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Skylanders 2 needs to capitalise on the investment families have made in the first game and make the most of their toy figure cross over.
Follow up on success is never an easy task, but the great success stories of recent years each had to walk this road -- whether it was life after OK Computer for Radiohead, continuing the quality of Star Wars or returning to middle earth after The Fellowship of the Ring.
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventures has been a success. Despite varying review scores and game sales that didn't break any records, the real battle was in creating a relationship between families and their unique army of characters. The fact that it is currently impossible to buy the figures either online or in store underlines how well this has been achieved.
Although we've still a little while to go in the main adventure in my family, the end is undoubtedly in sight. My kids have started to work through the different character's challenge levels with gusto and before long they will have wrung every last drop of playtime from Spyro's Adventures.
Hearts and minds are now turning their attention to what's next. Yes, there are Adventure Packs and a Third wave, Fourth wave and even a Fifth wave of figures still to come, but in terms of the main adventure there needs to be the next substantial chapter. There needs to be another game that makes sense of all these tiny plastic characters we now have in our homes glaring at us.
We now have some hints as to what the new game will be. Approaching the New York Toy Fair where the original game was announced there have been a number of websites registered with the name Skylanders Giants. Although these aren't diretly linked to Activision yet this is the sort of preparatory work that happens before a new game launch.
Skylanders: Giants Adventure would be an interesting way to take the game forward. This would enable the same figures to be used in giant form, while also opening up new gameplay possibilities for the series. It would also provide scope for new giant sized versions of the Skylanders figures with new and special abilities. The portal would have space to accomodate a larger figure along side a smaller one.
This seems more likely than a Skylanders: Stealth Elf's Adventure or Skylanders: Bash's Adventure as the first game wasn't really all that focused on Spyro. Skylanders 2 is more likely to expand on the use of the figures in the game. Hats, power-ups, skills and money were a great way to reward players for their time playing with a particular Skylander, but there could be a lot more.
How the figures interact with the game won't change -- they will still be placed on the portal in the same way -- but how they can be played with in the game will be expanded upon. Characters will see expanded upgrade trees and an extension of the levelling system to take them beyond level 10. They may also be granted the ability to pick up and equip themselves with different weapons and add-ons -- like the hats but now for guns, spears and running shoes.
Skylanders Giants will probably use the same videogame engine that Toys For Bob created for the first game. Level design tools, mission structures and animation can't be reinvented overnight so again we will see an iterative rather than revolutionary approach. Skylanders Karting is unlikely I think, as are Skylanders Sports or Skylanders Strategy games.
Skylanders 2 will expand on the style and functionality of the original.
The game will expand on the style and functionality of the original. It seems probably that it will take some steps in the direction of the Lego games. This may see the introduction of a split-screen multiplayer mode, and perhaps even surpass the Lego titles with a four player option. Either way the multiplayer interactions will be enhanced so that characters have to work together in more ways.
The puzzle element of the original game was also quite basic and could be expanded upon to create more complex challenges where players need to work together to solve particular scenarios. This theme of teaming up is also likely to be picked up with the figures themselves. Whereas the emphasis of the first game was on collecting all the characters in one particular element, the second game can introduce combinations of elements that work well together. For instance you may need both a Water and Fire element to access a particular area of the game.
I suspect that the temptation to expand the rostor of characters for a new game will be too great a temptation to resist. My hope is that this is in the form of special edition characters rather than too many entirely new creatures. My kids have already stretched their pocket money to breaking point with the current line up of characters to see too many more may be a step too far for them.
I think we will also see Skylanders coming to a broader range of platforms. There will likely be a DS version of the game as well as something on the new PlayStation Vita. There will undoubtedly be big news about the Wii U version and the new features that can offer. I also suspect that there will be an iPad version complete with it's own iPad portal peripheral.
In addition to the videogame I'd like to see a range of real world games that make use of the figures as well. A variety of board games that each made use of the Skylanders characters to play them, and maybe even offered further related content back in the game would go down very well.
My youngest is also convinced that you can buy big stuffed versions of the different characters -- as well as child size versions of the various hats. Although I'm not quite sure where he got that idea from, we may try creating our own if they don't appear at retail before his birthday.
As a parent I'd also like a few enhancements to how the Skylanders game functions.
As a parent I'd also like a few enhancements to how the Skylanders game functions. Firstly I'd like a "little brother" setting on the game so that you can lock the characters you have selected down. This would mean that if/when a younger sibling takes a character off the portal the game doesn't come to a grinding halt. Of course this would also need to manage the saving of progress, but I think this could be saved on the 360 and copied to the toy the next time it was on the portal.
While much of this is conjecture, it seems likely to me that Skylanders 2 will be an extension and update of what we already have rather than a whole new concept. This is no bad thing in my book, provided there are enough new ideas and they all hook back into the characters we already have and recognise the progress we have made on the original Skylanders game.
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