Skylanders is a series of video games and spinoff materials launched by Activision in 2011. Part Spyro the Dragon reboot (another one), part brand new franchise, Skylanders took a radical new approach: The games come with a device called a "portal," plus three toys. The idea is that if you want to play as a character, you put their toy on the portal and the game instantly switches to the new character. This can be done at any time, even in the middle of gameplay. With dozens of toys available, this does make this game Merchandise Driven, but since the game comes with three toys already you don't have to buy more unless you want to.The toy gimmick is given an in-story explanation. An evil Portal Master named Kaos banished the Skylanders into the real world as statues, and it's up to the player, taking on the role of a good Portal Master, to stop him by summoning Skylanders into the game.Common complaints lodged against this game include Spyro's radically different design and few other old Spyro characters returning. Common praises include beautiful graphics and fun-looking gameplay. The toy gimmick could go either way — it drives the cost up (similar to Activision's deceased Guitar Hero) and is a blatant merchandising ploy; yet it's novel and well-executed, setting it apart from being just another game out there. Despite the complaints, Skylanders turned out to be a huge hit, selling out in several stores its first holiday season.Games in the series include:
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - The original, with 32 characters available. Kaos has assaulted the Skylanders' base; banishing them to Earth, turning their mentor Eon into a spirit, and destroying the Core of Light that keeps the Darkness at bay. It's up to the player to send the Skylanders back and gather the parts needed to rebuild the Core.
Skylanders: Giants (Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - Adds 16 more characters, eight of which are "Giants"; at least double the size of the regular Skylanders and have the in-game strength to match. Storywise, the Giants were lost 10,000 years ago after fighting the Arkeyan war machines. Now, while the Giants have been discovered on Earth, Kaos has returned to the Skylands after his own banishment and seeks to claim the ancient Arkeyan army as his own.
Skylanders: Giants (Nintendo 3DS)
Skylanders: Swap Force - Coming Fall 2013; the new feature is characters blown apart by the eruption of a magical volcano so that they can now exchange top and bottom halves, using the attacks of the former and special movement capabilities of the latter. The toyline will be made of 16 Swap Force characters, 16 other new characters, 16 returnees, and 8 new LightCores.
Skylanders: Universe (formerly Spyro's Universe) - A browser-based Mini Game Game with some MMO lite features such as the ability to wander around chatting with other players while using your Skylander as your avatar.
Skylanders: Cloud Patrol (iOS) - An arcade shooter.
Skylanders: Lost Islands (iOS) - A FarmVille clone.
Skylanders: Battlegrounds (iOS) - A tactical game.
There is also a series of tie-in novels that serve as prequels to the first game and expand on the Skylanders a bit as characters.
Skylanders contains examples of:
Action Bomb: Fire Fiends in Spyro's Adventure (replaced by En Fuego Chompies in Giants) and Spiderlings are small, walking explosive packages.
All There in the Manual: Skylander bios are in the player's guide, on the website, or in the iOS games; not with the toys or the console games.
The Alleged Car: Flynn's ship in Giants gets marginally better throughout the game, as this time the Legendary Treasures act as customization options; but still, characters occasionally comment that the thing is cursed.
And I Must Scream: Kaos receives a very karmic one in Spyro's Adventure: After his defeat, he is sent to Earth, getting reduced to a mere toy figurine in the process. Giants, however, shows that being a Portal Master lets him break out of it.
One of the types of in-game collectibles is a variety of Nice Hats for your Skylanders to wear. They actually provide stat boosts in the console versions (they are merely cosmetic in the 3DS games). Of special note are the metallic Top Hats in Giants, awarded for completing a Skylander's individual Quests; and the Knight Helm, the reward for beating the game on "Nightmare" difficulty.
"Legendary Ship Parts" in Giants allow you to customize Flynn's ship, including its paint job. They're mostly cosmetic, though one does allow you access to a door on the side of the ship.
Brute: You'll never stop Master Kaos. He has an ingenious plan to get that Iron Fist of Arkus. Then he'll rule Skylands! Then he can finally take me fishing...
