Activision has built its Skylanders brand into a global powerhouse, with sales of more than $500 million in 2012 in the United States. This year, the company hopes to expand with the next video game in the franchise, the highly anticipated Skylanders Swap Force, which was released on Sunday.
Like the two Skylanders video games before it, Swap Force is a clever blend of physical and digital toys. When the toys are placed on a platform that is plugged into a video game console, their digital counterparts appear on the screen. Each character has unique abilities that are used to complete the missions in the game.
With Swap Force, Activision added a twist: players can swap the top and bottom halves of 16 new figures, which are held together by strong magnets. Now, each half has its own ability – like bouncing, climbing, digging, flying or teleporting – that can be paired with the abilities of other Swap Force figures to create new combinations that unlock additional areas of the game.
Activision plans to release more than 50 figures for the Swap Force game, 32 of them new to the Skylanders world. And the Swap Force game is compatible with all of the figures from the previous games, Skylanders Spyro's Adventure and Skylanders Giants. However, new figures will not work on the previous games.
The Swap Force figures are easily interchangeable; just remove one from the platform and replace it with another, and the new character pops right into the game without any loss of gameplay. Or remove half and replace it with half of another; the two halves click into place, creating a new character.
But make sure to keep the platform nearby, because specific figures (or the halves of two different figures) are required to unlock certain portals and challenges as the game progresses. The game even hints that certain figures are more helpful to complete each mission. I found myself getting up every 15 minutes or so to change the figure on the platform.
It also helps to have plenty of figures, including a few Skylanders Giants figures. The Swap Force starter pack comes with three figures, a platform and the video game for $75, and individual figures are available for $10 and $15 each. Playing Skylanders Swap Force is a fun, compelling experience, but completing the game could end up costing a bundle.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 17, 2013 2:00 PM