Skylanders_SuperChargers_13.jpg

Get ready to rev your engines and experience high octane action as Skylanders SuperChargers takes off—literally—this September with all-new vehicles and racing. Activision recently invited me to experience the new racing mode first-hand, which spans land, sea, and air. I also got a run-down of the new features in this year’s edition, and checked out many of the new Skylanders characters and vehicles!

A brief introduction to Skylanders SuperChargers

For those unfamiliar with previous Skylanders games, the premise is simple: you place Skylanders figures on a device connected to your game console called the “Portal of Power,” and like magic, the characters instantly appear on your TV screen inside the game. This year’s edition introduces Vehicles, which work the exact same way—set one on the portal and watch as it gets transported from the real world into your game!

Release Date: September 20, 2015
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)

Genre: Action-adventure

Skylander-StarterPack.jpgTo jump into the Skylanders SuperChargers experience, your first step is picking up the “Starter Pack,” which comes with everything you need to start playing. There are two versions of the Starter Pack available:

Skylanders SuperChargers Starter Pack – This includes two Skylanders figures, a vehicle, the Portal of Power, and a copy of the game.

Available on: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Wii U / PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / iPad

Skylanders SuperChargers Dark Edition Starter Pack – This features special dark versions of two Skylanders characters and two vehicles, the Portal of Power, and a copy of the game.

Available on: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Wii UPlayStation 3 / Xbox 360

Skylanders_SuperChargers_2.jpgMeet the new Vehicles and SuperChargers

My hands-on session with Skylanders SuperChargers took place at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Toronto, inside a private room that was converted into a mini Skylanders oasis. The first thing I noticed was the centre table where all the beautiful new Vehicles and SuperCharger Skylander figures were displayed. The Skylanders series is known for its incredibly detailed toys, and this year they look better than ever.

Noah Kircher-Allen, an Activision product specialist, was on-hand to give me the lowdown on these new toys, explaining that this fall there will be 20 new Vehicles and 20 new SuperCharger Skylanders to collect. Eight of the SuperCharger Skylanders will be reimagined/reinvented versions of past Skylanders (like new versions of Stealth Elf and Gill Grunt), while 12 are all-new. All of the new Skylanders characters will be paired with a vehicle sharing a similar design motif, reflecting the unique personality and powers of its rider. If you own past Skylanders games, you’ll be happy to know that all 300+ toys released thus far will be fully compatible with Skylanders SuperChargers, and every one will be able to ride in the new vehicles!

Some of the new characters and matching vehicles I got to see up close were Spitfire and Hot Streak (a Fire Skylander who rides a blue-wheeled racer), Dive-Clops and Dive Bomber (a Water Skylander who pilots of sub), and Fiesta with his Crypt Crusher (an Undead Skylander that drives a three-wheeled coffin). All of these new toys (and more!) can be seen in the images peppered through this article.

Skylanders_SuperChargers_9.jpgCampaign Mode and Vehicles

After admiring the new toys for a few minutes, Kircher-Allen then gave me a walkthrough of how the new vehicles will be used in the main story mode. All three vehicle types—land, sea, and air—will be featured in the campaign, though only land vehicles are needed to play through the story’s “critical path,” he explained. You’ll get your first land vehicle when you purchase the Skylanders SuperChargers Starter Pack, so out of the box you can experience the campaign end-to-end.

If you pick up sea or air vehicles (sold separately), they will unlock optional side missions exactly how Elemental Gates opened up new paths in previous Skylanders games. Kircher-Allen was quick to point out that while there are still gated areas in this version requiring purchase of additional toys, Activision is taking a “more for less” approach with only two vehicle types (sea and air) needed to unlock all vehicle gates in the campaign. In previous Skylanders video games, as many as six additional characters were needed in order to unlock all the game’s gated content.

On top of the vehicle sections in the campaign, Skylanders SuperChargers also features plenty of on-foot adventuring—complete with platforming, combat, and puzzles—all within a variety of environments around Skylands.

