The new 'Skylanders' convinced me that the Apple TV can be a real gaming machine

The new Apple TV isn’t going to replace your Xbox One or PlayStation 4. But I’m convinced that it’s going to be the way a lot of people, especially kids, experiencing gaming on the big screen.

“Skylanders SuperChargers” by Vicarious Visions and Activision is the first console crossover to make its way to the new Apple TV. “Skylanders” on the Apple TV isn’t a dumbing down of what you get on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4; it’s the exact same game on every device.

During a demo in New York City with the team behind the latest instalment of the hit franchise, I was blown away by the graphics and overall design of “SuperChargers.” It feels like you’re playing a console-quality game, except it’s being powered by the Apple TV.

Vicarious Visions used Apple’s developer framework for games, called Metal, to bring “SuperChargers” to life on the Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. Because of restrictions Apple places on developers with how much data their apps are allowed to download (only 200MB for the initial download and then up to 2GB per app), much of “SuperChargers” is downloaded on the fly as you play through the game. 

That’s an impressive engineering feat for a game like “Skylanders,” which features top notch graphics, sound design, and voice acting. The game also takes advantage of Apple’s Game Center and iCloud syncing to keep your progress and settings up to date across devices.

What really impressed me during the game demo with the Vicarious Visions team was the online multiplayer mode. Two of us played co-op through a level with one of us on the Apple TV and the other using an iPhone 6. For the game’s Mario Kart-like racing mode, four of us played together over different internet connections. Jumping into the same game together from an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Apple TV was seamless. 

“Skylanders” is definitely a game that’s designed for kids. The $US74.99 starter pack comes with a couple toys, a batter-powered pad that syncs their characters with the game, and a (quite good) Bluetooth controller. You can pay for in-app purchases to unlock more characters, but you don’t have to.

Getting games like “Skylanders” onto the Apple TV isn’t an easy task. The App Store version that’s out now crashed on me every time I tried to play past the initial tutorial, for instance. But assuming that’s fixed with an update, “Skylanders” is proof that the Apple TV can be a real gaming console.

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