Skylanders Battlegrounds Review: Kid-Friendly, But Doesn’t Offer A Lot
Skylanders Battlegrounds is the third Skylanders title to make it to iOS. It is the closest of the three to the actual Skylanders console game in terms of concept, but its execution is a bit pedestrian. Skylanders Battlegrounds should appeal to the kid fan base, but more mature players will probably find it lacking.
In the game, you navigate an overworld map that plays like a turn-based game. You move your Skylander a hex, and then the enemies on the map move a hex. Whenever you land on the same hex as an enemy, you fight. Each level has mission goals that mostly boil down to either “reach this object” or “defeat this enemy,” or both, and there are bonus chests and areas that are keyed to the type of Skylander you’re using (Water, Fire, Magic, etc.).
Combat mode reminded me very much of the game Battleheart: waves of enemies come from off-screen, and you target them by drawing lines from your Skylanders to the target enemy. Skylanders will then attack that enemy until it dies and then wait for further instructions. Each Skylander repeats one combat move over and over, automatically using melee or ranged as needed. You can also trigger special abilities that help you win, each with a cooldown timer.
The core of the game is of course the Skylanders. You begin with two, and you can unlock more either with in-app currency or by actually buying the figures themselves. Each figure comes with a code card that can be entered in the game; or you can spend $50 to get the Bluetooth Portal of Power, which will let you swap out just like in the console game. I can’t imagine anyone dropping $50 on the Bluetooth Portal of Power, however; that just seems like a ridiculous and expensive accessory, when entering character codes is such an easy step.
Once you have your Skylanders you can purchase additional powers and then increase the strength of those abilities. They’re not as complex and nuanced as in the console edition, but it’s still an added element of interest. Collecting them all can be fun, but really you want to choose two and ramp up their abilities right away.
The core gameplay in Skylanders isn’t terrible, but it can get repetitive. There’s a small number of combat boards, and each of them is essentially the same; there’s no terrain abilities or anything of the like to distinguish the grassy combat zone from sandy one or the icy one. The number of enemies is likewise fairly limited, with the number of waves and level of toughness often being the only difference between battles. And then occasionally the difficulty of an encounter really spikes, which can leave you scrambling to succeed. Swapping out Skylanders can add some replayability, but it’s not nearly as replayable as the console.
The combat isn’t helped by a touch system that can be annoyingly inaccurate, which can leave you running toward an enemy you wanted to shoot from afar or standing there not attacking an enemy you thought you’d targeted. Really, the game needs a basic AI system that at least says “auto-target and attack the next enemy that damages you.” It’s a glaring omission.
The game is also short. There are twenty mission levels right now, representing what appears to be half the game story; the other twenty are promised as a future update. But for $6.99 ($50 if you buy the Portal), I’d have expected a little more game at launch.
All in all, Skylanders Battlegrounds is like Skylanders Lite. It’s got all the elements you’d expect from the franchise, but it’s lacking some meat on the bones. The kids will enjoy it, but adults may not find it terribly compelling. For fans of the console game who have a lot of character codes lying around, though, Skylanders Battlegrounds may be worth a look.
Our Score: 3 out of 5