There's always got to be a gimmick when you try to charge more than the "standard price of admission" for any game. In this case, the $69.99 you spend nets you the PORTAL OF POWER and three Skylander figurines. What this is used for is essentially your real-time character change. When you place a Skylander on the Portal of Power, the game recognizes this and swaps your character to the one you places on the portal. The really neat part is that it saves that individual character's stats (current level, stats, upgrades and hat). That means it's basically it's own proprietary memory card. I think Toys for Bob and Activision did a good job executing this new integration of figurines with video games.
I also like the way it's integrated as it's compatible across the board. This means if you bring your figures to a friend's house who owns a different system than you, you can still join the fight with your characters. There's even an online portal that allows you to access the Skylanders Universe with your figures, storing a separate chunk of data (web vs. console).
To be completely honest, I'd rather have DLC presented this way than your standard $4.99 download from XBL or PSN. At least you have something physical to show for it, versus virtual goods in general, which is something so many folks (see: your parents) have a hard time understanding.
The actual game is your standard 3rd person action brawler. You basically have three different characters to choose from (the initial three that come in the starter) and you just spend the rest of your time running through a linear map, fighting bad guys, leveling up and buying upgrades while seeking out hidden treasures that contain hats (which also give you buffs).
It's definitely not a bad game as it really is presented quite well. I think my first inclination would be to compare it to Gauntlet. You can even break open barrels to obtain food items because your figure is likely hungry.
The visuals aren't anything to write home about as they definitely aren't pushing the system's capabilities nor is the writing in the story. It's definitely geared toward the younger crowd, but I think that's completely okay. It's a great way to really integrate the game playing experience with the family.
Speaking of family, Joe from Family Guy (the neighbor in the wheelchair) voices one of the characters in the game. I'm just waiting for him to ask Bonnie for something.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. Like I mentioned earlier, if you're really love figures, new technology and well executed 3rd person action brawler games with a decent grind, this is for you.
Related Link: Skylander's Spyro's Adventure Starter Pack