Each copy of the video game Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure game bundles three Skylanders figures and a "Portal of Power," two elements which combine to make it unique. Once the portal is plugged into a game console or PC via USB, the figure that's placed on the surface becomes the playable character in the game, which combines RPG elements with puzzle-solving, treasure collecting, and hack 'em, slash 'em gameplay. Predictably, each figure and its accompanying game character have different strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, but the toys also physically store in-game level-ups, achievements, and currency. This means young gamers can bring their favorite figures to a friend's house and retain anything they earn, even on other consoles — Skylanders is available for the PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, 3DS, Windows, and Mac.
Ars Technica reviewed the game and found that it's possible to beat the game with the three included characters, but naturally, some sections are only accessible by certain types of Skylanders, and at least five more characters are needed to complete all the challenges. Obviously, this gives kids incentive to beg their parents for all 32, which are $8 apiece, or 3 for $20. While it's pretty apparent that Skylanders was designed to be a money pit, paying for items to enhance one's gaming experience is nothing new — MUDs, anyone? — and at least in this case, gamers have toys they can play with outside of the game.