I’ll happily admit that I’m a Skylanders fan. From the first release several years ago, I was taken by the blend of creativity and function — taking these high quality, detailed and fun to look at and collect toys and making them work so seamlessly and reliably was just damn impressive and fun for all ages. I never became a hardcore Skylanders fan, I only own about thirty of the toys, but it’s a franchise that I’m always curious to see what they come up with next, and Vicarious Visions and Activision have yet to disappoint.
Just a couple of months ago I reviewed the latest entry, Superchargers, for the PS4, but about a week ago we got the iOS Starter Pack in our mitts. With everyone else slammed, I was happy to pick up the slack and finally try out an iOS version of Skylanders. I think it was SWAP Force a couple of years ago that gave me my first taste of a non-console Skylanders, and while it was pretty cool on the 3DS, it felt like a bit of truncated version of the console one.
So, I haven’t been able to spend much time with the iOS version yet, to be perfectly honest. But what I have played has been surprisingly quality and captures the console feel of the game really well, as well as its content. I actually chose to play this on my iPhone 6 rather than a tablet or the new AppleTV (which I don’t even have, but the remote can be used as a controller in this game I’ve read). The app can be downloaded anytime from the app store and you can play straight away with the ‘instant’ Skylander that’s built in, which is a virtual version of Hot Streak and Spitfire. Wisely, the Skylander series on iOS can be entirely digital if you want it to be, you just purchase ‘instant’ Skylanders that are stored on your phone. Better still, Superchargers on iOS takes advantage of cloud streaming so you don’t have to eat up precious storage space on your device by storing the entire game and all of the character data on it. It takes just over a GB to start.
Character data from your existing Skylanders toys — three of which come with the Starter Pack, by the way — is perfectly compatible as though you were playing it on the consoles. Whatsmore, with Game Center and iCloud, save games are cloud-based meaning you can start playing on your iPhone and continue on your iPad — super cool and convenient.
At this point, you might be wondering what the Starter Pack really gets you if you can just purchase digital characters. For me, the biggest advantage of the Starter Pack is the hardware. Now, obviously if you’re wanting to play this on the go you don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of toys and wires and things and that’s exactly what was taken into account in the design of the iOS Starter Pack. Both the Portal of Power and the gamepad are battery powered (AAA, Duracell five-pack included) and wireless. The gamepad uses Bluetooth to sync up with your phone and setting it up is literally just a couple of taps on your Settings screen. When not in use, the gamepad and Portal turn themselves off quickly. The gamepad stores smoothly and securely in the bottom of the Portal. The Portal has a slot for your Traps if you have some from Trap Team, and it changes colors and looks and feels of quality. The only minor feature that would have been neat to see (but also understandably hard to integrate) would have been a phone cradle on the Portal.
As far as load times and overall experience on the iPhone 6 (running iOS 9, minimum required is iOS 8), I have no complaints. It provides an experience that looks and plays close enough to make it definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a conveniently mobile, low power way to play Superchargers. To the summary…