Review: Skylanders SWAP Force

Skylanders SWAP Force PS3Platform: PlayStation 3 (Also on Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii, 3DS)

Developer: Vicarious Visions/Beenox

Publisher: Activision

# of Players: 1

ESRB Rating: E10+

Official Site
Score: A- (90%)

With this year’s installment of the series, Skylanders SWAP Force, veteran developer Vicarious Visions (with an assist from Beenox) takes over from Toys for Bob and bumps up the console versions to to HD quality visuals (save for the Wii version) while adding a few new play mechanics. More importantly, there are a new set of Skylanders with swappable top and bottom halves and plenty of locked off areas in the game that will send parents zipping into stores to buy new figures on a regular basis. That the gameplay is so basic yet compelling and all those enticing gated-away goodies the perfect opportunity to market new toys to kids and parents is exactly the formula any game company would kill to have in play. Skylanders has worked from the beginning in successfully roping nearly anyone who picks it up into its charms and while SWAP Force is the best looking and playing game to date, Activision also needs to kick things up a notch in the future, as you can practically hear the call of a more open world game experience with even more to do bellowing from those sweeping panoramic backgrounds… Continue reading

Short Takes: What You Should Be Playing This Week (Randomly, of Course)

Skylanders SWAP Force Wii USkylanders SWAP Force: HD quality visuals, jumping and all new customizable figures all for the first time on the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U make this latest entry in Activision’s supremely successful yearly cash cow a huge must. Wii and 3DS owners don’t get HD graphics (obviously), but the core game is the same deal. In SWAP Force, the gameplay is even more addictive than ever (and yes, some of you adults will be sneaking in time when the kids are asleep or at school), the story longer and more interesting (in part thanks to the enthusiastic voice acting all around) and overall, this makes for both a great entry into the series as well as the latest installment that will have your wallet making faces at you whenever you yank out that cash or card to buy more figures. $74.99, pretty much anywhere that sells video games.

VK3_coverValhalla Knights 3: This new PlayStation Vita exclusive from Xseed Games looks to bring Japanese developer K2’s niche grind-heavy RPG series to the masses with the best looking (and possibly, playing) installment to date. The Vita seems to be the prefect platform for this combat-heavy game that now includes an optional segment that features a bit of NSFW visits to a sort of love hotel where players can er, “score” additional playable characters and gear if they partake in a series of racy mini-games. Given that the other entries in the series have been given Teen ratings, that M VK3 is sporting must mean you’ll want to keep this away from the kiddies. That’s no problem here, as any kid that comes near my Vita is pulling back a stump… with a lollipop stuck in it (hey, I’m NICE mean old guy)… $39.99 (retail and digital).

F1_2013_tinyF1 2013: Longtime fans of the actual motorsport have been a bit disgruntled these past few seasons thanks to the juggernaut crushing all under his speedy wheels that is three-time champ Sebastian Vettel. However, Codemasters is giving them a chance to beat the man at his own game, provided you’re sitting at home on your couch or in front of a high-end gaming PC setup. This year’s installment is even more gorgeous than ever, has some solid improvements (you can now save between events!) and that adjustable difficulty means even total newbies can actually make it around the track with some effort. While it’s definitely NOT for the NASCAR crowd of those expecting power-up and arcade-style gameplay, it does a decent enough job at breaking down the F1 experience that the Codies really don’t need to do more next year. Well, except add MORE Classic cars and courses, as the small amount this year is VERY welcome, but made me want to see what they could do with a few dozen more rides from the 70’s to 90’s (or perhaps earlier). $59.99,

The Wolf Among Us 3The Wolf Among Us: I’ve not read any of the Vertigo comics this first installment is based on, so it’s pretty obvious that my excitement about this game is lower than those who have. On the other hand, given that it’s coming from Telltale Games and is modeled on the success of the company’s hugely successful multi-platform hit The Walking Dead, this one’s a no-brainer as far as the usual “should I play this?” stuff some of you go through. Given that this chapter is a slower-paced mystery with gameplay that’s heavily Quick Time Event focused and what looks to be a growing cast of really interesting fairytale characters updated and placed in an alternate New York City setting, it’s certainly right up my adventure alley and Telltale is actually offering up a really cool deal for that $24.99 (PC or Mac) price tag. Once all the chapters are complete, PS3 and Xbox 360 owners will hopefully get a retail version as well (like The Walking Dead did), but we’ll have to see if Wii U and Vita owners get as lucky…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Game Teaser: A Bit Early For That Bug in Your Ear, But…

I didn’t like the Spider-Man movie reboot at all for too many reasons to list here, but the game was actually pretty decent stuff. Although this teaser for the game based on the upcoming sequel (also set for a 2014 release) isn’t showing anything at all on the actual gameplay front (it’s still in production just like the film), I’m gathering the dev team is planning to stick to what works well as opposed to going too far out on a limb to be “innovative”. Granted, there’s only so much you can do in a super-hero themed game (even one set in an open world NYC), so I’d say the best way to enjoy this one (as well as the new film) is to go in with no expectations whatsoever and come away surprised when you do get hit with something more fun than you thought. Of course, given the cast of villains in that movie sequel, I’m not expecting much anyway, har har…

