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Skylanders: Swap Force: The Family Smash Hit Returns
Company: Activision

The argument for video games as toys hit a new height with the release of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. Its fiendishly clever recipe for success in the family games niche seems like something that should have been foreseen, given that we haven't seen any similar success since, well, Pokémon. It was a wonderful way to revitalize the cute little purple dragon we all remember from the days of the original PlayStation, especially after his series of hugely disappointing PlayStation 2 games. Activision recently invited us out to Los Angeles to give the latest game in the series a shot.

Skylanders: Swap Force sees the return of the villain Kaos (played with infectious glee by the incomparable Richard Horvitz). Turns out that a magical volcano that erupts every century is due for another awakening. Kaos, being the dastardly cute little villain that he is, wishes to use his darkness powers to corrupt the volcano magic.

So Skylanders: Swap Force earns the distinction of being the first game I've played on a PlayStation 4. It shows; it's a very attractive and charming-looking game. Even the enemies are adorable; the demo I played featured a legion of one-eyed gremlins engaging in a fierce snowball fight in the Cloudbreak Islands. The Spyro Series One is on the scene, dishing out adorable pain alongside a team of friendly Frost Elves. It's then that we're told that all toys in the Skylanders line will work on this portal. So we're talking over a hundred at this point.

Let's talk about some of the Skylanders and some of the things they can do. For starters, there's a top and bottom part to each toy. These can be mixed and matched for whatever purpose you need. For example: Rattle Shake is an Undead gunslinger who uses snakes instead of guns. His six-shooter spits venom while he can deploy Deputy Snake to clean up behind him. Boom Jet surfs on a turbine. If you detach the turbine and snap it onto Rattle Shake, he can surf on the turbine. And really, think about it: this is a guy who uses snakes for guns and surfs on a turbine. Sold.

Skylanders: Swap Force will be replete with special challenges for gamers to complete: these usually manifest themselves in special bonus stages, such as the Spin Zone and the Speed Zone. There's also some secondary gameplay involved in unlocking special doors; you must solve puzzles to unite two halves of a lightning bolt: think ilomilo.

Skylanders: Swap Force hits on October 13, smack in the middle of the Fall lineup. It's looking like the family game to get this holiday season, so get your pre-orders in and check back for a full review once the game launches.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos
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