Skylanders Giants

Skylanders GiantsMore addictive to an eight year old than oxygen.

Skylanders Giants – this year’s big Christmas hit? Check out our review.

Twelve months ago, Activision tentatively put
out “Spyro’s” Skylanders. This year, it’s over-sized.

I’ve always regreted not getting to write a review of the original game last year. It’s a game that I spent a lot of time with, helping out Maxi-Minor_Furie and it’s a game that has held his interest since he opened it on Christmas day.

Fortunately, this regret is taken care of with Skylanders Giants, as it’s essentially the same game, just, well, bigger.

the game still revolves around a few simple concepts:

    1. Put Skylander “toy” onto the portal and play as that character
    2. Completing simple maze based levels, where you fight “Gauntlet” style against a host of baddies.
    3. Powering up your “collectible” Skylanders by spending money earned in the levels.
    4. If a Skylander runs out of health in the level, pop on another of your collectible Skylanders.
    5. Run out of Skylanders? Go out and buy another.
    6. Go to 1.

It’s easy to belittle the game and cynically approach it as a cash cow for Activision. Essentially each figure you buy (at around £8 each) gives you an extra life. They’re also all very different in both character design and fighting powers. So in essence, they’re more addictive to an eight year old than oxygen.

The thing is, Activision actually took quite a big risk on this. The entire “additional hardware” thing has cost both Activision and Ubisoft dearly in the last couple of years (with Guitar Hero and Ubisoft’s drawing tablet not selling anywhere near expectations), so it was a bold move. To add in a fun game and to not skimp on character design was actually something they should be proud of. Yes, it meant that there was a degree of delay in releasing original products (as they waited to see how sales went), but it’s worked out nicely for everyone in the end.

The game is actually very playable though. It’s never going to tax anyone too much, but it’s really solid fun. The levels have nicely introduced missions, fully voiced and following a vague, over the top plot. There’s a good old camp villain to defeat and the entire thing has a wonderful tongue in cheek approach. It’s the kind of game you secretly play with your child because you enjoy it, not because they actually need your help.

The characters are all well designed and well produced, which has always been the case. Also returning in Giants is the battle arena mode where you can take your powered up Skylanders and pitch them against a friend’s. The characters themselves retain all their upgrades and level ups, so moving them from system to system is seamless. Got your PS3 Eruptor up to level 12 with a bunny ear hat? That’s how it is on Jonny next door’s 360 game, or that you can lend to Timmy for with 3DS.

The game is as big as the old game, and will require a huge number of hours to complete all the levels, get all the hidden goodies and then do the hero trials. There are a lot of hours of game-play sitting there for the dedicated.

So what’s new in Giants then? Well, for starters there are eight new Giants, one for each of the “elements” that section the game characters. These are, well, much larger versions of the original toys. They’ll be the main character you send out into the levels, but there are also eight new normal sized characters too. It appears that one old character has been retired from each elemental group and replaced with a new one. Some old characters have also been replaced with new “lightcore” figures which have areas in the figure that light up when on the portal.

The portal has also been changed. The PS3, Wii and 3DS versions were wireless and went through batteries like you go through popcorn at the cinema. The 360 version was always wired, and this is now standard for the Wii and PS3 – phew, though Duracell are less than happy.

There are at least two flavours to buy:

    • The “Starter Pack”, which contains everything you need if you didn’t already own Skylanders. So one Giant character (Tree Rex), two normal sized characters (Cynder from the previous game and new guy Jet-Vac), a portal of power and the Giants game disk itself (plus stickers, cards, poster, etc). This will set you back around £55
    • The “Booster Pack” simply contains the game and the Tree Rex giant character. It’s designed for those people who already own Skylanders.
    • As with Skylanders, the 3DS is slightly different (it’s a different game type and has a different new character (Pop Fizz).

No news yet on if there are to be add on packs like the first one (read my review of one/them here), those were always of very dubious value.

All in all, it’s much more of the same. If you already have Skylanders and are bitten by the bug, it’s a no brainer to carry on with this if you enjoyed the original. It’s still the same fun game-play, levels and character designs. If you missed out on the game last year, then it’s well worth taking the plunge, but beware – before you know it, you’ll be hunting through the blister packs at the local game shop, looking for “just another character” and your eight year old may have forgotten to breath…

Lots of information on the official website


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