Skylanders SuperChargers is coming out on September 20. It’s adding some stuff that Skylanders fans have been asking for for a long time, like racing and multiplayer.
First, let’s talk about the multiplayer. Skylanders has always had two-player co-op in its adventure mode—so if you put two figures on your Portal of Power, a friend can join you, and you save the Skylands together. Yay!
This same principle is present in Skylanders SuperChargers. In the walking portions of the story, you’ll share the screen and be tethered together like previous Skylanders games. But a lot of the adventure will be driving. Here, you’ll be sharing a vehicle with your companion—one person driving, another manning the weapons.
Outside of the story, Skylanders SuperChargers features a Racing Mode. In Racing Mode, you can play single-player or two-player split-screen. That means you’ll be racing against your friend, each of you using half the screen.
In the online multiplayer, you can join a race with up to four friends, each on your own screen. These racing modes have a lot in common with Mario Kart, and that’s just a risk of the trade. If you’re making a racing game for kids, it’s impossible not to emulate the king of all racing games.
Plus, Skylanders SuperChargers will have hybrid amiibos/Skylanders with the Turbo Charge Donkey Kong and Hammer Slam Bowser figures. They each come with their own vehicle, and you can get them in the Wii and Wii U Starter Packs for the game. This sort of makes it feel like Nintendo gave Skylanders their blessing for this game, and they’ll avoid what would have been inevitable drama over making a Mario Kart rip-off.
That’s not to say there aren’t differences between Skylanders SuperChargers and Mario Kart. Mainly, there are three terrains for Skylanders races: land, sky, and sea. That gives you more track diversity and more vehicle diversity. The power-ups also function differently.
In Mario Kart you get random power-ups and choose when you use them. In Skylanders, you collect power cells and build up to using an attack that is specific to your vehicle. There are also random power-ups, but they go into effect as soon as you nab them. The racing modes are also a little different.
There’s a classic time-trial racing mode where you race to see who crosses the finish line first—much like Mario Kart. There’s also a version where you can attack your opponent’s cars and basically wear them down. In the time it takes them to regenerate, you can get ahead. Combat racing!
And vehicles! You’ll be able to buy vehicle figurines. Unlike the Skylanders character figures, these vehicles aren’t molded onto a plastic base. You can actually play with them like you would a regular toy car. So far so good!
Here’s the thing I’m worried about. I feel like Skylanders is in an arms race with itself, and I don’t think it’s sustainable. This is the fifth Skylanders game. In Skylanders Giants they introduced large figurines. In SWAP Force they introduced characters you could combine to give them new powers—so no accessories, just lots of characters to mix and match. In Trap Team you have an accessory, the traps, so that you can play as villains.
That was a very cool addition—I loved the villain voices coming out of the Portal of Power, and switching to playing as a villain got me out of lots of tight spots. But I didn’t feel like I had to buy every single trap to play a full game. I finished it with the two that came in the box, and it was fine. They were a nice extra, but the game wasn’t hamstrung when I didn’t buy more of them.
The vehicles, on the other hand, are a huge deal. There are going to be 20 new Skylanders characters, and each one has their own vehicle. Matching the right Skylander with the right vehicle lets them access their “supercharge” state. Plus, like I mentioned, there are all these different kinds of tracks in Racing Mode—sky, land, and water. The Starter Pack comes with one land vehicle, Hot Streak. So if you want to unlock those other kinds of tracks, even just to play co-op or multiplayer, it’s my understanding that you will need to buy more vehicles.
Skylanders ups its game with each installment of the franchise. It will be interesting to see what the next step of their evolution is—but our wallets might not like it.