Baleful Polymorph: A stage in the 3DS version of Spyro's Adventure includes sheep statues you can destroy (and need to for a level objective), but doing so turns your Skylander into a sheep briefly.
Berserk Button: Going by a couple of his exclamations, Kaos apparently hates trees.
Big Damn Heroes: The final boss of Giants. Kaos - by then a giant Arkeyan robot - cornered the player by destroying the teleporter; the only means to escape. All of a sudden, Ermit comes to the rescue - with the sudden re-appearance of the Machine Ghost and corresponding Arkeyan robot that was destroyed earlier in the story.
Boss Battle: There are several bosses to be fought, but a noticeable subversion occurs with Vathek in the console versions of Dragon's Peak: As soon as he leaps down to fight you himself, Flavius sneaks in to grab the Dragon's throne behind him, and uses its power to turn Vathek to stone.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Aside from the idea that the player is providing help From Beyond The Fourth Wall, Flynn tends to break the fourth wall during parts of the credits (though only in the Wii version for Spyro's Adventure), congratulating the player (and himself) for saving the Skylands and encouraging the player to go into the Playable Epilogue. And then in the Spyro's Adventure credits, this happens:
Bullet Hell: Though certainly not as intense as those of arcade shooter fame, there are many times you'll be required to dodge waves of incoming spells.
In the first game, Kaos summons swarms of elementally-themed obstacles during your battles against his minions. (The Doomsharks even give you HP bonuses for "grazing" the side of one without taking damage!)
Kaos's Hydra, the Final Boss of the first game not only features all four of the elemental spells Kaos used against you previously, but even mixes them up — can you dodge, for example, deadly laser beamsand swarms of doomsharks at the same time?
The Chompy Mage boss in Giants mixes it up with some Ikaruga-style Bullet Hell: A mixture of damaging red projectiles and healing blue projectiles, while you utilize a device to invert which ones are which. (video)
Canon Immigrant: Cynder is carried over from The Legend of Spyro games, and Auric the Banker is Moneybags from the Classic Spyro the Dragon series down to the last detail. (He's a brown bear with a monocle and a black suit and obsessed with treasure for crying out loud!) Sparx the Dragonfly also appears, getting a toy at that, but as an item instead of a playable character.
Cartoon Bomb: These are scattered all over the games for Skylanders to pick up and usually needed to blow up barriers (before they explode, of course). A few Skylanders also use them in attacks, and Swap Force even adds an anthropomorphic bomb character named Countdown.
Catch Phrase: All toys have an official motto on their packaging. In Giants, they shout their phrase whenever they're placed on the Portal. (In Spyro's Adventure, characters either had multiple phrases or just random gibberish.) Flynn often exclaims "Boom!" at various intervals.
Charged Attack: Many characters can purchase upgrades enabling them to charge more powerful attacks by holding down one of their Attack buttons. For some characters these charged attacks can really hit For Massive Damage.
While it isn't particularly a full-blown episode, the "Empire of Ice" DLC level contains a Santa Hat for the player to find.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: One Skylander of each element (Warnado, Camo, Ghost Roaster, Sunburn, Vodood, Boomer, Wham-Shell, and Dino-Rang) is absent from the Giants toyline, though they are still fully playable in-game with their Spyro's Adventure figures. Swap Force will only have 16 returnees, leaving 32 out (though again, old toys will work with the new game).
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Spyro's Adventure toys have a layer of green plastic at their base, Giants toys have orange, and Swap Force will use blue. Giants and the iOS titles mark different versions of the characters with those colors, and Giants specifically ties most of its collection achievements to only "Orange Base" figures.
In Spyro's Adventure, Kaos defends his Huge Holographic Head with "Fear my giant floating head!" Later in Giants, he gets the Fist of Arkus and proclaims "Fear my giant robot hand!"
During Spyro's Adventure's credits (see directly below), Flynn refers to the game as "the whole enchilada", then later decides that he's hungry and enchiladas sound pretty good. Enchiladas come up again during the Giants credits.
Giants has an achievement for registering Spyro, Gill Grunt, and Trigger Happy - the three figures included with Spyro's Adventure, and freebie for those who own it.
