Battlecast is quite different from other Skylanders games in that it is a free app. game, with supporting booster cards, but gameplay is still very familiar to any Skylanders fans.
Skylanders Battlecast sees you controlling an individual or group of Skylanders, and taking on Kaos and his cohort in turn-based battles. You have strength to attack physically, and cards to attack, defend and change gameplay.
Each Battlecast card you posess can be scanned by the phone or tablet camera, and added to your available cards during gameplay. Cards are Character Cards, Spell Cards, Relic Cards or Gear Cards. A few cards are specific to particular characters, but most can be played by anyone. Don't panic if you don't have many Battlecast Cards, each day you can collect free cards within the game, and you can also win or buy them using 'gold coins' which you win by beating opponents.
Spell Cards can have a multitude of different actions or effects ranging from increased health or power, damaging the opponent(s), sidelining a player in a tag team game, stealth attacks, prolonged attacks etc.
Relic Cards change how the game is played. They have their own health level, and are attacked by your opponents until they are broken, or until you replace them with another relic.
Gear Cards are your basic armour and protection, and give your Skylander a boost of defence.
Character Cards are, somewhat obviously, the characters available to you when you choose your team or 'deck'.
You start the game by running through training levels, which are very quick and you get the hang of gameplay easily. The player earns crystals throughout the game, which are used to power the cards - not enough crystals means wait or choose a different card.
Each turn you can physically attack, and use a card from your hand. This is where strategy and thinking ahead come in. You may also be lucky enough to have a healing card, which you want to play before the enemy turn, or a card to replace the opponents Gear with something that has a negative effect.
As you battle you gain XP, and through this you level up. When you reach level 3 you unlock abilities (you can get this far while still playing games through the training levels). Abilities can be used each round and tend to have a small effect, but it adds up. For example Spyro inflicts 10 damage by breathing flames on the competition. Each character and some of the other cards earn their own XP, so as the game progresses everything gets more powerful.
The player selects a playing deck from their available Battlecast Character Cards. Each new player is given a deck to start with, and by adding your extra Battlecast Cards (by scanning them in), you can add to that deck to have a pretty varied and interesting hand.
There are 306 cards in total. The cards are scanned in using the 'Card to life' part of the app., which gives an AR image of the item or character on the card. These are pretty awesome and you can try it with the Spyro example below, but sorry, you won't be able to add it to your collection!
You can also get a 'free spin' on a wheel each day to earn extra bonuses such as level ups for characters. It can be a bit frustrating whenever in the game you earn rewards specific to characters you don't yet have, but it seems to be a fairly rare thing compared to useful cards.
Overall Skylanders Battlecast is easy to learn, fairly simple to master to a degree of competency, and even without buying any extras it's good fun and you have a nice range of cards available. Buying the card packs adds to the gameplay and strategy options, and multiple cards of the same type mean you 'level up', so children will want to collect and trade cards. Card packs are very attainable though, with a variety of different sized booster and deck packs available to suit pocket-money prices.
There are 64 challenges to work through, as well as daily challenges, so your child (or you) won't 'finish the game' and move on in much of a hurry. The recommended age range is 6+, and I agree. The strategy involved can get as complex as you like, adults will play a totally different game to children, 6 year olds a different game to 10 year olds.
Skylanders Battlecast is available now and totally free to download for IOS or Android.
Battlecast Booster Card Packs are available in prices ranging from around £4.99 (8 card booster pack) to £8.99 (22 card booster pack).
We were sent our booster packs for review.