Developer: Activision
Price: $6.99 ($39.99 and up for the Portal of Power Starter Kit)
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

I reviewed the Skylanders Bluetooth Portal of Power the other day, and mentioned that the game it worked with best was Skylanders Battlegrounds. Well, is the game that comes with it worth a darn?

First, unlike Cloud Patrol, where the Skylanders had a minor effect on the game, they actually play a huge role as each figure can be taken into battle. The game takes place in two phases: first, there’s the hexagonal overworld, which players navigate one turn at a time, where enemies populate the board and move as the player does. Each level has a certain objective, usually to collect some MacGuffins around the map, and then to fight a boss enemy and get to the end of the level. The phase where enemies fight takes place in real-time, with two Skylanders to take in to battle. The combat is very similar to Raid Leader, where drawing a path from the character on the screen will either go to that spot or attack that enemy. Different Skylanders have different properties, like being more suited for ranged combat, or better for getting up in enemies’ faces, and feature different combinations of special abilities. As well, items can be purchased and used to grant boosts in battle.

While the figures are likely designed to appeal to kids, and adults who are kids at heart with the dangerous combination of disposable income, the mix of the combat and strategy does not feel like a kid’s game, that’s for sure. It feels like a real, legitimate game, albeit all the characters are available as toys. As well, half the fun comes from the portal, and seeing how said toys, when used with it, interact with the game itself. Plus, while it may cost far more than the app to buy the portal, it supports all the current figures and the new Giants figures (who are extremely powerful). Plus, the game really makes it worth the player’s while to use the figures, largely through massive discounts and the ability to swap out Skylanders at will.

The problem is that the experience winds up being rather tedious, especially with the Portal of Power. It just tilts the game so far in the player’s favor that battles become boring as they just become mere formalities. Plus, switching in new Skylanders when one dies is still rather cheap, regardless.

And really, the Portal of Power is the best justification for this game. For those looking for a new reason to use their Skylanders figure collection, or wanting to get into it, then buy the Portal of Power and go crazy. Otherwise, stay away: as a purely-virtual experience, it’s somewhat lacking.

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