Critical Status Buff: Acquiring the "Clever Clover" in Giants charm grants a Defense boost any time a Skylander is low on HP. Curiously, enemies seem to get this property as well....
Critical Hit: Attacks may randomly inflict an additional 50% damage, punctuated with a "!" and additional sound effect. In Giants, collecting money can also receive critical hits (which doubles the money's value).
Crosshair Aware: Some Skylanders, several enemies, and most bosses, have attacks which display their area-of-effect as a crosshair or target icon before the attack actually lands.
Dark Is Not Evil: The Skylanders will take anyone in, including Voodood the orc, Boomer the troll, and all of the Undead members. Dark Spyro is also noted as being able to use evil energy without being corrupted by it.
Flynn:(in an ice level) I'm going to hang back and ... keep Cali warm.
Cali: Right; all that hot air should keep me nice and toasty!
Defector from Decadence: When Kaos acquires the Iron Fist of Arkus in Giants, some Arkeyan soldiers declare that they won't fight for him, and choose to play Skystones instead.
Demoted to Extra: Spyro used to have his own video game franchise, including two trilogies, and at worst had to share the spotlight with Cynder at the end of The Legend of Spyro. With the initial Skylanders he still had top billing, was included with every copy of the game, and had three variations of his toy to boot, but he and Cynder were joined by 30 other guys. As of Skylanders: Giants, he no longer appears in the title, being upstaged by the Giants, and his new toy is not included with copies of the game (though Cynder's is; Spyro is at least still part of the Series 2 lineup).
Difficulty Levels: Skylanders: Giants allows the player to switch between three difficulty modes at any time, which mainly affects how much damage the player takes from enemy attacks. Nightmare mode in particular makes almost any enemy attack hit the player For Massive Damage.
Dismantled MacGuffin / Plot Coupon: The Core of Light in Spyro's Adventure. Nearly every level has you retrieving an Eternal Elemental Source or some other component of it.
Dual Boss: When fighting Kaos for one of the elemental Cores, after failing to defeat you using his minions one at a time, he eventually resorts to sending out three at once (albeit with less HP apiece).
Dual World Gameplay: Darklight Crypt is a level where the player switches between the "real" (day) and "ghost" (night) versions to fight enemies and solve puzzles. Wilikin Village in Giants also allows the player to switch between "real" and "facade" versions of the Wilikin's world.
Evil Knockoff: Several boss battles involve Kaos summoning evil Skylander clones to attack you. He alternates this strategy with some Bullet Hell (see Sequential Boss). They appear in Giants, too, as miniboss ambushes in bonus areas.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: To save on dialogue, most NPC's only ever refer to the currently-in-use Skylander as, well, "the Skylander". The exceptions are:
In the opening level of Spyro's Adventure, Hugo will identify the starter pack figures (Spyro, Gill Grunt, and Trigger Happy) by name. Quigley also has a personalized message for each of the 32 Skylanders when you talk to him in the Ruins.
In Giants, the Oracle can identify any of the 48 Skylanders by name. The crowd will also chant your Skylander's name during arena challenges.
Face Palm: Cali does this a lot when Flynn is speaking. Glumshanks gives Kaos a few as well.
Fanboy: A few show up in Lost Islands. One who goes by "the Masked Mabu" idolizes the Skylanders as a whole, while Spyro and Tree Rex have their own "#1 Fans" that dress up as them and give them advantages.
Field Power Effect: Unusually, there isn't a flat Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic in the story mode; rather each area has a specific type that gets an attack boost. In Giants, areas behind elemental gates also provide free HP regeneration for members of that element.
Fish People: Gill Grunt, and you meet some others while searching for the Eternal Water Source.
Follow the Bouncing Ball: Molekin despise the gigantic Drill-X robot in Giants primarily due to its singing. When it finally shows up, a small robot-face icon bounces across its dialogue subtitles as it raps them out.
Follow the Money: Gems can be found floating over Bounce Pads, movable blocks, and generally pointing to the next mission objective. Sometimes trails of money will appear after throwing a switch, hinting where the player should go next.