E3 2013: Skylanders Swap Force Trailer: Easy Money, Guaranteed For Activision

There’s really not much to say about Skylanders Swap Force other than it’s going to be a big winner this holiday season. New developer, new engine, updated HD visuals for current-gen consoles, new gameplay, characters and more all indicate that this will be the best game in the series to date. Add in the fact that yes, all those older figures will work with this game and it’s pretty much a given that no matter which platform you pick, the kids will be happy with what they’re getting. Of course, if you’re a kid at heart hooked into the Skylanders thing, you’re thrilled even more because your own allowance is much bigger and you can stock your shelves with every figure you can get your paws on and then some. Er, you do look a bit pale, though – the game isn’t out until October 13, 2013, you know… plenty of time to get outside and work on that tan. That sunshine DOES have a few benefits, you know…

Skylanders Swap Force Gameplay (Dramamine Version)…


Yeah, I shot that! AND it’s my first YouTube video post. Whee. That said, dear readers… I do hope your chair or couch has a seat belt and you’re not prone to motion sickness, as this footage is shaky central. But the game on the other hand… is amazing. Vicarious Visions takes over from Toys for Bob and brings Skylanders into HD in fine form indeed. The character animation and voice talent are near Insomniac/Naughty Dog levels, the gameplay is enhanced with the new Swap Force characters (and now ALL your old Skylanders can jump in this game, a HUGE plus that opens up the gameplay even more). So far, this is turning into my new favorite future time-sink (Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is also on that list), so yes, I’ll be keeping an eye peeled and posting less shaky updates in the future.

Er, In case your eyeballs are rolling around inside your head from my camerawork, below is the non-shaky full press conference from the superb One of Swords blog:


Toy Fair 2013: Skylanders SWAP Force Trailer: Change Is (REALLY) Good!

Activision and veteran developer Vicarious Visions (along with Beenox and n-Space for the Wii and 3DS respectively) could have gone and done the next Skylanders game just like the two Toys for Bob developed entries, but they decided to get fun and funky with the features and kids (or people like me who love the time-sink addictive quality to the games) are going to be very nicely surprised. Skylanders SWAP Force will feature 16 new characters with interchangeable torsos and legs that allow up to 256 character combinations. Think of it as a bit of a money and space-saver, parents…but know that there will also be 40 new and redesigned Skylanders popping up at retail this fall and Holiday season. I’ll post screenshots and my shaky camera gameplay footage I shot at the press event tomorrow, but it’s safe to say that the SUPER gorgeous HD visuals, new gameplay mechanics (EVERY Skylander can now jump and a few can fly!) and in-engine cinemas will make this the hottest ticket once again all around the globe.

Back with more info soon – start saving up, parents… you’re about to make another big investment this fall.

The Amazing Spider-Man Game Update: A Little Bruce Campbell Action For You…

OK, I may not want to swing around a virtual NYC as Stan ‘The Man” Lee in The Amazing Spider-Man game, but I can’t say anything negative about Bruce Campbell getting into the game, voicing “The Extreme Reporter” (which is an oddball name for a character, but oh well). Now, would I want to swing around in the game as Bruce in the guise of Ash, Brisco County Jr., Elvis from Bubba-Ho-Tep or any other characters he’s played? Nope. I just appreciate the man’s talent and humor along with his large body of work. That and hell, some “bonuses” aren’t all that special if they make no sense, kids…

Hmmm… I’m Not Sure I WANT To Play As Stan Lee In A Spider-Man Game…


Yeah, it’s a stupidly cool Amazon pre-order bonus and all and yes, it’s looking like Beenox’ best game to date, but let me start some trouble here by stating historically (for some old school Marvel fans), it’s a bit off-base. I’d imagine any Steve Ditko supporters out there might be a wee bit ticked off at this, but hey, he’s a mystery man himself and there hasn’t been a photo of him published anywhere that I know of in decades. Feh, we’re a dying breed the kids don’t give a hoot in hell about these days anyway, as I’d bet none of them even KNOW who Ditko is.

Then again, given that Marvel and Stan Lee have been boosting Stan as the creator of any and everything successful about the company for decades (overlooking the contributions of too many comic art legends, many of whom are no longer with us) and Lee’s the perfect showman (in that Funky Flashman manner – if you know what I mean), I’m guessing a little bit of re-writing is helping keep those dollars rolling in for both parties. So, as long as you don’t think about it too much (and that’s not too hard in this era of shorter attention spans), it’s all good, right?  Um, “Excelsior!” (which should mean, “Hell No!” in this case, but you can’t stop the fan train from rolling onward sometimes)…

Review: Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions

Platform: PS3 (also available on Xbox 360/Wii/DS)

Developer: Beenox

Publisher: Activision

# of Players: 1

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Official Site

Score: B

Once you get used to its quirks, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is one of the more fun superhero games you'll play this year. After a couple of years of mission-based open world Spider-Man games (with Web of Shadows being the best to date), Activision and developer Beenox have smartly decided to shake things up by letting everyone's web-slinger have at it in a new game featuring a more tightly focused selection of stages, four very different art styles and an overall sense of flair that permeates nearly every part of the game. Some camera issues (that can hopefully be patched) make wall-crawling a bit frustrating in spots but overall, the game can be a ton of fun to play and no cakewalk at all thanks to some great boss battles.

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Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Launch Trailer

Does this game look Amazing or what? Spectacular, I might add. Could this be the Ultimate Spider-Man game? Have you gotten tired of the the too darn obvious Spidey-related title puns in this post? OK, I'll shut up now – The game still looks Fantastic, though (oops, wrong franchise!)

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