Manufacturer: Activision
Price: $49.99
Device Reviewed With: iPad 2

Usability Rating: ★★★½☆
iOS Integration Rating: ★★★½☆
Hardware Design Rating: ★★★★☆
Reuse Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

When Skylanders Cloud Patrol came out earlier this year, it had the Skylanders characters and support for the toy figures, via the unique code that comes with each Skylanders figure. However, it wasn’t quite the same: half the appeal of the console Skylanders games is seeing the use of the actual figures on the Portal of Power come to life in the game. Well, now iOS gamers don’t have to miss out, with the Bluetooth Portal of Power now available, especially built for Skylanders Battlegrounds.

Available in a Starter Pack for $49.99, this includes the Bluetooth Portal of Power, which syncs up with an iOS device and is recognized by all the Skylanders games on iOS. It also includes a USB cable for connecting to a computer for use with Skylanders Universe on the web, and four figures: Cynder, Double Trouble, Jet-Vac, and a Platinum Treasure Chest, along with a redemption code for Skylanders Battlegrounds. Once the portal is synced up, sticking a figure on the portal will unlock it in the game of choice.

So, why consider getting the Portal of Power when the codes with each figure work exactly the same? Well, the big practical reason is that possible to switch out figures mid-battle and at no cost of in-game currency in Battlegrounds. It means there’s also strategization in play: some characters are better for certain situations, and the portal makes these strategies explicitly possible. It’s practically an unfair advantage. Otherwise, it grants the same ability to unlock all of a character’s abilities at a massive discount of 100 gems, compared to a 200 gem just to unlock a character and extra currency to upgrade them. Unlocking a previously-purchased figure refunds gems spent on it, though. The implementation of the portal in the other two Skylanders games, Cloud Patrol and Lost Islands is minimal: it’s just a tool to not have to input a code. Battlegrounds is clearly what it was designed for, and buying it grants a huge advantage.

But the other big reason to get the portal? Well, it’s being able to use toys, albeit they’re basically just inarticulate statues, as actual things that come to life in the game. And switching them out on the fly as necessary just has a special feeling to it. The tactility, and the satisfaction of unlocking a figure by physically placing it on the portal is far superior to inputting a ten-digit code, or switching characters via a menu. At $49.99 for the starter pack and additional money for new figures, it’s not a cheap thrill, but it’s a thrill nonetheless, though it’s really only worth it for one game at the moment.

Still, it’s an excuse to buy toys, including the new Giants figures, which are compatible with the game, and are very powerful. Those looking to get into Skylanders or really want to play the new Battlegrounds game will want to check this out.

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