Skylanders Cloud Patrol for iPhone and iPad
The top item on my son’s Christmas list last December was Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure for the Nintendo Wii. For the uninitiated, Skylanders uses plastic toys that activate characters in the video game. The game and toys are very much aimed at kids and are very popular—according to a recent report, Activision has made about $200 million from the Skylanders franchise, which launched in October 2011. And yes, my wallet has made a significant contribution to that sales figure.
To help maintain the momentum that Skylanders has (and to make a few more dollars, as well), Activision recently released Skylanders Cloud Patrol for iOS. It’s nowhere near as deep and engaging a game as Spyro’s Adventure, but it’s a well-executed and fun game that’s worthy of the franchise.
Cloud Patrol is a shooter where you play a Skylander, picking off trolls as they appear on screen. You don’t have to worry about exploring a map, or your character’s position; the game moves you automatically from screen to screen, and you tap the trolls as they appear to shoot them. Simple enough.
To make the game more challenging, you must avoid mines that roam the screen. If you finger comes in contact with a mine, you’re done. The mines move faster and faster as you progress, testing your hand-eye coordination. The trolls eventually start to shoot bombs at you, too.
Cloud Patrol wouldn’t be a Skylanders game without incorporating the toys in some way. However, you don’t use the Portal of Power and the figures as you do in Spyro’s Adventure—in fact, you don’t need to have the figures around at all. What you can use are the Web Cards that come with every Skylander figure. The Web Cards have codes that unlock characters and power-ups in Cloud Patrol. If you rather not use the Web Card codes (or you don’t actually have the toy), characters and power-ups in Cloud Patrol can also be unlocked by exchanging specific amounts of gems and coins collected throughout the game.
Like many other iOS games, you can use real money to make in-game purchases for items, and in Cloud Patrol, you can buy gems that can be exchanged for in-game coins, characters, or power-ups. If you decide not to spend your money, then collecting gems and coins takes priority over a high score. You can collect more coins by performing hit combinations that require you to drag your finger across several targets—it’s much more difficult to perform than simply tapping each troll one by one. You soon find your fingers dancing across the iPad screen as you targets trolls while avoiding mines. Gems can be earned during gameplay, but they are usually given when you accomplish one of the many achievements in the game, like shooting 50 trolls. If you’re a goal-oriented, accomplishment-minded person, then you’ll have plenty to of reasons to play, between collecting coins, gathering gems, and acheivements.
The achievements also provide the impetus for using different Skylanders, because some achievements require you to use a specific character—and this, unfortunately, is one of only two reasons to use different Skylanders. (The other reason is that you get a coin bonus if you use a Skylander that matches the Element of the Day.) In Spyro’s Adventure, each Skylander has characteristics that influence how they act in the game. But in Cloud Patrol, when it comes to the actual action in the game, it doesn’t matter which Skylander you use. They all shoot at the same pace, with the same amount of power. Seems like a missed opportunity to add more depth to the game.
The action in Cloud Patrol is fast, and the power-ups add variety to the game. The graphics compliment Spyro’s Adventure and my new iPad (third generation) and iPhone 4S handled the graphics without a hitch. A few times, the game would suddenly quit without notice, especially frustrating if I had a good run going. And twice during the game I would activate a power-up and be stuck on a level, unable to move to the next one. These glitches were infrequent and don’t detract from the game overall, but they’re worth noting.
Cloud Patrol is a nice addition to the Skylanders series and a welcomed change of pace from Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. If you’ve invested in Spyro’s Adventure, Cloud Patrol is a good way to feel like you’re getting more out of the figures you’ve bought—or you can think of Cloud Patrol as another reason to go buy more Skylander figures.
[Macworld senior editor Roman Loyola’s favorite Skylander is Chop Chop.]