Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is an entry in the Spyro the Dragon universe and a departure from the previous games as it is tied to a new peripheral and a line of action figure toys. It is part of a new subseries in the franchise called Skylanders. To play the game players must connect the Portal of Power peripheral included with the game to the device the game is played on. The Starter Pack, which is the default release, includes the game, three real-life action figures (Spyro, Trigger Happy, and Gill Grunt), a collector's poster, trading cards, a sticker sheets, and a number of web codes. There are over 35 characters in total, but these can only be unlocked by buying additional packs that include the action figure toys. This way, the game's DLC is only provided through the action figure and cannot be unlocked in-game without placing it physically on the Portal of Power and having its RFID chip scanned.
The game is set around Spyro and his Skylander friends who have to defeat Kaos, the evil Portal Master. The game is played as a third-person action game and each character has different abilities. The characters are divided into eight groups (classes) tied to the eight elements that are in the game: air, water, earth, tech, undead, magic, fire, and life, with four characters in each element. Each character has two primary attacks, both of which can be upgraded by using coins collected in the game. Experience also leads to new abilities, also unlocked by discovering certain hats, and eventually a tertiary attack. Among the line of toys there are randomly inserted Gold, Platinum and Pearl versions of certain characters.
Any upgrades, coins, or hats are not saved in the game, but directly to the toy via the Portal of Power. Furthermore, the toys are cross-platform; all of the information saved onto a toy can be played on any device that runs the game. The Portal of Power is not interchangeable between consoles and PC for all versions, but for some. When a character dies, the level needs to be restarted, a new character needs to be introduced, or the player has to wait about twenty minutes before it is revived. A second player can join the game to play cooperatively by placing an additional toy on the Portal of Power. The game features the main adventure, which can be played with a single player or co-op. In addition, Skylanders features a player-versus-player mode, where players can battle against each other in arenas filled with traps, weapons, and obstacles.