Friday, 13 December 2013

Walking in a Winter Skyland

I've been wanting to get to some Skylanders spotlights for a while now, but I couldn't figure out the best way to do it.  This being a toy blog, I wanted to talk about the figures themselves as much (if not more) than the actual games.  I know the games are what it's all about, but I wouldn't be nearly as interested in them without the figures to pull me in.  Also, I have no idea how to take pics of my gameplay, and I didn't want to just cheap-out and use a camera to take pics of my TV screen.  In the end I compromised and used a camera to take pics of my TV screen.

I also didn't know where to start.  I mean, I could go back to the first game and cover all those figures first, but I'm too impatient to get to the characters I like most.  Plus, with Christmas only two weeks away, I've got that holiday feelin'.  So I decided to get the (snow)ball rolling with three of my Skylanders who are more or less Christmas themed.

First off, unless you've been living under a rock for the last three years, you probably know what Skylanders is.  For you rock-dwellers, Skylanders is a video game that incorporates toys into the gameplay.  The heroes of the game, the Skylanders, have been transformed by the evil Kaos into toys and banished to our planet.  The player (ie: YOU) are a young portal master who can bring the Skylanders back to life by placing them on your portal of power.  When the figures are placed on the portal, the characters "come to life" in the game and can be controlled by you.  I have to admit that the idea really jelled with me, and the first time my brother (who is much more of a gamer than I am) told me about it, I was intrigued.  Then I got the first game and I was hooked.  The Skylanders are broken up into eight groups (Magic, Earth, Water, Fire, Tech, Undead, Air, and Life) and each group can unlock certain areas unique to their type.  This encourages you to buy more characters to access all the areas.  It's smart!  There are currently three major games (Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, Skylanders Giants, and Skylanders SWAP Force), plus some smaller add-ons, online games, etc.

So bring on the figures already!

First up is Jolly Bumble Blast!  This Christmas version of ol' honeyface was actually my most wanted figure from the current game (SWAP Force).  A little background info about myself: I hate things that grow on things, or things that look like they could grow on things.  There are certain things that I can picture growing on my body and it seriously grosses me out.  Honeycomb is one of those things.  I don't like to look at it, and I certainly don't want to touch or eat it.  So you'd think that a character whose face was basically honeycomb would be the last figure I'd want.  Maybe it's that simple fact that endeared Bumble Blast to me.  I should be totally repulsed by him, but he's a good guy and he means well.  And Christmas is easily my favorite holiday, so this Santa-colored Game Stop/EB Games exclusive was just too cool for me to ignore.  EDIT: Since this was originally posted, I've seen Jolly Bumble Blast at Toys R Us and Walmart, so I guess he's not an exclusive after all.  I'm hoping that Easter's Hoppity Pop Fizz sees wide release as well.

The figure itself is a repainted variation of the regular Bumble Blast (who I still don't have at this point).  Instead of a big yellow chunk of honeycomb for a chin, he's got... well, a big WHITE chunk of honeycomb for a chin.  But the white tones down the honeycomb look for me a bit.  It could easily be a golfball.  I know it's not, but still!  The bright red "Santa" colors really pop here, as does the green of his beezooka.  Unlike the regular version that has a bee butt sticking out of his gun, this version has a red and white... bee butt sticking out.  So it could be a candy or a Christmas ornament.  Or it could just be a big ol' Christmas Bee (you know, like in all those carols).  The Santa-suit colors and white honeycomb "beard" really sell the Christmas look, and he's still got his transparent yellow, honey-filled mouth which looks good on any version.  Oh yeah!  And to really drive the "Christmas-ness" home, his leafy Life Skylander base is even covered with a light dusting of snow.  Details!  They count.

Unlike past exclusive figure variants, JBB comes with an exclusive Santa hat that is unlocked when you place him on your portal.  The hat can be removed or switched with another one, and all of your other Skylanders can wear it too.  It's the second Santa-themed hat that can be found, and it's not the better of the two (as far as looks go).  That being said, this is the first time a hat has come with a figure, so he has to wear it.

Bumble Blast is fun to play as too.  He can shoot bees (Christmas bees), spit honey on baddies (Christmas honey), and have the bees track any baddie covered in said honey (Christmas homing honeybees).  He also plants honey mines and can be upgraded to have a special beehive backpack.  I haven't gotten him there yet, but I'm hoping JBB's version looks like Santa's toy sack.

One thing I love about the Skylanders games is their sense of humor.  The gameplay isn't very hard, and overall it skews to a younger age-group.  That shouldn't turn off geezer-timers like us (myself very included) though.  These games are filled with jokes and gags that would probably fly right over the little heads of younger players.  Case in point, Bumble Blast has a bonus challenge called "Not the Bees!" that requires him to hit a certain amount of baddies with honey and blast them with his beezooka to unlock a trophy.  How many kids would get that Wickerman reference?  Not too many, I'm betting.

Lets talk about the hats again.  The Skylanders games are fun to play and have a great sense of humor, but my favorite thing about them is ability to unlock hats that your Skylanders can wear.  Who would have figured?  They just go that extra mile to make your Skylanders unique, and the added stats the hats give your characters are just a nice bonus.  All of my Skylanders have to have the perfect hat, and when I find one that I think suits the character, it usually stays there firmly on their CG heads.  Forever.  This is the Series 2 version of Stealth Elf (from Skylanders Giants), and being an elf, I thought it only made sense to give her the Elf Hat.

