Activision Preps Skylanders SuperChargers for iPhone, iPad

We spoke with Vicarious Visions president, Guha Bala, about the next installment in the popular toys-to-life franchise.

On September 20, Activision will release Skylanders SuperChargers in North America. Developed by Vicarious Visions, the latest installment in the massively popular toys-to-life franchise will follow in the footsteps of its immediate predecessor, Skylanders Trap Team, with a complete release on mobile devices. However, where Trap Team focused on tablets, SuperChargers will also support select iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

In Skylanders SuperChargers, players will once again travel to Skylands to prevent Kaos from taking over the world. Kaos’ newest weapon is the ‘Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction,’ which has the power of eating the sky itself. To combat Kaos and his minions, players will have access to all-new ‘vehicle-to-life’ gameplay involving land, sea and sky vehicles.

During a recent demo of the game, Vicarious Visions president, Guha Bala, told SocialTimes the complete console experience will be available for mobile players, with the game supporting both Metal and non-Metal Apple devices, and ‘[scaling] according to the capabilities of the platform.’ Specifically, the full game (including online co-op and multiplayer racing) will support iPhone 5S+, iPod Touch Gen 6, iPad mini 2+ and iPad Air+. Players with iPhone 5/5C or iPad 3 and 4 will have access to the single-player campaign mode, as well as local multiplayer capabilities.

Skylanders SuperChargers will support cloud saving, so players can access their progress across multiple devices, whether at home or on the go.

Skylanders SuperChargers iOS Starter PackUnlike Trap Team, SuperChargers won’t support Android or Kindle Fire devices.

Bala commented:

We supported a really broad range [of devices] with Trap Team, because we wanted to discover the user play pattern, and where users were playing, in what numbers … When we looked at that, the vast majority of players—by a long margin—were on iOS.

The Kindle Fire has not taken off for the purpose of games in a matter that everybody had hoped back in the day. So for us, we go wherever the players are … Especially for tablets, the vast majority of gaming is done on the iOS devices—including for kids.

Another technical element worth noting, SuperChargers will manage its save file size as players progress, limiting the overall size of the file on a user’s device. Bala told us the game’s base footprint is around 3GB in size. As players progress, the game downloads future necessary content, and will purge past content which players will likely no longer need, in order to stay close to this 3GB point. In addition, the game will only download individual Skylander data as players activate these within the game, with all 300+ original characters being supported.

The Skylanders SuperChargers iOS Starter Pack will include a Bluetooth portal with a built-in stand, a Bluetooth controller and physical versions of the Spitfire SuperCharger character and the Hot Streak vehicle. If players have already purchased Trap Team, and own its Bluetooth portal, they’ll have the option of downloading the digital Portal Owners Pack for SuperChargers, and access  ‘instant’, digital versions of the Spitfire SuperCharger character and Hot Streak vehicle, and use this existing portal to bring their existing collection of toys, or new SuperChargers toys, to life within the game.

Skylanders SuperChargers Captain Cluck

Even without a portal, interested players will still be able to play the game. The first section of the game will be available to download from the iTunes App Store for free, with additional levels available via in-app purchase (the prices of which haven’t been announced). This digital download will include access to the instant Spitfire and Hot Streak toys, with in-app purchases allowing gamers to access digital versions of the Dive-Clops and Super Shot Stealth Elf characters, as well as the Dive Bomber and Stealth Slinger vehicles. When all six toys are unlocked, players have access to the land, sea and sky gameplay within SuperChargers.

Regardless of the player’s purchase option, SuperChargers will support both Bluetooth controllers (even third-party options) and touch-screen controls. These touch controls include a virtual joystick on the left side of the screen, and static action buttons on the right.

Each level in Skylanders SuperChargers has a unique hook or gameplay mechanic which sets it apart from the rest. One will see players growing and shrinking objects or enemies in the environment to progress, while another will see players grow to massive sizes to battle titan enemies, and so on. Levels include both on-foot, traditional Skylanders gameplay, as well as vehicle portions.

Since levels will include so much gameplay, and are therefore quite long, the game will support a new chapter checkpoint system, allowing players to reach specific progress points and leave the game, and pick up where they left off at another time.

