Say what you will about the wallet exploiting tactics of Skylanders, the original game was a nice little surprise back in 2011 as it delivered a tidy adventure game when no one thought it would. Now back for a second outing, Skylanders Giants mixes the game up slightly with some new characters, refinements to the underlying mechanics and of course, a new set of toys to collect and spend your money on.
Skylander Giants heads back to Skylands where Kaos, who was exiled from Earth, has returned and wants to enslave everyone in the Skylands. You, the Portal Master must use your army of Skylanders to take him down.
The story mode is much like the original, which is both a good and bad thing. The story is very straight forward, you move through levels by defeating waves of enemies, the combat system makes this fun for a while but you will end up bashing buttons to toward the end of it all. There are plenty of puzzles thrown in your path throughout the adventure and most of them will require only a moment of thought as they’re pretty simple and naturally aimed at children. The mini game diversions are good enough at breaking up the action, the addition of the Skystones mini game is a real treat. Throughout your adventure Skylanders can be upgraded with new abilities and have a level system much like the original. These skills are on the actual toys (along with their hats) so you can take your Skylander to a friend’s house, no matter what platform they’re playing on.
The story mode can still be played co-operatively which, like the original, as is just as fun. Local multiplayer modes are again offline only but feature a range of modes. The best is Arena Rumble which is a standard battle to the death. The arenas you fight in are littered with bounce pads, teleporters and items that you’ll have to take advantage of to come out on top. Ring Out is very much a Super Smash Bros style mode where you whittle down your opponent’s health in order to bash them off a stage. The last two modes are a little different, Sky Gems gets a pass but Skygoals which is meant to play like American football just wasn’t much fun. The two player limit is a little annoying especially for the battle modes, but unless they release a jumbo sized portal it’s not likely to change.
The titular Giants don’t add too much to the game and their power can make the game feel a little unbalanced at times. You can walk around stomping and smashing everything and take little to no damage doing so. The game’s levels don’t look or feel like it was designed for characters of this size. Walkways are too small, they don’t appear to fit in doors but they do anyway and jump pads are can hard to hit with them.
Skylander Giants supports Off-TV play however with the addition of the portal it’s a little tricky to actually use it. Unlike the original, this version of the portal is wired so you’ll need to be pretty close to the console and TV anyway. The previous wireless portal works but you can’t buy the Wii U version of the game by itself. The wireless portal’s range is also less than that of the GamePad, it’s all a bit messy. If you’re playing the game the old fashioned way on the TV you can check out your current Skylanders stats on the screen and keep a track of all the objectives in each level.
You will be putting in some good hours to get everything out of the game, there is plenty to see and do. Completing the game won’t take too long if you’re just playing through the excellently presented story but if you’re a real completionist you’ll want to come back for all the extra objectives and hidden items. There certainly is a lot of them. For those who want to complete everything, however, you’ll need a Skylander from each element to see everything in the game. If you’ve played the previous games, you’ll have nearly all the elements you need (even if you didn’t buy anymore extras) but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re just jumping into this now.
Skylanders Giants is also a very pretty game to look at, there’s beautiful green fields, dim caves, icy and snowy mountains. It’s great to see the Skylanders in HD now (if you’re coming from the Wii), not only just because of the increased resolution but the brilliant lighting and shading effects. The animation on each of the Skylanders is great too, they move in their own special way and actually feel like they come alive with personality when placed on the Portal. The voice acting and cutscenes are extremely well put together.
All in all, Skylanders Giants doesn’t do many things different from the original title, but it is another complete package for fans to play through, by themselves or with company. Activision can get away with another game that’s nearly the same this year, but hopefully for Skylanders Swap Force they’ll mix up the main core of the game or it’s very much at risk of getting old.