Gameplay and Story Integration: A lot of gameplay stuff was integrated into the game's universe, besides just the whole "toys in our world" thing. Those glowy bits that serve as EXP? Kaos uses them himself during the final battle. And how a Skylander says a phrase when you summon them? According to a story scroll that's not just a game interface thing, shouting a Battle Cry is a Skylander custom.
In Giants, we see that Kaos ended up in a toy store after the first game, and he gets back to the Skylands through the portal in a Skylanders store display.
Green Aesop: The trolls are guilty of multiple kinds of environmental damage in both character bios and Spyro's Adventure itself, including offshore oil drilling (Wham Shell's bio) and deforestation (Stump Smash's bio, and witnessed firsthand when searching for the Eternal Life Source).
Holding Out for a Hero: Subverted in Spyro's Adventure, where instead of merely sitting around and letting the player save the day, the Mabu villagers from the first chapter go out and form their own militia to help fight Kaos' army. They actually help a surprising amount, locating several of the components of the Core of Light themselves (though actually retrieving it is, naturally, left to you).
Hub Level: The Ruins in Spyro's Adventure, and Flynn's ship in Giants.
Hurricane of Puns: A number of characters are fond of making them. During the battle over the Eternal Fire Source, Kaos even lampshades it by commenting "I could do this all day."
Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Giants's three difficulty levels are named "Chompy Cuddler", "Cyclops Crusher", and "Heavy Hitter"; they're accompanied by images of a Chompy, Cyclops, and Goliath Drow, respectively.
Idle Animation: In Giants, Skylanders do various actions when you view their menu screen.
Inconveniently Placed Conveyor Belt: Seen at Drill-X's Big Rig and the Lost City of Arkus in Giants. Flying Skylanders can at least avoid some of the hassle by flying over them.
Kaos: There's more than one way to derail their plans!
Glumshanks:(Face Palm) Tell me you didn't just say that.
Inescapable Ambush: There are many times where the first thing you do upon entering a room is fight off a wave or two of Mooks to unlock a nearby gate. Hidden elemental zones in Giants even have rooms where you are specifically ambushed by Evil Skylanders, sometimes two or three at once.
Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: Spyro's Adventure has a dragon Skylander for every element: Spyro (magic), Cynder (undead), Zap (water), Bash (earth), Whirlwind (air), Sunburn (fire), Camo (life), and Drobot (tech). Giants adds one more — Flashwing the gem dragon, for the earth element. Plus the Dragon's Peak adventure pack level.
Jump Physics: Depending on the version: Skylanders can't actually jump at all in the console games, (when it's necessary, you'll find blue Jump Pads lying around), though they can in the 3DS games, and in Swap Force.
Kaizo Trap: The "Dungeoness Creeps" Heroic Challengenote unlocked by Cynder in Spyro's Adventure and Chop Chop in Giants tasks you with collecting 13 "amber medallions" in a catacombs. The last one is on a small platform you teleport to, with no enemies in sight ... easy, right? Except for nearly a dozen zombies that pop up out of the ground and swarm you as you attempt to get it.
Kill It with Fire: In Spyro's Adventure, zombie enemies can only be killed by fire-based attacks (e.g. a Fire Skylander) or other sources of flame (like a candlestand, or the "fire"power of medieval cannons). When they appear in Giants' Heroic Challenges, however, they can be defeated by anyone.
Brock: Who wants to start this battle up? YOU DOOOOOOO!!!
Last Lousy Point: Want to get the achievement for collecting 85 hats in Giants? Well, of the 89 total hats, three of them are awarded per Skylander (for completing their Quests) and one is a reward for beating the game on "Nightmare" difficulty. That leaves exactly 85 hats you can collect in normal gameplay (in shops or elemental areas) — but eight are exclusive to the four "Adventure Pack" levels (sold separately), without which you can only collect a total of 77.
In the Dragon's Peak adventure pack, Dragon Law says that "whomever sits on the throne" is proclaimed King. Apparently the throne itself is a source of great magical power, and anyone who literally sits (stands, lays down, etc.) on it can channel its power to do whatever they wish.
