Since the release of Skylanders Cloud Patrol for iOS last year, fans of Activision's toys-meet-games franchise have been clamouring for a more direct way to interact with their precious plastic playmates than entering in a cold, impersonal numeric code. Tomorrow's release of Skylanders Battlegrounds finally gets a Bluetooth summoning portal into players hands, along with a game that puts it to excellent use.
There's a reason Battlegrounds was selected to be included as a code in the Skylanders Mobile Starter Pack. The first two mobile offerings, Cloud Patrol and the recently released Lost Islands, use the Skylanders toys in a fire-and-forget fashion. Players need only place their figure on the portal once to register it, and that's it.
Skylanders Battlegrounds, on the other glowing circle of plastic, is an board-meets-action game. At any given time the player can have two different Skylanders in battle. The Bluetooth portal allows those two Skylanders to be swapped out at will.
One can certainly use the portal as they do with the other iOS Skylanders games, registering their toys and then putting them back on the shelf. The creatures under your control are always just a menu away. Using the portal actively just adds a deeper level of interaction to the game, bringing the experience much closer to that of its console cousins.
The portal can also be used to port your figures into Lost Islands and Cloud Patrol, perfect for stupid folks like me that threw away their web codes after opening their toys.
The Battlegrounds game itself isn't too shabby either. The player manoeuvres about a hex-based map, clearing it of treasure and enemies before moving on to the next map. Entering the same hex as an enemy unit transports the players' Skylanders to a battle map where they fight waves of enemies in real-time. Players manoeuvre their champions around the map, tapping enemies to begin auto-attacking. Each Skylander has special powers they can learn through gaining experience, adding some depth to the battle system.
It's fun. It's even more fun with the Bluetooth portal.