Bring in the big boys.
Okay, so I was kind of late getting into the whole Skylanders thing. “Don’t believe the hype”, I thought to myself, “Especially when the hype is created by children”. It kept me away from the game, and the all-important collectible figures that accompanied it. I mean, it was a kids game after all. What could it possibly have to interest me?
But somehow, only a matter of months ago, I found myself in possession of the Skylanders game. Lo and behold, it was good. Then I discovered that I needed more figures to satisfy not only my desire to get as much as I could from the game, but also my slightly obsessive nature. I won’t lie, it wasn’t pretty. Loved ones threatened to leave, bank managers wept and small children were shoved aside to ensure I had every figure that I wanted.
And now Activision have only gone and released Skylanders Giants, bringing with it more compulsive gameplay and more of those highly desirable figures, including no less than eight new giant figures that would look oh so good on my shelf. I can almost imagine the guys at Activision rubbing their hands together in evil glee.
Players coming to Giants from the original Skylanders game will find everything very familiar, but slightly different at the same time. At its core, it is the same highly entertaining dungeon-crawl-lite gameplay in which the player will work their way through levels, finding keys, solving simple puzzles, collecting as much loot as they can and fighting a myriad of enemies along the way. It is fairly simple stuff.
The levels are relatively short, ideal for short attention spans or those with limited time, and have plenty of collectibles to be found. The levels also have certain areas which can only be accessed by a certain type of Skylander, forcing the completionist to have a set of at least eight different Skylanders (there are eight different types), including one giant Skylander, as they have their own areas now.
The Skylanders themselves continue to level up, with previously used Skylanders bringing with them their levels from the original game, and new powers can be gained through spending some of that hard earned loot. There are hats to find that boost the Skylander wearing them, legendary treasures to be located by completionists, and more cash than you could shake a sheep at.
The game follows on directly from the conclusion of the last, and many of the characters that you have come to be annoyed by return. However, this time around the central hub is a flying boat on which the player can access their next mission, heroic quests to test their skills and earn some cash and the upgrades fairy (Persephone) with her quirky chatter. Things start to get fairly crowded on the ramshackle boat quite quickly as new characters and further options present themselves.
So, other than the different central hub, the new areas for giants and the frequent chance for them to show off in a feat of strength, and a few other little tweaks, such as the fact that you can now enter buildings in the levels or that all of the characters are now voiced, things are pretty much the same. But this is not a bad thing as the original gameplay managed to be simple enough to entice the younger players (arguably the target audience) whilst still holding enough challenge, especially when it comes to collecting everything, for the more mature gamers that happen upon the title. In fact, when it comes to the more mature gamers, there is even a nightmarish difficulty which can be unlocked once the game has been finished once.
Rounding out this guilty pleasure is the chance to play with same screen co-op, and a selection of relatively simple competitive modes. The competitive modes are only a distraction from the main game, but can be an enjoyable time waster for like-minded gamers.
Leaving the game behind, the other important aspect of the Skylanders franchise is the range of figures, or toys if you like. With Giants you not only get eight new giant figures, but also eight completely new characters in figure form, along with a selection of remodeled characters from the original range. There are also LightCore figures available that actually light up when placed on the Portal of Power, further enticing the inner collector. Looks like things are going to get expensive.
Helping out with that, at least initially, Activision have released the game in two flavours. The full set comes with the game, the Portal of Power and three figures, including one giant. Then there is the Booster pack which comes simply with the game and a Giant figure, at a slightly reduced cost. So if you already own the original and a bunch of figures, buying the Booster Pack will save you some cash (which can then be spent on more figures).
The original Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is a really enjoyable game, both for young and old, and the figures are really well made and will appeal to the collector in anyone. Giants has simply improved upon the formula with more collectibles, both in and out of the game, and yet more enjoyable gameplay. The new figures are great to collect and enjoyable to use in the game. If you enjoyed the first game, then Giants should be picked up straight away. If you never gave it a go, I recommend believing the hype and diving into the world of Skylanders, it’s pretty good fun.