Sizing up Skylanders Giants

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by TRACY-MARK GORGAS / Special contributor to NWCN.com

NWCN.com

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 9 at 9:11 PM

Parents, prepare yourselves, Activision has brought back Skylanders for another Holiday season.  Skylanders Giants is the next chapter in the series and it introduces giant sized Skylanders.  Will your kids want it?  Is water wet?

Story

After his defeat, Kaos awakens on earth in a toy store display.  Because of his status as a Portal Master he is able to become unfrozen, unlike the other Skylanders who watch as Kaos brags in front of them.  Wanting to return to the Skylands so he can take over the realm, Kaos suddenly hears Glumshanks, his butler.  Turning he finds Glumshanks speaking to him from a display monitor that is situated over a portal.  Kaos decides to use the portal to get back to Skylands.  Even as Glumshanks tries to warn him that it’s not a good idea, since no portal master has ever used a port on themselves, Kaos jumps onto it and is warped away.

Meanwhile the spirit of Eon tells the Portal Master (you, the player) that a giant Skylander has appeared.  Giant Skylanders have not been seen in the Skylands in thousands of years.  As Flynn and Cali take an airship to pick up the giant and a hermit who saw something odd, Eon relates the history of the giants.  The giants were the first Skylander protectors who fought the Arkeyan robot army.  They defeated the Arkeyan ruler by removing the Iron Fist of Arkus from him.  After the Fist was removed all the robots powered down and froze.

When they find Ermit the Hermit he tells of how he saw Kaos fall from the sky in a storm cloud of thunder and lightning.  When Kaos climbed out of the crater he created he uncontrollably released a large amount of electricity into a nearby Arkeyan Conquertron robot.  This revived the robot who informed Kaos that he was his new master.  Kaos, laughing manically, boarded the Conquertron robot and flew off.

Knowing this does not bode well, Eon warns the Portal Master that Kaos must be stopped again before he can find the Iron Fist of Arkus.
 
Controls and Gameplay

In both elements the controls and gameplay for Skylanders Giants stay the same as they were in the previous game.  Controls are simple, well laid out and easy for kids to pick up and play.  The gameplay is the same platforming dungeon crawl with light role-playing game elements.  You are still able to hot swap Skylander figures as needed.  The one new element are the giants, they introduce two new gameplay moves that are unique to them.  One, they are able to lift large boulders and throw them, either to get them out of the way or to use as weapons, whichever the situation calls for.  The other move is the ability to drop through cracked areas on the ground or floor, opening up hidden dungeons and caves.

Most importantly the cross-system compatibility of the figures is still in place.  Meaning that a player who plays on a Nintendo Wii can take their favorite figure to a friend's house and play, not only the same character on a Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3, but have the same level, all the gold and hats they acquired in their own game available to them in their friend's game.  This is further enhanced by the fact that all of the figures from the first game are compatible with Skylanders Giants.  In fact they are now able to go beyond level 10 to level 15.  Fan favorite characters from the first game also are getting new "Series 2" versions.  Toy's for Bob are also introducing figures that light up when placed on the Portal of Power, no batteries need either.

Graphics and Sound

Skylanders Giants keeps the same computer cartoon-ish graphic style that was used in Skylanders:  Spyro's Adventure.

Sounds also stay the course.  They even brought back the original all-star voice cast featuring Patrick Warburton, Richard Horvitz and Sumalee Montano.  Joining them are a couple other names, most notably George Takei and Bobcat Goldthwait.

Overall

To say Skylanders:  Spyro's Adventure was a hit is an understatement.  Stores had a hard time keeping the toy figures for the game in stock.  It was inevitable that Activision would have developers, Toy's for Bob, make a sequel.  The question was would they slap together a same-y quick-y sequel or something that built on what they started?  Toy's for Bob went for a little of both.  Skylanders Giants certainly feels and plays like the previous game, but by adding the giants they expanded things.  In this case keeping the same feel is a good thing since a drastic change could easily turn off their fickle target audience, kids.  I know my niece has been looking forward to this game, so much so she even convinced my sister to actually pre-order the game, something my sister rarely does.
 
While much does stay the same they introduced something new, the giants.  The giants are powerful characters and play much like you would expect, strong on damage, but slow in movement.  In some ways you could say they add another layer of strategy.  Now players can choose to play a normal Skylander, who is fast but not powerful, or a giant Skylander, who has the power but is slow.  Smart players will realize that a constant swapping of characters will be the order of the day to beat most levels.

Swapping will also be something parents may come to dread.  In order to get the full experience their kids will need at least one of each element (the game has a total of eight elements) to reach and unlock all the playable areas, not to mention the goals (achievements or trophies) that acquiring all the figures will require.  Thankfully the storyline in the game can be completed with just the core characters, anything beyond that is frosting.

Like the first game, I can see this being a game that parents and their children or siblings enjoying together.  Short, fun, and cute, Skylanders Giants maintains the series while adding some freshness.  I give it a 4 out of 5.

Skylanders Giants is rated E 10+ for Everyone 10 and older for Cartoon Violence but the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).  It is available now for the Nintendo Wii, Wii-U, 3DS, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.

For more information see the Skylanders web site
 

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