Skylanders_SuperChargers_12.jpgEach vehicle type has unique gameplay

I was very impressed with how distinct the gameplay was for each vehicle type, and how the game controls were tailored to each. For example, land vehicles focused on speed, drifting, and high octane combat, while sky vehicles were built for barrel rolls and dogfighting. My favourite though were sea vehicles, as they can not only race on the water’s surface, but also dive underwater for a whole new perspective. With the ability to go above and below the surface, water areas have essentially two parallel paths to take, adding more strategic depth to the gameplay and doubling the potential for finding items and secret paths.

Skylanders_SuperChargers_10.jpgAll-new Racing Mode

Vehicles are not just used in the campaign mode—you can also compete in races with them! Out of the box, Skylanders SuperChargers includes six race tracks: two each for Land, Sea, and Sky. Just like with the campaign mode, you can use the land vehicle that comes with the Starter Pack to immediately play the two included land race tracks, but if you want to compete in the sea or sky race tracks, they require vehicles of that type. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy new toys. Kircher-Allen pointed out that the game can store “four vehicles at a time,” so if your friend comes over and drops his/her sea or air vehicle, it’s now unlocked in your race mode.

For the last 30 minutes of my time with Activision, I was allowed to try out the new race tracks against local news reporter Momin Qureshi from Toronto’s 680 News. Together we engaged in a best of three competition—playing one land, sea, and sky track—while simultaneously trying to learn the controls. Fortunately for us, the gameplay is very intuitive and simple to learn!

Skylanders_SuperChargers_11.jpgBeing most familiar with land races, we chose the land-based track “Chompy Garden” first. It’s a fast-paced, twist and turn ride through a huge garden complete with giant mushrooms, slippery water puddles, and plenty of booster pads. Our vehicles each came with one primary weapon (varies by vehicle, but mostly a rapid-fire weapon) and a secondary weapon (typically a more powerful attack that requires a cool down period after each use.) We also learned land vehicles can perform tight drifts around corners that sheds time and gives your car a noticeable speed boost bonus.

Skylanders_SuperChargers_4.jpgNext, we played “Calamity Canyon,” a flying track situated in a desert town complete with western-style buildings, mine carts, and dusty caves. Here, the focus was on banking around corners and barrel rolling to avoid obstacles or enemy fire. There were a lot of interesting areas in this course, including a section with clothes lines draped across the screen (with the wet clothes sticking to your vehicle if you touch them) and a huge Chef Pepper Jack (a villain from Skylanders Trap Team) waving hand board that can block your path. At the end of race two, our friendly competition was tied 1:1.

Our last racing challenge was “Mystical Vault,” a track set in water-filled ruins, and featuring a rather bizarre boss creature that constantly sneezes to turn booster rings on or off. If you manage to ride through a lit up ring, you’ll get a massive speed boost that sends your vehicle soaring through the pack. What’s really cool is that these speed rings can appear above or below the water’s surface, so it’s advantageous to constantly monitor both paths to see which one will give you the next speed boost. It was a close finish, but in the end I managed to squeak out a narrow victory!

Skylanders_SuperChargers_3.jpgEven more fun to enjoy

There are so many new additions in Skylanders SuperChargers, even with a full hour with game we just barely scratched the surface. For instance, Kircher-Allen mentioned that the game will include full online support, with up to two-players in the campaign and four-players in the new racing mode. Also, you’ll have numerous ways to mod your vehicle, altering its appearance, speed, power, and more, on the fly. Each vehicle will also have a specific Skylander owner, and if you place them both on the Portal of Power, the vehicle will “SuperCharge” making it much more powerful. For Nintendo fans, there are even Skylander versions of Bowser and Donkey Kong, and each have their own vehicles to ride!

With so many more features to cover (and the full story mode to play through), stay tuned right here on the Plug-In Blog for more updates on Skylanders SuperChargers as we approach the game’s September 20th launch date!