COLUMN: Aaron’s Backstage Pass: Skylanders Swap Force Wii U Review

Updated: 10/18/2013 7:51 PM By: Aaron Chalich

Photo courtesy of Activision
Photo courtesy of Activision

Activision has just released its third and most exciting “Skylanders” game called “Skylanders: Swap Force.”

I received a review copy this past week for the Nintendo Wii U, and it is by far the best and most creative “Skylanders” game so far.  I had a blast playing it, and I know fans of the series are going to love it.

In order to play “Skylanders: Swap Force,” you must buy a brand new starter kit that comes with a new portal because the old portals are not designed to work with the 16 new “Swap Force” figures, that are available to play with the game. 

The new “Swap Force” figures are very unique and are so awesome because you can swap the tops and bottoms of each figure, making 256 different combinations of characters. The figures have magnets on them that allows for them to pull apart very easily.

There are more than 50 new characters in the new “Skylanders: Swap Force.”  There are 16 Swap Force figures, 16 core figures, 16 newly designed fan favorite figures and eight “Lightcore” figures.

I really think all of the new “Skylander: Swap Force” figures look amazing. They are very well sculpted and are very detailed.

The figures also have the same magical elemental abilities such as life, earth, fire, water, air, tech, undead and magic. The new “Swap Force” characters have new abilities

One nice thing is that all of the previous Skylanders figures can be played with “Skylanders: Swap Force,” so now there are over 100 figures that can be played with “Swap Force.”  

There is a brand new, exciting story, and it takes place in the Cloudbreak Islands.”  Every 100 years a volcano erupts and replenishes the magic in Skylands.  A bunch of heroic Skylanders were caught in the volcano during an epic battle and when the volcano erupted the Skylanders were blasted apart. The Skylanders quickly learned that they had a brand new power to swap halves and called themselves the “Swap Force.”  Kaos is back and once again has an evil plan in store for the new “Swap Force.”

I really liked the story and thought that it was interesting and very well written.  It wasn’t too complicated, and it was nice to see some of the returning characters like Flynn, plus a whole new cast of fun characters.

“Skylanders: Swap Force’s” graphics are awesome, and it is a more polished game than “Skylanders: Giants.”  Don’t get me wrong, I thought the graphics in “Skylanders: Giants” were great, but “Swap Force” looks stunning.  Everything seems to come alive in every level.  The backgrounds and enemies are extremely detailed and are all unique.

The controls are extremely easy to learn and on the Wii U you can use either the gamepad, Wii mote and Nunchuck or the Wii U pro controller.  I used the gamepad and it really adds to the game.

There is an in-game tutorial that explains what you need to do and how to control your Skylander.  You move your character with analog stick, by pushing the “B” button you can make them jump, and by pushing “Y” or “A” they can attack.

One of the first things that you will notice as you are playing “Swap Force” is that there are new gates that have two elemental symbols on them.  In order to open those gates, you have to swap the correct combination of characters. I thought this was clever and really creative. 

Another new feature is the “Swap Zone Challenges.”  Each of the “Swap Force” characters has a special ability. It may be climbing, digging or bouncing.  If you reach an area that has a symbol like that, you must use the Skylander that has the same symbol on their base.  If you do, then you will play a mini game that will unlock something special in the game.

Some of the gates are electrical and you will need to play a neat mini puzzle game to open it. When you approach one of these gates and press “ZR” you will go into the “spark box” and you have to make two sparks touch each other by opening gates and pushing switches.

I really enjoyed all of the puzzles that are in “Swap Force.” They are very challenging and fun.

When you use the game pad with the Wii U, you can view detailed information about your Skylander such as: stats (maximum health, speed, armor, critical hits percent and elemental power). You can upgrade their top or bottom parts, which is new because before you could only upgrade the whole character. You can also see individual quests (Example: Defeat a total of 30 enemies with bombs).

As you battle your way through Cloudbreak, you will earn experience points by defeating enemies; if you get a certain amount, your Skylander will level up making them stronger and more powerful. You will also get money by destroying different things in your way or by unlocking treasure chests. You can use the money to buy items and to upgrade your Skylander's special abilities.

There are also tons of collectibles in “Skylanders: Swap Force” that you can try to find as you are playing ,and you can also go back to replay a level if you missed something.  Some of the collectibles include: hats, fairies, scrolls, charms, Swap Zone challenges, Bonus Mission Maps and soul gems.

You can open a menu and see all of these collectibles and you can also access another menu that will show your progress in the game. 

This menu is called “Portal Master” and you can see the following stats about your adventure: Story mode (see areas you have explored and what your score was for the level), Swap Zone Challenges, Bonus Missions, Time Attack Levels, Score Mode,  Arena modes, Completion Accolades (Examples: Complete 18 bonus missions on any level or complete both adventure packs on any difficulty),  Challenge Accolades (Examples: Open 100 elemental gates or level up any Skylander to level 20), Exploration Accolades (Examples: Find six winged sapphires or find 10 soul gems) and Collection Accolades (Examples: Add a Lightcore Skylander to your collection or add four blue base Skylanders to your collection. I really enjoyed the Accolades a lot because it makes you want to go back and play the levels again to try and achieve all of the special goals.

Another thing I should mention are the special player modes that you can play by yourself or with a friend. The player modes include:

Solo survival: Survive waves of enemies; as you get farther and farther it gets harder
Team Survival: Survive waves of enemies with a friend
Rival Survival: Rank more points than your opponent as you fight enemies
Battle Arena: Defeat your opponent with your attacks, and you can trigger hazards
Ring Out: Knock your opponent out of the arena.

These were really fun to play and especially with a friend.

Overall, I really enjoyed Activision’s “Skylanders: Swap Force” for the Wii U a lot.  I really liked the new characters and the fact that you can mix and match them to create new ones.  I liked the story and thought it was interesting and the graphics were amazing. The controls were easy to learn and I really enjoyed trying to solve all of the puzzles. I was very happy to see that you can use all of the previous Skylanders figures with “Swap Force,” and I know everyone is going to feel the same way. 

I would highly recommend “Skylanders: Swap Force” to anyone that is a fan of the Skylanders game and to anyone that is looking for a fun and unique game to play.

“Skylanders: Swap Force” is rated “E” for comic mischief.

Aaron Chalich is a columnist with who writes about entertainment news.