Skylanders has long been the king of video game / toy hybrids; it's a franchise worth billions and a genre that's becoming increasingly popular (cf. Amiibo, Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions). Every iteration of the series adds one twist to its formula. For this year's Skylanders: Superchargers, which is set for release September 20th for pretty much every console and iPad, it's cars. And motorcycles. And boats. Also tanks, helicopters, jets, submarines, and more.
As with previous Skylanders titles, players "import" playable characters into the game by placing physical figurines on a plastic "Portal of Power" connected to the console. The game itself is very tongue-in-cheek action / platformer (the Big Evil Weapon here is called the “Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction”) that involves a lot of running around and solving small puzzles or fighting bad people. The world is colorful, and the collectibles are plenty.
All previous Skylanders figurines are compatible — just place them on the portal and go crazy — but the real draw here of course are the 20 new vehicles and 20 new "SuperChargers" figurines. The vehicles themselves vary, but they all fall into one of three categories: land, sea, and air. The game has specific levels designed for each category, and no there's no intermingling — you can zip through a water-centric level in a jet, for example. The new Portal of Power has enough room for both character and vehicle, and each character has a signature vehicle that, when paired, creates a "SuperCharged Combo." (Get it?) Additionally, each vehicle has several customizations you can collect as you play.
In a meeting with publisher Activision and developer Vicarious Vision, I got to check out three vehicles in action: Hot Streak, a racecar; Sky Slicer, a jet; and Dive Bomber, a submarine. The physical toys themselves matched past Skylanders in style and color. They were fairly sturdy and had moving parts like the wheels and propeller. (The representatives stressed that the toys and Portal we saw were not final products.) Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to play the game ourselves, so while I can say it looks fun, I really won't know until some actual hands-on playtime.
Skylanders: SuperChargers is coming out September 20th to virtually every console from the last two generations: PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, and iPad — the Nintendo Wii and 3DS will "have a different, complementary experience." A Starter Pack costs $74.99 and comes with three figurines: Hot Streak car, its signature driver Spitfire, and a "SuperCharged" variant of classic figure Stealth Elf (the 3DS Starter Pack will be $10 cheaper). Additional characters will cost $12.99 and vehicles $14.99.
You don't have to buy the Starter Pack, though: for the first time in the series, "connected consoles" and select iPads will be able to buy and download a digital copy and "complete the mainline game" with a virtual (read: no physical figurine required) Spitfire character / Hot Streak vehicle — and again, previous portals and characters are compatible here.