Game: Skylanders Swap Force Developer: Vicarious Visions Publisher: Activision Release Date: Out Now Available On: PS3/360/Wii U/3DS Version Played: PS3 The story in Skylanders: Swap Force is quite similar to those of the past. You as the portal master will embark on a new adventure into Cloudbreak islands. This is the home to a mystical volcano that erupts every 100 years to replenish all the magic of Skylanders. Whilst engaging in a huge battle, some Skylanders were caught in the volcano’s eruption which blasted them apart from each other and sent them all to Earth. This magic has now granted Skylanders a special ability to swap halves in order to form even more powerful combinations. Skylanders must unite in order to defeat Kaos once again in order to get them back to Cloudbreak Islands in order to save the Skylands. Upon booting up Skylanders Swapforce, the first thing you will notice is how much the visuals have been improved. The game has a new developer in Vicarious Visions and they’ve rebuilt all environments and character models from the ground up. The result of this is a much more realistic representation of what Skylanders should look like. The Skylanders used to live in a cartoony, uninspired world and now live in an almost Pixar quality like universe. The animations in this game are simply stunning. Vicarious Visions had over 100 Skylanders to recreate and reanimate in this game and all of them move absolutely superbly. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Wash Buckler on his tentacles or Blast Zone on his rocket, the Skylanders are completely smooth in how they navigate through this beautiful world. Another huge improvement in this iteration is the music. For each level you are presented with an orchestrated sound track which is unique for each level. One of my biggest gripes with previous games was that the soundtrack got hugely repetitive and sound effects really got on your nerves. This is not the case with Skylanders Swapforce. ITtwas genuinely a pleasure to listen to the music as I made my way through this beautiful universe. The biggest addition in Skylanders Swapforce is without a doubt the ability to jump. All Skylanders whether they be from previous games or not can now jump. This allows the game to now take place on different levels and completely makes it much more of an expansive game. Whilst this doesn’t completely reinvent the game, it’s really refreshing not to have the whole game take place on a single plain. I felt that this had become really repetitive in previous games. The control scheme has retained its simplicity which is to be expected as it’s mainly targeted as kids. My 6 year old nephew absolutely loves this game and as an exclusive Nintendo gamer, it’s really refreshing to see him pick up a PS3 controller and instantly know how to play this game. The main concept of Skylanders Swapforce is the swappable characters. There are 16 swappable characters and the interesting thing is that the bottom and top halves are upgradable separately so you retain those attacks when swapping characters. This allows you to find your perfect combination and stick with it. There are also 16 new non-swappable characters and 16 reposed characters. Thankfully the game will let you use ALL of your old Skylanders but unfortunately you will need the new portal. Skylanders Swapforce packs a bunch of content with 17 levels. You won’t be finishing this game anytime soon and we really love this about the game. The amount of characters is backed up by just how long the campaign is. The levelling system is quite similar to that of the previous games. You level up your character by collecting coins and beating enemies. You can then use those coins to purchase upgrades for the top and bottom half of your characters. Upgrades are made at strategically placed pods throughout each level. There are also specific upgrades that can only be upgraded for finding soul gems throughout the world. Each Skylander has one respective Soul Gem that is placed in a specific level and can be found with any character, regardless of whether you own that Skylander or not. One of the main new mission additions is Swap Zone challenges. These are challenges where you need to use specific elements together in order to complete a mission. These include things like speeding down or flying down a race track in a certain amount of time. You get smaller presents like hats that upgrade a specific stat for completing them. These are a fun break from the main story and also a very clever ploy in order for people to buy that Skylander they need in order to complete all of the missions. The one thing I will say about SKylanders Swapforce is that the amount of depth is incredible for a game that’s aimed at children. To think that there are well over 100 characters who all have more than 10-15 specific moves is absolutely amazing. It really is a kids dream. There are also a bunch of arena modes outside of the story mode. Solo Survival mode is where you face off in a bunch of different arenas with a variety of different enemies. This mode is extremely difficult and really put my skills to the test. Team Survival Mode is where two people can enter this same arena and face off against the same wave of enemies. Rival Mode incorporates you versing your opponent in order to defeat more enemies than the other. Battle Arena Mode is where you put your skills to the test and go head to head with your opponent with the sole purpose of defeating them. Finally, Ring Out mode is where you go head to head with the mission of knocking your opponent out of the arena in order to win. Skylanders Swapforce is a very welcome addition to the Skylanders series. Vicarious Visions have really revamped the series in a way that probably wasn’t imaginable last year. The environments and characters look a whole lot better and gameplay has had a turn for the better with the inclusion of the ability to jump and swap tops and bottoms of characters. I’m excited to see where the series goes from here and how it fares on the next gen consoles.