Five years and five Skylanders games later, there is something you should know about my relationship with the franchise. Aside from former mascot Spyro, I still cannot tell you the names of many of the dozens of characters in the game, even though I have played them all, and own more than 40 figurines.
The first game series that started the toy-to-life genre is based on an old Spyro kids video game that features the flying dragon.
Outside of the series, Skylanders characters are virtually unknown since they do not have a cartoon series or any other popular toy line, aside from those in the game series.
Indeed, there have been so many characters added to the game that few gamers would have the means to collect them all. Also, while gamers may not mind picking up multiple Mickey Mouse or Captain America figurines from the Disney Infinity series, who really wants another Stealth Elf or Gill Grunt?
PRICE: (Regular) $114, (Dark Edition) $140
FORMAT: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
On paper, the franchise seems simple enough. Characters are aligned with elements such as fire, water and earth, and players need the various characters across the elements to access different areas in the game.
The game has always been about its figurines. The first sequel added giant figurines. The second sequel has figurines that can be separated in two, and combined with other halves to form new characters. Last year's sequel added the use of elemental traps, which are additional physical tokens needed to ensnare enemies.
This year, the focus is on additional toy vehicles. Instead of having characters enter an area and clear out the enemies, players must now race through various obstacle courses. But if you don't have a submersible or an airplane, the seas and skies are closed off to you. But overall, gameplay has not changed much.
As with previous games from the series, characters can level up and develop new skills. The same goes for the vehicles, which can be upgraded with weapons and engine improvements.
The choice of what to upgrade, and which characters to use, adds a challenge to the series. But there is no denying that Skylanders Superchargers is merely an incremental upgrade over last year's title. It still mainly serves as a means for gamers to pick up more figurines.
If you are a completist, here's the tricky part. For the starter pack, Activision offers two regular figurines and one vehicle.
There is also the more expensive Dark Edition that comes with an extra vehicle, and with all four toys painted black. Such Dark Editions are considered to be a premium among collectors.
This year, the company added four exclusive new figures and vehicles in starter packs for the Nintendo Wii and Wii U consoles, with one unique pair allocated to each console. There are also the Dark Editions for these packs. This means you need to buy six starter packs if you want to own all the regular and Dark Edition figurines.
Even though the game is still fun to fire up, the very idea of having to pick up unnecessary packs just for the unique character is a huge turn-off for me.
Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions offer the same premise and game quality, but without the expectation of having to invest in more toys than necessary.
So unless you have already invested in figures from the previous games that can be used in this game, newcomers might want to consider picking up something else.