In Giants, the Arkeyan King ruled his empire with an iron fist. No, really, it's the Iron Fist of Arkus. The strategy guide even lampshades it; saying that it happened because the Arkeyans were so Literal-Minded: they heard people say they ruled with an iron fist, so they figured they should make an iron fist to rule with.
Living Toys: The characters are portrayed as this on Earth. It mostly only shows up in ads, but Giants shows it in its intro as well. And then there's the Wilikin - a race of living mannequin dolls.
Magic Versus Science: In Giants, Tech Skylanders have a Quest to kill a certain number of elemental mage enemies. (However, Magic Skylanders don't have a corresponding anti-Tech Quest, and magic and science are otherwise shown to work together.)
Meaningful Name: All characters have one, even Spyronote (from "pyro" (fire) + "spiro" (breath)) and Cyndernote (from "cinder", as in "embers" or "burned material").
Merchandise Driven / Revenue-Enhancing Devices: Despite the fact that the toys are integrated into the story, the fact remains that the game tries its darndest to get you to buy more stuff. When you pick up a Soul Gem for a character you don't have, you're even asked if you want to see a preview (read: advertisement video) for that character. Giants invites Spyro's Adventure owners to double-dip on figures with "Series 2" Skylanders featuring an exclusive "Wow Pow" upgrade, "Lightcore" Skylanders producing a "flash bomb effect" when they teleport into a level, and most of that game's collection-related (and experience-boosting) achievements only count "orange base" figures.
Bribing Your Way to Victory: Game advantages from buying toys include more elements to better take advantage of Field Power Effects and get into secret areas with stat-boosting hats, more Heroic Challenges to boost other stats, more backup characters to replace those who fall in battle, and - in special multipacks - other items to use in-game.
Allegedly Free Game: iOS apps can be notorious for microtransactions, but Skylanders: Cloud Patrol averts it; in-game currency can be used to unlock new features instead of real money. Same deal for Lost Islands.
The Merch: Excluding the toys themselves, tie-ins include children's books and a Mega Bloks line of sets.
Mini-Game: The "Pirate Seas" adventure pack features a card-matching mini-game. Giants features "Skystones" as a recurring mini-game, where the player takes turns placing tiles on a 3x3 board to flip opponent's tiles over, and acquires new tiles either from Auric's shops or by winning Skystones matches.
Mini Mecha: The Troll Stomper mecha is armed with a nose-mounted machinegun and Shockwave Stomp. Giants also introduces the Chompy Bot 9000, a Chompy-piloted mecha whose primary method of attack is shooting Chompies at you like machinegun bullets.
Monster Arena: After completing Level 3 in Giants, Brock allows you access to arena challenges where you fight monsters (under various rules) for cash and prizes, including monsters that you haven't encountered in the story levels yet. You can repeat the challenges as often as you wish, though the cash rewards are reduced by half after completing a challenge the first time.
Mook Maker: There are several enemy types that will endlessly spawn other monsters (typically Chompies and Spiderlings).
Mutually Exclusive Powerups: After purchasing six of a character's ten upgrades, the player is required to "Choose Your Path" for upgrades 7 thru 9, upgrading either their primary or secondary attack, but not both. "Series 2" figures (in Giants) can at least switch between these paths at any time, though they still can't mix-and-match upgrades from different paths.
Mythology Gag: Sheep resembling those in the PS1 games appear here and there as a Running Gag; they don't release butterflies this time, and are in fact completely indestructible, but they react in different, amusing ways to each type of attack. One of Spyro's upgrade paths is even called "Sheep Burner Spyro".
There's also a special "Dark Spyro" figure, with similar coloration to the Superpowered Evil Side from the Legend of Spyro trilogy, only available with the 3DS version.
Near Villain Victory: Kaos managed to destroy the only thing keeping the Darkness at bay and all but destroy the Skylanders before Spyro's Adventure even started.
Hugo says "[Master Eon] survived the blast, but was changed: he became a spirit." Oookay, if you say so. Kaos refers to it as "bodiless oblivion". A tie-in book goes into more detail assuring readers he's not actually dead.
