The potential cost of a trip through Skylanders

Skylanders is one of the most controversial products ever released to the gaming world, linking software and electronic figurines into a unique and potentially costly experience. Its main hook — physical toys that actually “level up” — is instantly appealing, but if the game itself had turned out to be garbage, it would have sunk into oblivion. Much to the surprise of the gaming press and players over the age of ten, however, Skylanders turned out to be a terrific game with a lot of talent poured into its creation. Months after its release, the toys continue to sell out, the fanbase keeps growing, and the sequel lands this fall. But just how much does Skylanders actually cost to play? Well…do you want to see everything in the game? I mean…everything? Depending on your level of obsession, a Skylanders experience can potentially run anywhere from $50 to $1,169…and that’s not including the “special edition” figures!

Allow me to act as your Skyland travel agent; there’s a tour for every budget!

Note that these options can be switched up, cut back or combined to produce custom bundles with their own price points. This list is intended to give you a general idea of what your money gets you:


The Good Fortune Tour: $0 to $10

Borrow the game and figures from a nice friend or family member; return the favor by buying them a figure.


The Iron Will Basic Tour: $50 to $70

(Just the starter kit. Nothing else)

If you can’t borrow the game, then the most sensible, budget-friendly way to play Skylanders is to wait until your local Target or Walmart holds a special sale, then pick up the starter kit at the price of a normal game. This gives you the game, 3 figures and the “Portal of Power” that links everything together. The 3 AA batteries included (for the portal) should just about get you through one completion of the main quest, depending on your gaming skills. Note, however, that having only 3 Skylanders on hand makes the final boss battle very, very challenging (the game ends when you exhaust all your characters).

This buys you:

22 out of 26 chapters (the whole main quest)
3 out of 32 Heroic Challenge mini-games
Access to the Water, Tech and Magic elemental challenges in the main quest (Air, Fire, Earth, Undead and Life remain locked).


The Elemental Tour: $90 to $120

(The Starter Kit and 5 additional figures to unlock all main-quest elemental challenges)

Face it: You’re not going to play Skylanders unless you like the character designs. And if you like the character designs, chances are there’s a favorite or two not included with the starter set. And once you start…hoo, boy. Might as well begin by unlocking all the elemental gates.

This buys you:

22 out of 26 chapters (the whole main quest)
8 out of 32 Heroic Challenge mini-games
Access to all elemental challenges in the Main Quest


The Bonus Adventure Tour $184 to $240

(The Starter Kit, all four Adventure Packs and 2 additional figures to complete the elemental set)

Each $20-$25 Adventure Pack includes a figure, two bonus items (you set them on the portal to activate temporary power-ups) and a “Location” totem that unlocks a new chapter with its own world, quest, NPCs, mini-games, elemental challenges and collectible hats. You don’t have to buy all four at once, of course, but if you do…

This buys you:

All 26 chapters
9 out of 32 Heroic Challenge mini-games
Access to all elemental challenges

If you’re only going to buy one Adventure Pack, I’d recommend Dragon Peak (the most Spyro-ish) or Pirate Seas (includes land shark Terrafin, one of the best and funniest Skylanders).


The Look-A-Whole-New-Game Tour $245 to $330

(The Starter Kit, the 3DS Starter Kit, all four Aventure Packs and 2 additional figures to complete the elemental set)

This buys you:

All 26 chapters
12 out of 32 Heroic Challenge mini-games
Access to all elemental challenges
The complete 3DS platformer, including 4 bonus worlds and all elemental challenges. Plus the Dark Spyro figure.


The Whole Enchilada Tour $399 to $550

The real hook comes from the Heroic Challenges. There’s a unique challenge that unlocks for each character. It doesn’t take long to realize that the Heroic Challenges are a lot of fun to play, in addition to providing bonus stats, critical hits and more for the characters. Not only that, but every challenge can be tackled by every character…and each character has its unique play style. So, if you acquire all 32 characters, you’ve got 1,056 variations of the Heroic Challenges to enjoy. Suddenly there’s a reason to acquire every figure. Just try to forget that all this content was always encoded on the disc you bought to begin with.

This buys you:

All 26 Chapters
All 32 Heroic Challenge mini-games
All elemental challenges
The complete 3DS platformer, including its own 4 bonus worlds and elemental challenges. Plus the Dark Spyro figure.


The Crazy Bananas Completionist Tour for Folks Who Only Own One Console And Want To Collect All the Hats In The Game…

Oh, yes, the hat collection; most hats are unlockable in every version, but there’s one unique hat for each console (and 3DS). So…if you were starting out with just a Wii and want absolutely everything in Skylanders, you’d have to spend up to…$1,169? For one game? Okay, well, you get the idea.

This buys you:

Everything but self respect


So, is Skylanders a work of genius, a ruthless marketing machine, or both? It’s best to look at this with a sense of humor. Personally, I think the game is great; it feels like a cross between Baldur’s Gate and Banjo-Kazooie. I do think $550 is a bit much to spend on one Wii game, however, so I think I’ll stick to the main quest and a few additional figures. By the way, if you do play the Wii version, watch out for the GAME BREAKING GLITCH that can happen between Chapters 20 and 21 if you’re not careful (you have to play both chapters back to back without quitting or power-up shopping between to keep the game on track).

The good news: all the figures will work — experience intact — in the upcoming sequel. The bad news: the new figures releasing for the sequel have a much higher level cap. Hmmm. So, does this mean the original figures will work, but will be pretty much useless? I hope not. The sequel marks Activision’s big chance to generate a lot of good will or bad feelings, depending on how the game world develops. If they treat the Skylander fans with respect and give good value for the customer money invested, the franchise can thrive. If they cross the line and make all previous purchases effectively obsolete — they could be in trouble. Time will tell. I’d love another Skylanders quest…but only at a reasonable price.