Game Reviews

Skylanders Lost Islands

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Skylanders Lost Islands

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

If you're a fan of kitschy children's toys of the moment, then you're no doubt deeply invested into the Skylanders series of collectibles.

Having had their start on the home consoles, these figurines have now made the jump to iOS in various titles, one of which is Skylanders Lost Islands.

I've been putting the world-builder through its paces over the last seven days to find out whether it adds anything new to the 'collect resources, make buildings and wait' formula.

First impressions

It's pretty flipping clear that a lot of time, money, and energy has gone into making Skylanders Lost Islands. Booting up the game is a treat for the eyes: it's vivid and colourful, and the heroes from the series are all represented with chunky but detailed 3D models.

So it's a slight pity that the buildings and surrounding world flora are completely static. They're at real odds with the cutely stompy Spyro, the first hero I was assigned.

It's up to your purple dragon pal and his mates to help rebuild the world after it was laid waste to during the events of the home console outings. That's just about enough narrative to kick off proceedings.

What follows is typical world-building fare. You purchase houses for Mabu to live in, and this gives you access to new building types.

Energy is the primary source of the game's infinite currency, and you need it to send your heroes out on missions. Money - or the more finite Gems - can be used to purchase buildings, or buy plots of land to farm crops for the aforementioned Energy.

It's all very circular, as each economy is affected by the other - you'll need money to buy crops to get Energy, but one of the few ways to get the readies is to go on missions, which requires Energy (and an inactive hero). You'll also have to balance these endeavours with buying new equipment.

It's perhaps a more elaborate approach to world-building than you're used to, but it's still fairly typical of the genre. For instance, you'll find yourself waiting around for quests to finish and buildings to be completed, but never for very long.

Day 3: gone fishin'

Someone call for a fisherman to get this line out of my mouth, because I. Am. Hooked.

Much of this is down to the presentation. After every level and challenge there comes a blinding flash of white light and a fanfare. Every completed task is a gratifying and meaningful achievement, not only tickling your pleasure centre but loading you up with currency to lavish on your islands.

I can always tell I'm invested in a game when I'm planning my strategies for advancement. Right now I want enough money to expand to the next island and find out what the devil it is that's hidden in its surrounding darkness. I can make out a structure with huge purple crystals, and I absolutely must find out in exactly what way it will improve my life.

My enjoyment of it has also seen me scabbing toy codes off of a journo buddy of mine who's into the main series. He was kind enough to give me the code for his Drobot, which I gather is a dragon and a robot. I plonked the code into the game, and the little beast turned up to help out.

Using a code is the equivalent of buying that same character with Gems, and this is useful for building up your profits quickly. You're also given a new one for every five levels of experience you advance, which seems pretty generous.

Day 7: Sky high

Oh God, send help.

I don't tend to spend any money whatsoever on freemium games - especially when I can avoid doing so by just investing more of my time. I'm also not the biggest fan of buying ridiculous tat that just so happens to be the latest hotness - no Pogs, plastic instruments, or Tazos grace my shelves.

But I've totally gone out and bought a stupid little plastic toy.

His name is Swarm, there's a picture of him in the image gallery (above), and I both love and loathe him. He's brilliant because he's another bit of assistance in the game, but he's a monster because I spent real-world money to get him.

Admittedly, I did walk away from the retail chain with something tangible rather than just digital currency, so I guess that's a bonus? Right?

I was encouraged to buy it by my friends on Twitter. The peer pressure to get involved is immense, and while I don't think I'll get too many more, I must concede that he's a neat toy. He's also completely useless to me now, as I've redeemed the code, and beyond that he has no function other than to remind me of the £15 I've spent.

With two extra Skylanders at my disposal the game is ticking along really quickly, and I'm well on the way to unlocking a third island. It's all still just as compelling as day one, and I know that the game will remain on my iPhone for a good long time.

Which, ultimately, is the finest praise I can give Skylanders Lost Islands - I'm not bored, I want to see more, and I'm engaged enough in it to the point that I'm seriously considering going out and buying a Legendary Ignitor.

It's a finely made release that keeps you invested by rewarding you constantly. Its world objects are still a bit dull to look at, and social functionality is yet to be integrated, but even with these downsides this is still a brilliant investment of your time and - unless you have a heart of stone - money.

Skylanders Lost Islands

Compulsive toy collectors: beware! Skylanders Lost Islands is a superbly made world builder, with enough hooks to make you return time and time again
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.