Friday, 18 November 2011

What the heck are Skylanders?

I consider myself hip.

I’m also delusional.

It’s a killer combo.

This year I’ve volunteered at a music festival, learnt to surf and am all too aware that Cliff Richard is still the king of cool.

It’s fair to say I have my finger on the pulse.

But when I was asked if we’d like to receive and review a brand new children’s toy and video game called Skylanders I was a little stumped.

I referred instantly to my personal Wikipedia of children’s trends and latest ‘must haves’ - my six-year-old son - and he was without hesitation like:

“Well yeah, they are awesome, get with the programme, daaaaaaaad.”

Or words to similar effect.

It was the children’s toy AND video game that had me befuddled.

Surely children’s toys and video games are two separate things?

Not so with Skylanders.

‘The amazing new video game where toys come to life’

That’s the advert tag-line, and I couldn’t better it for a single sentence description.

Yes, the characters really do come to life.

Or within a video game anyway.

With the starter pack we were sent we got three characters, and each character is from a different family, or type, of Skylander. Much like star-signs there are earth, air, fire, water and magic characters.

Each different type has its specific benefits and are better used at different stages of this adventure and problem solving game.

It reminded me of the concept of the Lego adventure games, where you need to be a particular character in order to solve the problem in front of you.

But rather than pressing a button, here you put a physical character onto the powered portal, and they then appear within the game, and at your control.

It’s a very clever and engaging concept.

And it doesn’t end there.

Each character is equipped with a ‘brain’ - I’m guessing which is actually a memory chip - and their quests and achievements are recorded. Even more impressively your characters achievements are individually recorded on any console you use them on.

Thus you can take your characters to a friend’s house, and play with them their, and all that they do, levels they crack etc, isn’t lost when you get home.

Very, very clever.

Probably too clever to me.

My son has got into it, although at nearly seven I’m guessing he’s a little too young. Which hasn’t stopped him looking at what characters he ‘needs’ for Christmas.

And while I could be cynical at the clear and excellent merchandising and commercial concept behind it all, I’d rather point out the benefits of him having to really think about the characters he would like next.

It’s not a case of just picking the one that looks the best, it’s about him ensuring the team of Skylanders he assembles is balanced and covers all the different groups of character. Enabling him to successfully complete the quests put in front of him.

It all sounds very complex, and as an imbecile, I still don’t get it completely, but have found the parent’s guide to Skylanders very useful.

And am sure this children’s toy AND computer game will find it’s way down many a chimney this Christmas.

I doubt your kids would be disappointed.