Unlike Jolly Bumble Blast who is obviously Christmas themed, Stealth Elf only makes my Christmas team because of the hat I gave her.  That's as good a reason as any, though.  This being the Series 2 version, her figure looks similar to the original, only with her upgraded weapons.  She's posed mid-run, which fits the "Stealth" in her name.  There aren't a ton of female characters in the games, but that list is growing with each new release.  Stealth Elf was one of the original few, and one of only two or three that were obviously female.  Now I'm a pretty typical guy (you know, besides the whole "toy collecting thing"), and I love my video game bimbos as much as the next guy.  But it's refreshing to see girls characters aren't overly tarted-up.  I mean, Stealthy here has her tummy exposed, but it still doesn't smack you over head like some games.  I'm sure that has a lot to do with the age range of the target audience, but it's still nice to see that the females are more than just eye-candy.  They're on equal footing with the boys.

Like Bumble Blast, Stealth Elf is fun to play as.  She's a whirling, twirling ninja elf and knows how to use her pair of severed tusks (and later blades) with deadly skill.  She can turn invisible, and even pop up decoy straw dummies to distract her enemies.  One of the new features to Skylanders SWAP Force was the addition of the "jump" action, and I don't know how we ever lived without it until now.  I mean seriously, it takes three games to finally be able to jump?  It's a small revolution, but I'll take it.  Anyway, I like seeing how each character looks when they jump, and Stealthy does an appropriate flip when she jumps.  Running around, slashing your enemies, and flipping through the air... That's got an old-school side scroller feel to it that I really dig.

The final member of my little Christmas team is Drill Sergeant, a Tech Skylander.  He's a member of the ancient Arkeyan race of robots.  Throughout the games, you get to visit the homelands of various Skylanders, and there's something very satisfying to me about using those characters in their own worlds.  I dunno, I'm mushy like that.  

Anyway, remember when I said Jolly Bumble Blast's Santa hat wasn't the cooler of the two?  Well, I gave the original version to Drill Sergeant here.  It suits him because it's got a spiky, almost metallic look to it, while the new one is all small and smooth (and probably filled with bees).

This is no ordinary Drill Sergeant figure.  It's... RED Drill Sergeant!  Sometimes the exclusive variants don't have a special theme (like Jolly Bumble Blast or Molten Hot Dog), and sometimes despite having a unique color scheme on their figure, they don't look any different in the game.  Red Drill Sergeant is one of those exclusives.  Found only at Walmart, this version is all transparent red plastic as a figure, but he's still just regular Series 1 Drill Sergeant in the game.  I don't mind having double characters (as long as the figures look different), because I can level them up in different ways, give them their own hats, and add some more playability to my games overall.  After all, you can only play Skylanders with the figures you have, so I feel like the more, the merrier.  This version was different enough for me.  Plus, the all-red plastic reminded me of a Christmas light, so that's why he got the Santa Hat and earned his place on my special little team here.

Now, unlike Bumble Blast and Stealth Elf, Drill Sergeant isn't as much fun to play as.  He's slow moving, and his launching drill-missiles aren't all that fast either.  He has one quick weapon, a laser on his head, but it's pretty weak.  You can upgrade him to have stronger and slightly faster attacks, like a rush attack and missiles that break up into smaller missiles, but I think I like Sarge for his personality more than anything.  He's spunky.  He's got a funny way of talking (and says random things like "Eeee-pow-pow-pow" when you're playing as him).  I guess if they're less fun to use, they might as well give me a chuckle.  He looks cool!  That's something.

I've been a Skylanders fan since the beginning (even before it exploded that first Christmas and became the game all the kids had to have).  It feels good to finally get these spotlights started!  I'll do more down the road, but before that I want to finish AMAMOTM and do some other Christmas posts.  Tis the season, after all.  And when I get back to Skylanders, the posts will probably be all over the place with figures from the various games all covered randomly.  Each new game is backwards compatible though, and you can keep using the older figures, so I guess it's not that random.

As for taking pics of my TV screen to show off the in-game characters, I suppose that method isn't perfect, but it works well enough.  I didn't want to just grab screenshots from other sites.  I wanted to show off MY Skylanders.  So there.

Lastly, I'll probably take these three for a spin around Skylands on Christmas Day, for no other reason than I'm mushy like that.  


  1. Awesome! I'll have to see if I can catch that Bumble Blast - I've so rarely caught the special ones that actually look different in the game. I loved the Halloween Eye Brawl, but it turned me off once I found out he's not even different in the game.

    Anyway, in terms of holiday themed Skylanders: I REALLY think they should seriously do holiday figures, but not just repaints. I mean special characters - just one per holiday - that evoke the theme. Some sorta santa-like guy, a bunny like thing with egg weapons, something...halloweeny. They would have to work them out to fit in with the regular series so that they don't throw off the balance of elements (new figures in each element, I mean) but I think it could work. Not that I don't like the repaints! I just think it would be neat to get some special holiday characters.

    1. I could get into that. The Undead Skylanders are all pretty Halloweeny, so that's the go-to group there. Christmas could be Magic, Easter could be Life. Or maybe Easter could be Earth (with rock Easter eggs), and maybe St. Patrick's Day could be Life. Valentine's Day could be Air (with a cupid-type character), and maybe Fire could be birthdays? As in candles on a cake?

      I dunno.

      Anyway, I like these unique exclusive characters, and the extra hat is a nice added bonus. I'd like to see more, assuming I can find them...

  2. Interesting bits of plastic and the game seems intriguing.