My German is very limited. Gamescom is in Germany. Despite this, the greatest language difficulties arose when attempting to play Skylanders for the first time, as the pleasant, multilingual Nintendo employee tried to talk me through it, deftly switching figures in and out like some kind of casino blackjack dealer.
I played through Chapter 12 onward to some kind of water boss. I played as Bowser with his Clown Car through the first chapter, then Donkey Kong with his Barrel Blaster in the next, then as Donkey Kong in some kind of submarine – which may have been the next chapter, or just part of Chapter 13.
It seems that Skylanders must always be paired with a vehicle, even if they don’t make use of it (as happened when I played as Bowser). It also seems that the figures have to stay on the scanner too, as more than once other people at the show picked the figures up to look at them, halting my game, and necessitating a rescan.
Bowser is a slow guy, but I’m not sure how fast Skylanders move on average. In either case, it was at times a little irritating. With one button you can perform a melee attack, and with the other you can turn into Inferno Bowser. This makes him grow in size, and possibly also move slower – though not by much. This growing and shrinking and general feeling of heft left me somewhat wanting. I felt like I wanted to be able to do more combos than these stiff, quite individual feeling moves. Red Koopas also appeared in the stages with Bowser. These could be used as shells usually would, bouncing about the stage, which is admittedly a cool character specific addition.
It feels like more work has gone into Donkey Kong. For starters, he is much more obviously redesigned, wearing a “fresh” jump suit. I started off with him in a vehicle section. I was quite pleasantly to see Diddy Kong riding along in side car. The moves were quite simple, one was chucking barrels, and the other summoned some kind of shield of spiked barrels around the bike. The bulk of the vehicle section was zooming along a fairly straightforward raceway in the sky.
At the end of that section you need to ring 4 bells using your vehicle to open the gate. When not zooming straight ahead the vehicle didn’t control nearly as well, and I found it hard to get a handle on what directions to hold to go where when navigating a more fixed space. Hitting the bells was also tricky. My intuition to throw the barrels at the bells was fruitless, and I instead had to ram them with the vehicle, the unintuitive controls making the jump angles quite hard to nail, resulting in some frustrating near misses.
Next came another vehicle section, this time requiring a submarine type of vehicle. My guide instructed me that having the “correct” combination of vehicle and their respective Skylander owner makes it “more powerful”. But, as I had no desire to play as a blue fish man who may or may not have had a trident (I feel like he did, but that could just be memory bias), I decided to chance it and stuck with DK.
This vehicle section was mostly the same as before – boosts, avoiding hazards, grabbing coins, etc. The vehicle’s attacks were even of the same type — projectile torpedoes instead of flaming barrels, and an AoE burst of electricity instead of a shield of spiked barrels. The main difference was that this time you can dive under the water, allowing you to find other paths, and necessary to avoiding some obstacles. Coming out of dive results in a jump – kind of like an Ollie in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
At the end was a boss, some kind of machine in a bowl of water. Some of the issues I had with vehicle control arose again, but this time it wasn’t as bad, likely owing to the simplistic circular nature of the bowl, which was quickly livened up by some waves, smaller enemies spawning, and spinning hazards. I dodged some attacks and did some driving about, but I mostly pressed the torpedo button until I won, though I didn’t have much life left by the end.
It’s nice to see Bowser and DK in the game. Their inclusion may very well make the Wii U version the definitive version of the game, as Link’s inclusion made the GameCube version of Soul Calibur II.
But, even if we don’t know what beings Bowser and Donkey Kong to the world of Skylanders SuperChargers, I’m glad they’re here. The bases of the figures can be switched between Skylanders and Amiibo bases. The design of the figures are impressive, and do feel pretty solid. Design-wise they’re very much in the same vein as other Skylanders, which is fitting as Amiibo doesn’t really have one core art style.