Skylanders Giants Review
Developer: Toys For Bob
Price: $60 without portal + 1 giant skylander / $75 with portal + 3 skylanders
Platform: PS3, Wii/U, Xbox 360
A PS3 copy of Skylanders Giants was supplied to us

Last year Activision went on a spiritual journey for the next money making franchise. After a few weeks, the interns they sent to do the journey for them brought them Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. It was here that Activision would discover their version of Pixar’s Cars; an unholy creation that would sell more in toy merchandise than in the actual product. A year later Activision shows that it’s still determined to drive their new hit to the ground with what I assume to become a yearly franchise.

Skylanders Giants kicks things off with Invader Zim Kaos returning to Skyland from his imprisonment on Earth and is looking to acquire an ancient gauntlet that will give him godly powers. Of course your job is to stop him and you’ll team up with characters from the previous game and some new friends to do it. The story isn’t anything amazing but I’m sure the kids will love it.

It’s very important to know that there are two versions of the game available: the portal owners pack and the starter pack. Anyone who still has their portal from Spyro’s Adventures will be pleased to know that it works for this game, as does any of your characters; the only restriction will be that your previous characters won’t be able to get very late game upgrades which thankfully isn’t a necessity. The portal owner pack also includes a giant figure (Tree Rex) since a giant is the only requirement to playing the game. Everyone else is going to have to go for the starter pack that includes the portal, Tree Rex, and two regular sized skylanders.

The game is fairly simplistic but that’s the point. There are only two main attack buttons, a secondary attack, and that’s pretty much it. You’ll go through the game punching your way through waves of enemies while completing the occasional block puzzle; the puzzles themselves are something only a child could have some difficulty with and anyone older will just consider them an annoyance. The RPG system is also simplified for children with a single straight upgrade path for each character; it’s all laid out in large icons and well detailed so there’s no confusion in what everything does. When you step into the upgrade shop you’ll use your gold to purchase the upgrades and you’ll only have your tier 1 skills available for purchase; it won’t be until you buy them all that you’ll be allowed to access the second tier of skills. There is a moment where you can choose between two upgrade paths, but once you pick it continues the same way. I would’ve liked to see some way to look at the skills in both skill tree when you’re asked to pick a path. You are able to look at those skills in the upgrade menu, but when you’re playing with a character whose skills you haven’t bothered to look at or you forgot what they were the last time you looked it can be a bit annoying when you have to pick.

So the level cap has been bumped up from 10 to 15 so any characters you had from the first game will come into this at level 10 and you can instantly start leveling them all over again. Giants have also been introduced and they definitely live up to their name. These guys are massive compared to everyone else and simply walking over most destructible items or smaller enemies will crush them. They’re also way stronger than your regular skylander and can take quite a beating before going down while also dishing out tons of damage. As much as I liked Tree Rex though I still feel that characters who have a type of projectile (as their main attack, not something secondary like Tree Rex) will give you a better experience. Later in the game enemies just get stronger, faster, and harder to kill which makes dodging as a slow moving giant a bit harder. Oh yea, and giants light up when they’re put on the portal which is awesome.

Skylanders Giants does have quite a few reasons to keep playing such as going back to previous chapters to find the many collectibles scattered throughout or simply trying to get all 3 stars in each chapter. You can also play a game called skystones that’s new to the series. It’s a basic “card” game where you have a tile with notches on certain sides, the goal is to place the tiles on the board and try to capture as many of your opponent’s tiles while not letting yours get taken. It works and when it’s made mandatory to play to progress the story it’s easy enough so that you don’t have to worry about having to buy better skystones; the optional games on the other hand won’t take it as easy with opponents having much stronger decks. There are some heroic challenges you can do that will give you a specific challenge for specific skylanders and will reward you with permanent buffs to certain skills. You’ll be able to buy skystones, charms, or sweet hats that will buff your characters up with all the gold you acquire.

Something I found annoying was how the data is stored on the toy itself through the power of magic. It is pretty neat that I could bring my character over to a friend’s house without needing the save file and apparently they work cross-platform, but it does have a slight issue. I’d start up my game and notice my characters had all of their money spent, upgraded down a different skill tree than the one I was building towards, and wearing different hats. I later realized that my brother had been playing the game as well and my character had come into his game with everything I acquired when I played and his progress appeared when I played as well. On one hand it’s handy to have another person to help level your characters for you, but it can get pretty annoying having to switch back to your hat of choice and having to switch between skill trees.

Unfortunately the game has no online co-op which is disappointing but not a big deal. On the other hand the game does have a local only two player battle mode. It’s a simple enough brawler with a few variations that two players can duke it out in. The problem here is that your skylander level and upgrades transfer over so if you don’t have two skylanders around the same level one guy is going to have a massive advantage. On the plus side, you can gain experience and gold for your characters in this mode.

I did enjoy how detailed and well made the figures are; the game also comes with a poster showing off all the characters you can purchase so expect to use this as a Christmas list for any kid who gets this. The toys themselves can get quite pricey though. It’s $10 for a basic skylanders, $12 for basic one that lights up (lightcores), $15 for a giant, and $25 for a triple pack. For a figure that changes nothing in the game besides the character you play with it can get pretty pricey considering if you don’t own any from the previous game that means you’re going to have to buy five different elemental figures if you got the starter ($75) pack. The game also hilariously gives you a “preview” clip of a skylander whenever you pick up their soul gem. It’s just a clip showing that skylander kicking ass with their sweet skills and is basically telling the kid playing to go ask their parents to buy them the skylander they just saw.

Graphically the game isn’t going to get anyone’s attention, but it does have a charming cartoonish art style that will appeal to kids. The Skylanders also have some nice variety to their personalities but overall the voice acting is something you’d expect in your average kid’s show. The UI is very archaic in nature, but made sense when I realized who the target audience for this game is. Everything is huge, bold, and in your face which makes sense when it’s a kid who will be playing your game.

The Final Word
This game clearly isn’t for me and if you’re over the age of 15 it’s probably not going to interest you at all. This is a game built and designed specifically for children and it shows. If you’ve got a child who might be interested in a game like this I can’t think of anything better to fill their Christmas stocking with than this.

- MonsterVine Rating: 3 out of 5 – Average