With what was supposed to mark the return of Spyro the Dragon, the original Skylanders proved to be a huge success for Activision and developer Toys for Bob, but not due to the inclusion of the classic purple dragon. Becoming bigger than Spyro, the sequel toSpyro’s Adventure, has dropped Spyro from the title and instead has taken on a life of its own. Playing similar to the original,Skylanders Giants uses collectible action-figures with the Portal of Power to bring them to life – at least in-game.
Joining the standard Skylanders, the Giants are summoned by Master Eon to even the odds after Lord Kaos – who has escaped exile – has awakened the dormant massive mechanical beings – the Arkeyans. Each figure you obtain stores everything from the experience to the gold and abilities for that character. Using your Series 1 figures from Spyro’s Adventure, your Skylanders will carry over all of their stats and any items as well. Giants sees the level cap increase from 10 to 15 allowing you to further develop your Skylanders. Along with the Series 2 of figures to collect, Toys for Bob have introduced the all-new Giants. Doubling the size of the standard Skylanders, the Giants are definitely impressive looking figures with special light-up sections. Tree Rex – which comes with the Starter Kit – has multiple light-up areas: including glowing eyes that get brighter the closer he gets to the Portal of Power. The Portal itself changes colors depending on the element of the Skylander that is placed upon it.
Switching Skylanders at any time, it is easy to replace a character that is in danger to dying with one with full health. Each time a new one is placed on the Portal, you will see a brief introduction to the character before being transported into the game – and yes, the Series 2 Skylanders are now voiced.
As an Action-RPG, combat revolves around mashing different skills until your enemies are dead. It’s like a kid safe version of Diablo orTorchlight. It’s simplistic, but does allow gamers of all ages to enjoy the game. For those looking for more depth to the game, there are plenty of extra skills to purchase for each Skylander – including a splitting skill tree decision and tons of collectibles.
The various themed levels are relatively easy to explore – especially since Skylanders is geared toward a younger audience. Anyone can play through the game from start to finish, but for those perfectionists, there are a ton of hidden secret areas and items to collect. Puzzles are straightforward and don’t require much brain power, allowing anyone to breeze through the campaign by pushing blocks to complete paths, hitting switches and finding keys to open locked doors. Equipping your Skylander with hats will provide a boost in stats – and there are many different hats to collect. Hidden throughout the levels are Soul Gems, allowing you to unlock different ultimate attacks and treating you to a short cinematic. It’s quite a marketing strategy, as generally you will find Soul Gems for Skylanders you don’t own and must buy instantly. I’ll admit I did purchase one, okay two based on this – you win this time Activision.
With Giants being a new kind of Skylanders to collect, these massive in size creatures will come in handy as you progress through the story. It doesn’t change the gameplay dramatically, but is enough to warrant the purchase of at least one. Blocked off areas will require you to either use a Giant to enter or toss a bomb to destroy the barrier using a regular Skylander – the easier the choice being to use a Giant. Boulders can be tossed to destroy buildings spawning enemies, as well as giving you access to new loot. Other blocked off areas require one of the eight specific Skylander types to enter: water, air, fire, life, magic, tech, earth or undead. These areas will yield secret items at the end making it worthwhile to collect one of each Skylander type – as long as your wallet allows it.
Controlling similar to the original, the characters move across the screen at a slow pace – especially the Giants. Tree Rex – my favorite Giant – does have a charge attack that can be constantly used to get across the levels a tad faster. This is where hats with speed bonuses come in handy. Unable to jump, the Skylanders must utilize jump pads scattered across the levels to reach new vertical positions.
Battle Mode makes a return allowing you to fight against a friend to earn extra experience and gold for your character. Online play has once again not been included, but two players can still play locally. Seeing that it would be hard pressed to fit more than two Giants on a single Portal, I would like to see the option of using two Portals to have a four-player option in the future. The added chaos to the fights would be well worth the extra money to purchase an additional Portal.
Skylanders Giants can be quite the addicting experience as you level up each of your figures. With new action-figures to collect, a ton of collectibles in-game – it is worth to mention the sheer amount of hats once again – and mini-games, Skylanders Giants improves the overall experience while not straying too far from the original. The included card-game – Skystones – is a nice distraction, but forcing it on the player to get through some levels can be discouraging. Being designed for the younger audience, I can honestly say that I still enjoyed my time with the game.Note: Skylanders Giants was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game provided by the publisher.