Guaranteed to be on the Christmas wish lists of many sons and daughters, Skylanders Giants will thrust your very own little Portal Masters into a brand-new adventure and eat up what little shelf-space is left with a new series of dynamic figures. Skylanders Giants is both literally and figuratively bigger than last year’s surprise hit, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Not only does the game now sport a figure line that is nearly three times larger, but the software succeeds in making a compelling case for a game to be replayed often. Spurred on by a terrific line of figures, incredible technology that let players play with those “toys with brains” figures on any console platform, and a video game that played like Diablo II for kids, but fun enough for all ages.
Skylanders Giants picks up where Spyro’s Adventures left off and is reminiscent of Pixar’s Toy Story. Kaos returns to the floating islands of the Skylands to stir up trouble. He enlists the help of a nefarious giant robot, an ancient Arkeyan war machine, voiced by Star Trek’s George Takei. Kaos’ actions results in the return of a forgotten race of Skylanders Giants long thought missing. Once again the hilarious pilot Flynn and his rag-tag crew assemble, along with help from the player’s skylander, to stop Kaos and his diabolical plans.
The story does feel more expansive in this outing as the heroes now travel via a fabulous (and somewhat customizable) flying dirigible to each island or destination. Between chapters, players can customize their characters with upgrades or change hats (which can add various bonuses to skylander attack and defenses), compete in arena battles, attempt Heroic Challenges, play Skystones, shoot down flying enemies, customize the ship, and other fun diversions. Several of these activities are new to Skylanders and really have a lot of appeal to those who really want to level up their characters.
In Skylanders Giants, the story retains that fun, light-heartedness. There’s not really any big change-ups in story progression. Each chapter is focused on a few items players must complete to progress farther in the story. There are new elements in the story such as the Skystones games, of which players will have several chances to play. It adds a fun puzzle challenge to the sometimes frusting locks that players must at times find a way to open. Another new addition is the Battle Arena where Skylanders fight several waves of enemies for coins. The challenges in Battle Arena can sometimes be tough. The Heroic Challenges from Spyro’s Adventures make a return featuring new challenges for the new figures in the Skylander line.
The puzzle elements to the Skylanders Giants chapters are fun, well-designed, and in some instances, may require a parent’s help to figure out. Returning in this game are the special areas of a chapter that require a certain Skylander from eight different elements: Magic, Earth, Water, Fire, Tech, Undead, Life and Air. Also worth mentioning is the dynamic sound and music in the game. The changes in level environment are also met with a noted change in the style of the background music, and really helps with immersion into the game world.
Game play is largely unchanged from the first game. The controls are easy to pick up and play and kids will be easily get the hang of things quickly. There is no mistaking that this is a game that kids, both boys and girls will enjoy. However, adults will also enjoy most of the humor, dig the special voice actors, enjoy the time bonding as a gamer parent to gamer kid, and once again become figurine hoarders as the new lines of Skylanders amp up their appeal. For those rather well-versed and skilled at playing Skylanders, the new game now offers Medium and Hard mode, along with an Easy mode. Additionally, when a player completes the game, it unlocks a very hard, Nightmare mode that can be very difficult to complete.
Skylanders Giants has local only co-operative play in the story. Players can join or leave easily in the middle of playing if needed. In addition to the story line, Skylanders Giants also features a Battle Mode which allows two players to compete against each other, Skylander vs Skylander, in four fun various modes: Arena Rumble, Skygoals, Skygem Master, and a new mode named Ring Out. Arena Rumble is your traditional beat up the other player battle. Skygoals is a very fun football-styled battled. Skygem is a mad rush to see who can collect five gems in a match. The new mode Ring Out has players competing against each other to knock the other out of the playing field.
One can not review Skylanders Giants without talking about the Skylanders figures. For Skylanders Giants, Toys for Bob has added a few new lines of figures and each line will feature figures in all eight elements. The most obvious line are the Giants. The Giants are significantly larger, and each one has a cool glow-light feature. Another new line are the Skylanders Light Core that are regular Skylanders size, but like the Giants, feature the glow-light when place on the portal. The third new line are the Skylanders Series 2 collection that take popular characters from Spyro’s Adventure with a new pose and new abilities they can use in the game. Last, there are brand new Skylanders characters being released. All Skylanders figures can level up to level 15 in Skylanders Giants, including the Skylanders from the first game, which were at the time capped at level ten. Additionally, many of the new Skylanders can be played in the first Skylanders game, except for the Giants and Light Core line of figures. It’s helpful to check the box of the Skylanders figure to see which figures can be used. Last but not least, the additional missions figurines that are available in stores can also be used in Skylanders Giants. It should be said that those with portals from the first game can continue to use them in Giants, and the game is available in a “with or without” versions for those who don’t want to pay more for another portal and additional Skylander figure.
Skylanders Giants is quite possibly the best kids video game out there. The series once again shows that a kid-oriented video game does not have to play to gender stereotypes, dumb-down game play or story, can feature cool technology, and endear adults to it just as much as children. The new additions to game play, like Skystones and the Battle Arenas, make replaying the game a lot less repetitious than the first. The lines does wear it’s merchandising message loud and proud on its sleeves, but the toy line continues to be fanciful, well-made, durable, and collector-friendly.
Overall, Skylanders Giants provides fun for the whole family and will be on a lot of kids lists for Santa this Christmas. My kids, being kids, can argue quite a bit and this was one title that actually brought them together in harmony as they worked together in co-op mode around the game. That has to be worth the asking price alone, surely?
Skylanders Giants can be purchased from our retail partner www.thatgameshop.com.