Back in the 90s, Pokemon came out of nowhere to capture the imaginations of fans across the country. The sheer number of creatures available and their elaborate evolution trees created a franchise that was certainly a force to be reckoned with. Last year, Activision took this aspect of the Pokemon concept and brought it to the next level with the introduction of Skylanders. Skylanders was an instant hit, and Activision created the next big collectible-creature franchise. On the heels of last year’s original game, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, comes Skylanders Giants. Though the original proved to many that this franchise didn’t need much in terms of polish, Skylanders Giants takes the original formula and finds ways to make it better.
For those unfamiliar with the way the game works, Skylanders Giants works the same way as Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure did: in the retail packaging, you will receive a copy of the game, three Skylanders toy statues, and a USB accessory called the Portal of Power. Each of the toys has a chip inside of it, and when you place them on the Portal of Power, they become playable in the game. Everything you do with these characters in the game is saved on the toy, including all your upgrades and learned moves. If you want to switch characters, or if you reach an area in the game where you can’t progress without having a certain type of character, you can switch characters by removing the one you have on the portal and replacing it with another one. The system works quite well, and switching is relatively quick and painless. It also allows friends to trade Skylanders, since all the stats are saved in the toy and there is value in the time you spend with each individual Skylander.
Fans of the series will be happy to know that all your original Skylanders figures will work with the new game. All your progress is carried over, and the level cap is raised from 10 to 15. Skylanders Giants also introduces new “Giant” characters who are used extensively in the new game. They are twice the size of regular Skylanders and are quite powerful. LightCore figures have been added to the worlds, which light up when placed on the portal. In addition to looking better than the standard characters on the portal, they unleash a very powerful attack when summoned. This encourages the player to call in different characters at different times, keeping the gameplay varied and interesting. In case you were wondering, you can also use your series two Skylanders with the original game. The cross-compatibility and blend of new features makes this game stand out, and shows its appreciation to its fans.
As far as the story is concerned, it picks up where Spyro’s Adventure left off. The lord of darkness, Kaos, is at it again, trying to gain control of Skylands. Once he manages to return from exile, the Skylanders are summoned to fight back the forces of evil and maintain Skylands’ freedom. As you can see, the story is what most fans would expect. However, what makes this game better than the original is the attention to detail. Most characters now have voice actors, which really helps to immerse the player in the story and is a vast improvement over the original game. The developers also addressed the difficulty level issues from Spyro’s Adventure. Many gamers complained that the game was too easy and was geared towards younger gamers, but in Skylanders Giants there are four different difficulty levels to choose from, which can only be a good thing. What is probably the most impressive aspect of this game is the fact that it still maintains its broad appeal despite being a revamped game. With new levels of customization, you can tailor it to young gamers or ramp it up to appeal to a broader demographic. These mechanics make the game much better this time around and will only serve to gain more fans of the series.
In addition to the traditional single-player levels, Skylander Giants offers players co-op and competitive local play missions. The co-op missions allow two players to progress through the single-player levels together, while the competitive missions put players against each other in a series of different challenges. These additional gameplay options in Battle Mode include a Deathmatch-style game and Ring Out modes, which are similar to Smash Brothers. There are also enhanced elemental zones and new hero challenges which encourage players to collect hidden power-ups and level up every character. There are more ways to play this game outside of the traditional single-player levels and the overall experience this title offers is commendable.
In an era where backwards compatibility is seen as an expensive or unnecessary feature, Skylander Giants embraces it. For this notion alone it would justify a purchase from anyone who owns the original game. However, Skylander Giants aspires to be more than a kiddie game by implementing new features and ideas that make it appeal to a wider audience. Sure, it may still not be for everyone, but when a game franchise appreciates its fans and fixes the problems the fan base had with the original title, it is hard not to love the developers. If this game appeals at all to you, we recommend that you give it a chance to impress you. It certainly impressed us.
This review is based on a review copy of the Playstation 3 version of Skylanders Giants developed by Toys for Bob, published by Activision
- Surprisingly Well-Crafted
- Varied Worlds Makes You Use All Characters
- Just Plain Fun
- Areas are Locked to Specific Skylanders
- The Campaign is Rather Short