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Bowser makes his Skylanders debut in Skylanders SuperChargers
Bowser makes his Skylanders debut in Skylanders SuperChargers

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Skylanders SuperChargers goes online, comes with its own take on Mario Kart

There's a lot to Skylanders SuperChargers, from the deep platforming gameplay on land, sea and in the air, to the minigames and first-time ever online play, but the only thing you really need to know is that the game will include its own take on Mario Kart and it's a lot of fun.

I recently had a chance to check out SuperChargers' racing mode in New York City with Vicarious Visions president Guha Bala. He was there to talk about what he called two of the game's big additions: racing and online play.

The online gameplay will allow gamers to connect via their console with friends to play cooperatively through the entire adventure. If you're playing with a friend, you can use the console's built-in chat system; if you're playing with a stranger, you can't. The online play will still require you to have whatever real world toys you want to use in the game, with your online buddy using their own portal and toys.The racing in the game supports four-player races on tracks that include another four AI-controlled opponents. It too allows for racing with friends or strangers.

When Bala introduced it, he called it a form of combat racing, but make no mistake: This is a streamlined version of Mario Kart.

The tracks are colorfully complex themed race courses with a variety of routes, land and water areas, boosts and power-up items. While I only tried my hand at land races, the game wil also include sea races with unique water handling and air races.

When the race begins a three-colored meter appears. Holding in the right trigger revs the engine;if you can keep the engine in the green or yellow, you get a boost off the line. If your engine is in the red when the race starts, your vehicle backfires and gets a slight delay.

Once racing, players have two weapons they can use. The weapons are each based on the vehicle you happen to be driving. One vehicle, for instance, shot damaging musical notes at opponents for its light attack and flung characters onto a target's vehicles for its heavy. Once those characters land, they spend a few seconds attacking the vehicle. Another vehicle could tunnel underground for a few seconds to either avoid an attack or drop under an enemy car and pop out under it, damaging it. Its heavy attack targets faraway enemies.

All attacks are powered with blue power cells scattered around the track. You'll need to collect them to be able to fire off your shots. The game also lets you drift around turns by holding in the brake button. If you do this right, you're rewarded with a short boost. Most tracks we played on also included little turbo areas that sped up your vehicles for a second. The map also included a variety of ways to complete the course.

Finally, the game has power-ups, and this is where it departs most sharply from Mario Kart.

When a player drives over exclamation-marked floating boxes, the power-up is triggered automatically. There's no way to store it and use it more tactically. This both the learning curve for younger players and also strips away a bit of the tactics. The power-ups included things like protective floating shields, a missile you ride for a short time, wings and an item that slows down opponents.

Every vehicle in the game comes with unique attacks and handling attributes. And if you match up the vehicle with its rightful owner, you also get a slight edge added to your weapons.

While the races won't award experience points for your characters to level up with, they will allow players to win gold and gearbits to upgrade vehicles.

The racing is available right out of the box and comes with six tracks unlocked. Players will be able to unlock another six boss tracks by purchasing action packs, which include a vehicle, character and boss trophy. Once the boss track is "beaten" the player can use it in multiplayer races.

Bala also showed off some SuperCharger Challenges. These challenges are tied to the Skylander and their paired vehicle.

For instance, Super Shot Stealth Elf and her Stealth Stinger get an air challenge that has players flying around a course while trying to destroy as many bees and queen bees as possible.

The game will include 20 different challenges, for the 20 SuperCharger characters and their 20 vehicles.

"Racing is an important piece of the game," Bala said. "It's an important piece of this being a child's ultimate vehicle fantasy.

"And it's another excellent way to enjoy the vehicles."

You can read more about the game and what it brings to the franchise right here.