Character bios for undead Skylanders like Hex and Ghost Roaster merely say that they were "transformed" into their present condition.
Averted for Cynder, as in Spyro's Adventure Quigley outright asks her if she came Back from the Dead.
New Game Plus: Completing the once in Giants unlocks the game's Harder Than Hard difficulty setting ... but you have to start a new save file to access it. Fortunately, your Skylanders' experience levels and upgrades are saved on the actual figures, and can be transferred straight to the new save file.
No Damage Run: The final challenge of each Arena in Giants is to defeat all enemies without taking a hit; to enforce this, your HP is reduced to 1 for the duration of the challenge. There are also Quests given per Skylander for completing a challenge and an arena without taking damage, though arena challenges where you're already forced to avoid damage don't count.
Nonlethal Bottomless Pits: Generally averted, as the Skylanders can't actually fall off of any platforms into a Bottomless Pit in the first place. However, a few elemental bonus areas and the battle arenas in Giants do have them, and the 3DS game, being a platformer rather than a hack-and-slash, has them in spades.
Defeating an Undead Spell Punk in Spyro's Adventure will cause any nearby deadly Rhu-Barbs to revert to midget Rhu-Babies. The same applies to Trogmanders and Trog Pinchers in Giants.
What happened to Kaos' Hydra after the battle? You didn't land a single blow on it during the fight....
Nostalgia Level: The four Adventure Pack levels and most Heroic Challenges from Spyro's Adventure return in Giants, with a few tweaks (like replacing enemies exclusive to Spyro's Adventure with their nearest Giants counterparts).
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The background stories of most of the Skylanders include quite a few; see the character sheet for details.
Character data is saved to the toys, so any progress you made in one game carries over into others, regardless of what system it's on. This even includes forwards and backwards compatibility, with Giants recognizing all Spyro's Adventure figures, and Spyro's Adventure recognizing... well, just "Series 2" figures, but the fact that it can use any Giants toys at all is impressive. (There are limits, though; the 3DS game only looks at levels and ignores other stats, Spyro's Adventure ignores any abilities introduced in Giants, and iOS games don't share data at all.)
The "Faithful Trio" achievement in Giants involves registering Spyro, Gill Grunt, and Trigger Happy (the three figurines shipped with the first game) to your in-game collection. The "Series 1" versions aren't required, but it is one of the few achievements that doesn't require "orange base" figures to receive.
Orbiting Particle Shield: Some Skylanders, like Camo, have the ability to generate shields of orbiting projectiles. Giants also introduces the Crystal Golem, an enemy whose spinning crystals protect it from all but Scratch Damage.
Our Giants Are Bigger: The biggest new feature of Giants is, well, the giant new figurines joining the character roster, who are roughly twice the size of other Skylanders.
Plot Tailored to the Party: The bonus sections of the stages require Skylanders of a specific element to access. Normally this is to coerce the player into buying at least one Skylander from each element, but the first stage in each game has gates that can be opened by the pack-in Skylanders.
Power Glows: One of the new features for Giants is that the Giant and LightCore toys light up when on the portal. In the case of LightCore figures, the same parts on the in-game character glow as well.
Reformulated Game: The 3DS versions are compatible with the same figures as the console versions but are completely different games; Spyro's Adventure takes place in a different part of Skylands (the Radiant Isles) and has a different Big Bad called Hektore.
Refugee From TV Land: The figures are supposedly the actual characters torn out of their world and into ours by Kaos (or, in sequels, by other magical events).
Remixed Level / Copy And Paste Environments: Heroic Challenges take place in areas of otherwise-normal levels that have been tweaked to suit the goals of the challenge. For example, Spyro's challenge level takes place in the Cadaverous Crypt, while Jet-Vac's occurs in the Empire of Ice.
Ring Out: Arena challenges in Giants feature a match mode where enemies are shielded; the only way to defeat them is to knock them off the edges of the arena (or into arena hazards). Water Skylanders also have a Quest to knock a certain number of enemies into pits.
