Build things to harvest things to build more things — the resource management genre is huge on mobile, thanks to its simple click-based gameplay and the ability to play for minutes at a time and still get things done. Activision takes that winning formula and layers another one on top — the ability to transfer real-world collectible figures into the game.
Skylanders: Lost Islands uses the toys from the smash-hit Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure and its sequel, Skylanders Giants, as resource gathering agents in a game of unlocking and decorating a series of floating islands. Using the codes included in the toys or the upcoming Bluetooth portal accessory, players transfer their purchased toys (or buy them using in-game currency) into the game world, where they appear as tiny little characters, wandering about the world.
The player grows energy, which is used to send Skylanders on timed non-interactive adventures. Once they return they bring money, used for buying decorations and buildings, as well as experience points that level up the characters, unlocking more fruitful ventures. While all of this is going on the player is also crafting buildings to populate the islands with ferret-like natives, which in turn power businesses which generate more money.
This goes on forever. It's an endless cycle, driving the player forward with the promise of revealing all eight of the element-themed lost islands and a free Skylander unlock every five levels. A bevy of quests constantly appearing on the left side of the screen helps move things along, but expect plenty of time spent just waiting for your energy crops to grow and your Skylanders to come home.
If it sounds tedious and somewhat mind-numbing, that's because it is. One does not seek out resource management sims for action and adventure — this is a relaxing exercise, and a damn entertaining way to play with those silly toys once the simple console platforming has lost its charm.
My only issue with Skylanders: Lost Islands is that there is no sort of account tie-in. I've been playing on my iPad Touch. When I start the game on my iPad, it's a fresh start. Perhaps the coming social features will fix that, but for now I am stuck on my Touch until further notice.
Still I'm having a lovely time with Skylanders: Lost Islands. It's nice to have my toy collection in my pocket where they can't get into any trouble.
Skylanders: Lost Islands (free) [iTunes App Store]