Invasion of the figurines

This story was first published in The Sunday Times on July 24, 2013

I have lost count of the number of Skylanders figurines in my home, but I reckon it is somewhere between 30 and 40.

You really need only two of them to play the game as it is a two-player co-op game but, after a while, my kids wanted more than the trio of Tree Rex, Cynder and Jet-Vac, which came with the starter pack.

Honestly, it wasn't just my kids. I too wanted more as I wanted to test out the different powers of each character and to hear their crummy mottos.

Crusher, the giant hammer smashing hero, for instance, shouts "It's Crush Hour" when he gets into the game, a pun on the more popular phrase that denotes a traffic jam.

From Crusher to Flameslinger, a blindfolded elf which shoots fire arrows, to Whirlwind, the blue dragon that shoots rainbows as weapons, it has been a blast playing them all - for both the kids and the overgrown one.

The charm of Skylanders is that you get to keep the physical figurines, in addition to getting extra characters for the game, satisfying many a geek's love for collecting and gaming at the same time.

Each Skylanders figurine can be placed on the "portal of power", a USB dock which connects to your game console. The character comes to life in the game. Each figurine has a tiny wireless radio frequency identification (RFID) chip inside and the dock is simply an RFID reader.

As you complete quests and discover treasures in your adventure, your character will level up and amass riches. This information is saved automatically on the chip in the figurine, so you can go to a friend's home and play with your character there.

The year-end holiday season will prove deadly to the wallet, as the third version of Skylanders, called Swapforce, will be unleashed upon the world.

For the first time, the figurines will all have detachable upper and lower bodies, so you can mix and match the body segments of different characters to create new hybrids with unfamiliar powers. Take the torso of Magma Charge, combine it with the tentacled legs of Wash Buckler and you get a new hero called Magma Buckler.

But the one every parent should really watch out for is the Disney product called Disney Infinity, which works just like Skylanders.

Skylanders has mainly been a niche product here but in places such as Australia, it is hot property. Skylanders figurines are distributed as McDonald's Happy Meal toys instead of Hello Kitty and Doraemon.

With Disney Infinity, the media giant looks set to drain the savings of helpless parents by coming up with figurines of well-known characters such as Mr Incredible, Captain Jack Sparrow, Mike and Sulley from Monsters, Inc, Lightning McQueen from Cars and many more.

These, of course, come in sets. The Incredibles team of Mr Incredible, Mrs Incredible, Violet, Dash and Syndrome (the villain) are all set to invade your wallet. If you have one figurine, it is likely you will want to complete the set.

Wash Buckler and Flameslinger sound like weirdos to most parents, but even mothers might find it hard to resist that cute figurine of Dash or the dashing Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto.

Parents, beware. Look before you leap, because I am pretty sure your kids will not stop at the starter set of just three Disney characters.

As for me, it will be a double-whammy holiday season for me as I have no doubt that I will end up being conquered by Swapforce and Infinity.

It must have something to do with my just having pre-ordered all of the dozen or so figurines that the Infinity distributor will have available at launch. I can already feel the squeeze on my wallet.


This story was first published in The Sunday Times on July 24, 2013

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