With Giants Comes Huge Heart
“Got to hide my wallet from my son!”
That was the first thing I said when I heard the announcement of Skylanders: Giants, the sequel to last year’s phenomenal Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Last year I was blindsided by how awesomely tiered the game was, and even more so by the collectability of the action figures and expansion packs that littered the calendar months. So blind, in fact, that I made a horrible parental mistake. “I promise we will get all of the Skylanders,” I said. I’ve already secretly sworn not to do the same thing with this year’s Skylanders: Giants, but I worry that this is a promise I won’t be able to keep—they are just too cool.
When I first opened the package, after the initial reaction was akin to someone winning a gold medal, my son and I looked over the figures and marveled at how sharply detailed they were. Of course, this sequel introduces the Giants as playable characters, but it also introduces the “Lightcore” figures too.
The Giants, one for each element, are at least twice the size of the regular characters. The “Lightcore” are similar in size but with variations on their poses. Oh, and did I mention they light up too? Giants and “Lightcores” both have specific areas that light up whenever the figures are on the Portal of Power. This little feature alone adds a new level of excitement to the collecting of the figures. With a total of 48 new and Series Two variations on past characters, that idea of collectability is going to go a long way.
Before going any further into the actual game though, it is important to mention that the original Skylanders with their upgrades, coins, levels, and even hats will play in the new Skylanders: Giants game. Even the Portal of Power works from the original game. One other thing I discovered is that the upgrades from the Series One and Series Two versions of the characters are the same with the exception a new “Wow Pow” upgrade, as well as the ability to choose a power path for the Series Two versions. Essentially, you could just play with the original action figures on this game. However, where’s the fun in that? Especially when you can take your Series Two figures and play with them in the original adventure.
Without giving away too much of the story, Skylanders: Giants is all about the titular Giants. They are ancient beings from thousands of years ago that protected Skyland from the evils of that time. Now, that same evil has returned and it is up to you, the Portal Master, to utilize the power of the Giants, as well as new and returning Skylander friends, to save Skyland once again.
Outside of the playable characters, several familiar faces will pop up in your adventure, including Flynn, Hugo, and even the upgrade fairy Persephone. All of these friends will have new residence as you traverse Skyland on Flynn’s airship. It’s because of this minor change to your in-between-missions resting area that Skylanders: Giants feels more like a grandiose adventure, without selling the scope of the first epic adventure short. This is just one example of how this game feels like a true upgrade instead of merely a mediocre sequel.
Normally, developers will make modifications to controls, graphics, and overall gameplay experiences merely for change’s sake. Those changes are typically the first things that fans will notice and “complain” about. With Skylanders: Giants, this is the furthest thing from the truth. While there are some changes to the gameplay, as well as new activities, the adjustments don’t hinder the game. For example, last year’s Skylanders had you to move the right stick in various directions in order to open chests, unlock doors, or perform other traditionally easy tasks. Now replaced with button controls, it feels like Toys for Bob grasped the whole “this is for kids too” mindset here.
However, this brings to my only complaint for the gameplay, which deals with the child players. There’s a new game this time around called Skystones, and it’s been the root of all evil in my household for the last few days. Quite frankly, it seems far too complex and difficult for the target age group.
The way it works is each player has a set of stones. On the sides of these stones there are arrows, and the more arrows you have on that side the better their defense is and the greater their attack is. You lay down a stone in turns and the person that has the most stones in the end wins. Even though the tutorial holds your hand as it walks you through, the gloves truly come off after you clear the tutorial area. Admittedly, the first Skylanders’ memory-based game was a bit too easy, no matter the age demographic, but it seems the advancement was a bit harsher than it needed to be.
Thankfully, you don’t get that feeling in any other aspect of the game. There are feats of strength for the Giants characters with simple button-pressing controls and several new puzzles that never reach past the age bracket Skylanders is intended for. Once again, these are just natural advancements to the franchise that make it a smoother and more enjoyable experience.
This is immediately present in the graphics. Right from the beginning of the game, you will notice how much sharper, crisper, and more detailed everything is. Skyland flows with wonderful textures and vivid colors. The cinematics have also received a huge upgrade. Looking more like a Pixar movie than several other games on the market today, and packing in such a skilled and wondrous voice cast, Skylanders: Giants has all the trappings of getting both kids and adults to want to see a complete visual tale about their world.
I really cannot praise Skylanders: Giants enough. Last year’s beginnings were just that, a launch pad for what was to become one of the most sought after collectibles of the 2011 holiday season. With tons of new and exciting things to do, new figures to collect, and the ability to use your previous Skylanders, it feels like someone finally got everything right when creating a sequel. Now excuse me, I need to make sure my wallet is where I left it.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.7 Graphics
This is an advancement – plain and simple. If you thought the first game looked good, this will blow you away. 4.2 Control
Refined controls from the previous installment are apparent right from the get-go. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While the voice acting and catch phrases are more or less for a younger audience, the skill is undeniable. 4.9 Play Value
Much like last year, Skylanders: Giants packs the content in for hours upon hours of gameplay. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best