RPG Elements: Though the game is primarily a Hack And Slash, you can collect experience points to level-up your Skylanders. The only real benefit, however, is increased HP; increases to other stats are acquired by completing challenges and purchasing upgrades.
Secret Character: Although they are prominently featured in the character lineup, there is no way to watch the preview videos for Terrafin, Ghost Roaster, Slam-Bam, and Sunburn in Spyro's Adventure from within the game, because their Soul Gems are contained in their sold-separately Adventure Pack levels.
Skylander "Sidekicks", Assist Character mini-versions of regular Skylanders (Whisper Elf, Gill Runt, Trigger Snappy, and Terrabyte). Most toys (beyond the main Skylander list and those available at release) were spoiled fairly quickly, either in the strategy guide or by the 3DS game's Interface Spoiler. The Sidekicks' existence wasn't known until months later, shortly before the promotion that would make them available.
Sequential Boss: Battles against Kaos's minions in Spyro's Adventure generally unfold in these phases: 1st minion, 1st obstacle swarm, 2nd minion, 2nd (tougher) obstacle swarm, 3rd Minion, (sometimes with a third obstacle swarm), then finally everything at once.
Shaped Like Itself: Among Cali's various congratulations for completing a Heroic Challenge in Giants is "Please take this reward as ... a reward!" Then there's the Great Pancake Slalom (Chill's Heroic Challenge) in which you avoid balloons representing danger while collecting pancakes that represent ... pancakes.
One of the tie-in books elaborates on what happened to Eon, explaining how he fell through one of his own portals and is now trapped between realms, only able to communicate as a floating head... which sounds kind of familiar, actually.
In Giants, Fright Rider seems to be a walking reference to Joust.
Also from Giants: Whirlwind's character-specific quest requires you to make 50 double rainbows. The title of the quest? "What Does it Mean?"
From Giants again, one of Hot Head's upgrade paths is called "The Burninator".
Slippy Slidey Ice World: The Empire of Ice adventure pack has ... a lot of ice to slip and slide on. Giants features the Frozen Wasteland, which also has slippery ice, though not quite as much. Skylanders with flying abilities can also fly themselves across the ice without having to slip and slide across it.
The Smurfette Principle: On average, each element has only one female character in the group, some of whom (Flashwing, Sprocket, Ninjini and Chill) were only introduced in Giants. Also, Ninjini is the only female giant.
So Last Season: The Spyro's Adventure versions of the characters are left in the dust by their Series 2: They don't have upgrade-switching and "Wow Pow" abilities, they don't count towards most collection goals, and they don't unlock new Heroic Challenges.
Spiritual Successor: The game plays out much more like a Kameo: Elements of Power sequel than a Spyro game. To wit - you play an elemental master switching between a horde of googly-eyed collectable elemental monsters, either solo or co-op, through an Action Adventure / Beat 'em Up fantasy world floating in the sky filled with googly-eyed, brightly colored creatures; each of these creatures has three skills which can be upgraded in ways that change both the monster's and the attack's appearance. All while being advised by the floating disembodied head of a grandfatherly wizard. The general plot (an evil apprentice betrays their kingdom, curses the kingdom's elemental monster protectors to gain control of a floating world) is fairly similar, too.
The 3DS version plays a lot like the original Spyro games, and some have even compared it to the classic Crash Bandicoot games.
Spotlight Stealing Title: Reviewers were quick to point out that the first game was not really Spyro's adventure as the title suggested - he's no more important in the grander scheme of things than any other playable character, and so his name was likely just used in the title because he's a well-established video game character.
The Stinger: Lampshaded by Flynn during the credits of Giants, when he says the player is probably just waiting to see if there's anything special after the credits. There is. In fact, there's two of them:
In the first, Kaos is seen retreating to his family home (which you raided earlier in the story), only to meet:
Glumshanks: Uh, Lord Kaos, is that who I think it is?
The second one is a short Dance Party Ending featuring a swarm of Chompies dancing on the lot Iron Fist of Arkus.
