As a child I loved collecting action figures and figurines of my favorite comic book and movie heroes. Posing them and lining them up on my dresser was something I would spend countless hours doing. I always imagined that they could come to life and battle some of the most dangerous villains ever known. Last year Toys For Bob made this childhood dream come true for millions of gamers through the release of Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. Bringing inanimate objects in the real world to life through a video game was a simple, yet smart idea and also one of the most genius marketing schemes ever for a video game. Skylanders: Giants is the next installment in this now AAA series and delivers more of the same fun and excitement of its predecessor while only iterating in a few areas.
If you are unfamiliar with the idea of the Skylanders series then you have either been living under a rock for the last year or think it is just a game for kids. The games are an isometric action game that revolves around the many Skylanders characters. Each character has their own special abilities and level up through the seemingly simple and easy combat. Players attach the Portal of Power to their game platform of choice and then place the physical Skylander toy they want to use on top of it. The character then appears on screen in the game with it’s stats and loot in tact. The idea of collecting the Skylanders is what drives it. Certain areas can only be accessed by using certain Skylanders and certain collectibles can only be used by certain ones. Each Skylanders figurine maintains its loot and level when transferred to other portals even on other platforms.
Skylanders: Giants essentially delivers these same basic concepts except with a few new additions. This time around players are thrust into the Skylanders Universe now occupied by the Giants. No matter what kit players buy they will receive the Tree Rex giant. Tree Rex is a giant tree who slowly lumbers through the environments wreaking havoc on enemies and his surroundings. Where the previous game required characters to use bombs to destroy walls to move forward, the Giants can simply crash through them or throw large boulders at them. With his large size and slow movement I couldn’t help but feel invincible as Tree Rex. The other Giants feel very similar . They have more health than the standard Skylanders and can deliver more devastating attacks.
Skylanders: Giants introduces 8 Giant Skylanders along with 8 new classic-sized characters. Each have their own abilities and powers which creates new experiences when replaying levels. With that said, replaying levels with new characters is something that Skylanders vets know far too well. Skylanders: Giants is no different. Sure there is a story happening here but it really isn’t anything engaging. My 6 year old son enjoyed it and found the return of the first games villain Kaos somewhat upsetting and all he wanted to do was squash his return. Co-op play is again fun but the fact that it is still limited to only two players with no online play is somewhat disappointing. Four player online co-op would broaden this games appeal to older gamers looking for a new persistent dungeon crawling experience.
The Giants and the all new Series 2 characters do something that blew me away when I first saw it. As you bring them close to the Portal of Power they begin to glow. The closer they get the more brightly they shine. This technique of power transfer is called LightCore. It is actually a technology that has been around for a while but I’ve never seen it implemented this way. This is yet another aspect of the marketing plan for these characters. Purchasing new Skylanders just to see how they light up is a rather enticing yet seemingly pointless proposition but I would be lying if I said it never crossed my mind.
As for the gameplay itself it is again very similar to the first game. With 16 chapters this time around players will traverse landscapes and dungeons only to collect loot and move on to the next chapter. Rock and lock puzzles are back and are rather simple to complete. Overall the game is a bit harder this time but it still does a great job at catering to a younger audience. Previously released Skylanders will work in Skylanders: Giants and will maintain their level and gear. The level cap has been raised to 15 so get set to use your old Skylanders once again. Outside of the campaign the game offers Battle Mode which is a one on one arena that is fun but feels rather shallow. It does offer characters experience so it is just another way to grind them up.
As an overall experience Skylanders: Giants plays it safe and delivers more of the same. Honestly this is not a bad thing. Why try to fix something when it’s not broken? In typical Activision fashion it appears that this may be their next annualized series. With the focus of the Skylanders Universe not being on just the games themselves, it seems that it may not follow the path of their previously annualized games that became over saturated with time before fading. (Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk, etc.) Skylanders: Giants is a blast to play with a younger gamer co-operatively yet it may be a bit too easy or simplified for a hardcore gamer to face alone. I can safely say that we have not seen the end of the Skylanders and this is just another stop on their path to gaming infamy.