the game just a little further, this pack is worth picking up.

Score: 8.0/10

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