Suddenly Voiced: In Spyro's Adventure, over half the Skylanders were Speaking Simlish. As of Giants, all of them have proper voice clips - even the ones who aren't part of the "Series 2" line (such as phoenix-dragon Sunburn).
Time for Plan B: When Kaos' initial invasion is repelled by the Skylanders, his sidekick suggests going to Plan B. Kaos nixes it, skipping all the way to Plan Z. Which, surprisingly, works perfectly.
Too Dumb to Live: Apparently, Troll leaders actually have to tell their soldiers not to juggle live grenades in the middle of a battle, among other equally insane things.
Took a Level in Badass: The Mabu villagers from the first chapter who you have to save? Later on in Spyro's Adventure they've formed their own military and prove surprisingly helpful storywise.
Many Skylanders themselves also progress like this. The ones that seem the weakest at lower levels often end up being the most badass and strongest characters once all their abilities have been purchased.
"Series 2", who appear the same in-game but their toys represent their upgraded versions. These characters can purchase an exclusive "Wow Pow" ability and can switch between their two upgrade paths at any time.
"Series 3", announced for Swap Force but powers unknown.
"LightCore" Skylanders, whose toys light up while on the portal and release a damaging blast of light when summoned in-game.
Blue-and-gold "Legendary" variants, which have slightly better stats than the regular versions.
And unique Palette Swaps like 3DS version exclusives "Dark Spyro" and "Punch Pop Fizz".
Aside from Skylander variants, there are eight Spell Punks in Spyro's Adventure, color-coded one per element, each with different abilities. Giants also features fire, ice, and undead versions of Chompies.
The Unfought: Captain Dreadbeard and Vathek from the Adventure Pack levels aren't actually fought; Dreadbeard has to be beaten in a card game while Vathek sends a large swarm of minions to fight you. When he tries to take care of you personally, Flavius takes the throne while he's concentrating on you and turns him to stone with the throne's power. Out of the three bonus-level-exclusive Big Bads, only Occulous of Darklight Crypt is actually fought in the console version (you do get to fight Vathek in a proper boss fight on the 3DS version).
Verbal Backpedaling: Kaos tries not to be surprised when you defeat his minions in battle or dodge his elemental magic attacks, but it doesn't always work.
Kaos: (during the battle for the Water Source) "Impossible! You survived my best water spell! ... Ahem. I MEAN, you survived a very MEDIOCRE water spell, that I found lying around ... somewhere. I AM NOT IMPRESSED!"
Kaos: (during the battle for the Undead Source) "I didn't want to do this ... scratch that! I TOTALLY want to do this!"
Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Sheep from Perilous Pastures are invincible. You can Zap them, Burn them, Soak them, flatten them (and they'll soon recover from it), even knock them off a cliff. On the other hand Hugo thinks that Sheep are evil, so...
This is actually averted in the 3DS edition, where the sheep actually can be killed.
There is actually a part where you have to attack them to prevent them from eating the apples off a tree.
Almost every NPC in the first game can be attacked, and they all shout in pain when you do.
In Giants, Jet-Vac can has a Quest to vaccuum up the harmless birds that populate various levels. They are otherwise invincible.
Video Game Flight: Skylanders with the ability to fly essentially just hover above ground level; it's faster (but less precise) than normal movement and offers a slight defensive bonus. They can also cross water while flying (similar to water Skylanders), though Giants generally lacks actual water to do this on.
Kaos' Hydra is actually surprisingly frightening for such a lighthearted game.
Prism Break's teeth are rather creepy, and given that from a distance he looks like he's completely toothless, they can be startling when you first get a good look at his character portrait◊ — especially if your first good look is his page on the official website, which shows the portrait in extreme close-up.
You Break It, You Profit: In Skylanders: Universe, breaking respawning crates, bottles and such not only gives you coins, but sometimes also EXP. The main games also feature Rewarding Vandalism as well, though in a lesser quantity.
You Have Failed Me: As the final battle of Spyro's Adventure wears on, Kaos smites his own minions and gives their experience points to his next set of minions; when the last group fails, he collects all their experience points to refill his own HP, and relies solely on his Hydra to fight you.