SuperChargers will introduce 20 new SuperCharger characters, as well as 20 new vehicles, with each SuperCharger having a signature, matching vehicle to create a ‘pair.’ While any Skylander, including old characters, can drive vehicles, when players create these pairs on their portal, they’ll unlock SuperCharged Combos, which increase the strength of their vehicle, and also enhance its visual appearance.

As players progress through levels, they’ll be able to collect and unlock mods and upgradeable weapons for them, which are accessible only to these SuperChargers characters (even if they’re not in their signature vehicle). This mod and upgrade system is available via a pause menu while playing or via stations in the world, while standard Skylander upgrades are still available via Persephone the fairy at specific points.

Skylanders SuperChargers Racing

Trap Team’s trap mechanic will make a return in SuperChargers, but in a changed form. Players will be able to insert their old traps into the portal, and in doing so, will unlock a third weapon for their vehicle, on top of its default primary and secondary attacks. These boosts are elemental in nature. As an example, players may unlock incendiary ammo by inserting a fire trap into the portal. If a villain is also trapped within the trap, players will receive a new Skystone for the Skystone mini-game.

Outside of the game’s campaign mode, players will have access to a separate Mario Kart-style racing game, which offers six tracks to start (two each for land, sea and sky). Players can purchase additional Racing Action Packs, which unlock new tracks, as well as challenges, to play. Bala told us these Racing Action Packs have replaced the traditional level adventure packs from previous Skylanders games.

In these combat races, players will be able to attack their opponents with each vehicle’s primary or secondary weapons and attacks, but have a limited amount of ammo to do so, which recharges automatically over time, or can be refilled by picking up ammo canisters along the track.

The tracks are also filled with power boxes containing items like shields or a limited period of infinite ammo. Bala told us these boxes are balanced, so players near the front of the pack are more likely to receive defensive bonuses, while players at the back will receive things like speed boosts. Each track has multiple paths, including shortcuts, which players can master over time.

The real-world vehicle toys in SuperChargers have been developed with the idea of real-world play in mind. Many of the vehicle toys have moving parts, like wheels or propellers, which will enable children to have fun with them even outside of the video game.

With 20 new SuperChargers character toys, fans will be introduced to a mix of new and returning characters, albeit in new forms.

In an interview with SocialTimes, Bala spoke about the decision-making process for selecting these returning characters:

We look at a few different things, [including] ‘who are the fan favorites,’ essentially. The sales distribution is interesting. There’s no easy pattern outside of the Starter Pack characters which everybody gets. The distribution is all over the place, so one factor is how many have been purchased, which is a measure of popularity. Another factor is, how many of these have been actual reissues in the past—how many times have we seen these characters in the past? The third one is, throughout the fiction, throughout the comic books and what we generally read, who are the ones that generate the most affection?

With SuperChargers, we had an interesting opportunity / challenge, because we’re actually recreating all of the [reissued] characters so they have a whole new upgrade tree, and visually they’re very different than what they were in the past—so Hurricane Jet Vac is [a] bigger, beefier version of Jet Vac, and looks quite different than the earlier Jet Vacs, physically—so they’re really like new Skylanders. So the reissues don’t factor in, because they’re brand new Skylanders. That’s the formulaic aspect of it.

The non-formulaic aspect is ‘What can we do nicely and creatively?’ In the case of SuperChargers, we were thinking ‘What are the vehicles we’d like to make, and then who pairs best with those vehicles?’ We wanted an air element vehicle—Jet Stream, for example—and we wanted a Skylander to pair with Jet Stream. And we’re like ‘Jet Vac is actually a great pair for Jet Stream.’

The fundamental thing is, there’s a bunch of variables that feed into it, but then there’s this ‘art’ to it too—where’s the right place to go creatively?

Skylanders SuperChargers will release on September 20 in North America. The full iOS Starter Pack will retail for $74.99, while individual SuperChargers character and vehicle toys will be available for $12.99 and $14.99 each, respectively. The game’s Racing Action Packs will have a retail price of $34.99.