At times, the requirement to buy more figures feels a little heavy-handed. In particular, collecting soul gems triggers a thinly veiled advert for a new character that you can only access by shelling out for the related action figure. While younger players may enjoy saving up money for such a purchase, parents should know that the game regularly encourages the purchase of new characters. And older players who are used to earning characters with skill rather than money may balk at the proposition.
Another incentive for owning more toys is that each one functions as an additional life in the game. When one of your characters dies, you simply place another one on the Portal to continue (restarting or completing a level restores all your characters to full health). While this impacts the difficulty according to how money you spend on toys, it also creates some interesting tactics where favoured characters are removed from play until a health-replenishing snack is found, whereupon they are reintroduced. It also means that you need to have a broad range of levelled-up characters rather than a focus on just one favourite.
Skylanders boasts some nice graphical touches. Each time you hit an enemy or take a hit yourself, a small red splash indicates how much damage has been inflicted or taken. And the hub world's sheep can be soaked, flamed or otherwise abused with visually amusing results. This charm extends to the characters themselves, each of which is well realized. This makes levelling up and purchasing extra attacks a big part of the fun. Each addition to your arsenal is satisfying and coherent with the theme of the character. The sound effects are top-notch, with an orchestral soundtrack from Hans Zimmer that adds a greater sense of importance to the derivative storyline.
Elsewhere, Skylanders can't compete with the quality that has evolved over the years with the Lego video game franchise. Cooperative play is a welcome addition to the campaign, but without split-screen or an online option, you have to carefully coordinate the direction in which you want to go. The quality of the writing does lift individual scenes, but it's a shame you can't accelerate or skip these spoken sections, particularly when some will be heard multiple times. Nevertheless, they are all acted with considerable flourish; the character of Flynn the Balloonist a particular standout thanks to humorous voice work by Patrick Warburton.
Beyond replaying levels, options to extend Skylanders are available in the form of two Adventure expansion packs. These come with additional objects that unlock new adventures when placed on the Portal. The Pirate Adventure pack comes with a pirate ship and exclusive Terrafin character while the Dark Light Crypt pack comes with a crypt and exclusive Ghost Roaster character. Coming in at about one-third the price of the starter pack, it remains to be seen just how much value and additional content these packs provide.
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a good concept that has been well executed. The Portal does get a little confused at times, the cooperative mode lacks split-screen, and the risk of losing the figures will be the bane of many parent's lives, but the attraction of toys with brains is compelling enough to outweigh these shortcomings. It's a little too easy and a little too short to interest seasoned players for long enough to justify the price of entry, but young children are likely to enjoy taming this dragon.