I reviewed Skylanders Giants two weeks back and, to my pleasant surprise, I rather enjoyed it. That said, the most monumental Miss tied to the toy-crazy experience came from the physical characters themselves…and it struck me as somewhat slimy. And not the fun-and-games ’90s Nickelodeon variety, either, but a more repulsive brand. As someone who never enjoys being stricken sticky, stay awhile and listen as I describe a successful concept that smells a little like dirty DLC.

Subject: The Skylanders franchise and its unique approach of purchasing physical figures to unlock in-game characters.

Allegation: Activision, the big-name publisher of Skylanders that everyone used to hate before it became cooler to complain about EA, has discovered a way to distribute questionable (and expensive) add-on game content right under our typically-vigilant upturned noses without us making much of a fuss.

Evidence: Buying additional Skylanders toys is required to access everything included within the game’s fully-priced retail release.

Examples of Ick:

  1. Paying for On-disc DLC: A substantial amount of content within Skylanders, including a multitude of playable characters and specific sections of stages, is completely closed off without plopping down a few dollars for a physical toy that isn’t-quite-but-pretty-much-represents the on-disc DLC practices that people are usually up in arms over.
  2. Paying for Extra Lives: When a Skylander loses its last sliver of HP required to survive, the creature must rest until you either finish the chapter or opt to restart at the previous checkpoint. There are no Phoenix Downs or Green Mushrooms to get you through, and the number of Skylanders in your possession directly translates to the number of lives you’re allotted to complete each level.
  3. Paying for Main-Game Achievements/Trophies: Perhaps this example sounds like a stretch, but if it isn’t technically impossible to acquire every achievement or trophy using only the Starter Pack’s three included characters, it might as well be. Given the outlined “Paying for Extra Lives” system, good luck completing the game on nightmare difficulty without experiencing three deaths during the last leg of the final stage. The solution? Buy more Skylanders; earn easier achievements.

Now, maybe I’m overly-sensitive. Maybe everything’s actually a-okay. Maybe our stocked shelves showcasing a cartoony toy collection justify this pay-to-unlock-what-you-already-bought practice. Or maybe that’s just what Activision’s marketing team wanted us to think so the Internet can keep calling EA the evilest company of all time instead. Either way, I don’t like it. What about you? On a scale of Gross to Not Gross, where does the Skylanders System stand? Speak your mind and spark a conversation.