Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cool Things, Rants and Changes

So my Andewd is now 11.  Last week, we scoured the net (store websites) & he picked his gifts.  One of those gifts was this game, which at the time we didn't know was going to be stellar cool.  The game is called Skylanders Spyro's Adventure.  You can buy it for any platform (I think) - Xbox, Wii, PS3, DS.  It has web codes that you can use online so that you can apply your characters to the online version of the game.  This game is like a smorgasbord of fun, seriously!  First, I want to tell you how very cool this game is; then I'm going to rant about the rules, laws, whatever of supply and demand.

The complete game can be purchased for $70 for the Wii, PS3 and 3DS, $60 for the Xbox.  It comes with the game, the portal & 3 characters.  Most games on intro are priced around there ($50 - $60, typically), so I was thinking this price was a good deal because of all that comes with it.  One of the coolest things, which is entirely innovative as far as platform gaming, it has what's called a "portal of power".  It's a little round platform, about 4 inches in diameter with a white topside.  It's surrounded by what looks like stone (plastic) with neat-o little symbols on parts of it.  When you pull it out of the box, the first thing you realize is they give you batteries.  Who does that?  When you open the battery compartment, there is a little wireless USB inside that you will plug into your platform to communicate with the portal of power.  Add the batteries, turn it on (the power button is camouflaged, but you'll find it) and zippity, it lights up!  It goes through the colors of the rainbow.

Once the game begins, it will ask you to place a champion on the portal of power.  Eon, the old wizard like guy tells the tale of the lost Portal Masters and now you (the player) are here to stop the evil Portal Master Kaos from taking over the Skylands (or whatever).  The game comes prepackaged with 3 champions - Spyro (magical element), Trigger Happy (tech element) and Gil Grunt (water element).  You place on of those toy characters on the platform & they pop into the game.  They can be replaced by each other at any time during game play, except cut-scenes.  I find it incredibly cool that you can switch out your characters at will.

There are 32 different characters for this game, 4 for each element.  The elements that I didn't mention before are air, earth, life, death & fire.  Each character has special abilities and you can buy upgrades for all of them. The enemies are fun and funny, and for each new one introduced there is a short cut to a thought bubble with what to watch out for.  The enemies are minions of Kaos, setting out to foil your recovery of the power sources.

Game play is very kid friendly - smooth and pretty straight forward.  Tasks to reach the goals are easy to manage and the puzzles are not very puzzling.  As in many games for kids, there is no true dying, the characters need to rest until the next level once they've been knocked out.  It isn't a complex game at all which makes it extremely family friendly.  In my house, we are all playing and we are all having fun.

In each level, there are mini areas that can only be accessed by the character with that element.  This is where my rant comes in.  I didn't read all there was to read about the game.  I just thought it looked like a great game for kids and I loved the idea of plopping a little action figured on top of the portal & having that character come to life in the game.

In the beginning, I wasn't at all excited about having to purchase more characters to enhance the game.  It is kind of gimmicky.  When I did an online search for the characters & saw them listed for $15.99 (typically 17.99) & up for a single character I was of the mind that we didn't need any, that's just way too much to pay for a little action figure that isn't even necessary to get through the story.  I found one character via Amazon for $999,999.00. (it seems that one has been removed, because I can't find it any longer - but still...).  A 3 pack of characters retails at Walmart for $19.96 and single pack characters are only $8.96.  Those prices are much more manageable.

Since we got the game, we have been trying to buy more characters to use to play the areas that are only accessible by a certain elemental quality.  No one retailer can keep the characters in the store for more than an hour, no matter how many they get.  They won't tell you when they are getting them in and they tell you it's because they don't know.  Walmart was actually the most informative last week.  The CS person told me they were due a shipment of a lot of 54 sometime in the next week, not sure of the exact day.  So I called, every day. Twice a day.  The shipment came in on Monday.  I first called around 7:30 - 8:00 am.  The person I spoke to said there weren't any.  I called again later in the day & the person I spoke to that time told me they had sold out.  He also told me that people come in & buy them all out to resell them on ebay, for a 150% (and much higher) mark up.

Activision, Toys for Bob, whoever is responsible may not have anticipated the popularity of the game.  I understand that.  The game was released in Oct 2011.  You would think by now, they would understand that the supply of characters is not meeting the demand.  And free enterprising people are waiting outside the stores & gobbling up every single character that comes in so that we, the average mom who wants the characters for their kids, aren't getting the chance to purchase the characters unless we're willing to fork out extra cash to people who have no association to the game.  I refuse to do that.  We're left waiting until either Toys for Bob increases production or the popularity dies down.  You'd think that the manufacturer would want to be taking in the profit, rather than allowing these schmoes to be making it.

I won't knock ecommerce because of this, even though it is a huge factor in the lack of availability - just as it was when the Wii, PS3 & Xbox were new.  It's sucks that my son has some extra birthday money set aside for these things and he can't get them because the supply isn't meeting the demand.  Maybe it's a dumb rant, but it's how I feel.  I love playing games and this one is a lot of fun.  I would recommend it to anyone with kids any age, that like to play video games.


On to changes...I don't think I've ever been happy with the design of my blog.  Thing is, now I don't really have all that much time to fiddle with it.  You might see it different each time you drop by.  Eventually, I'll get it right.  I can design like the dickens for others, I just can't figure out what I want for my own.

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