Many of you will probably remember this time last year, was around the point where many out there got sucked into a little thing call Skylanders. Taking the Spyro brand and essentially transforming it into something that at the time seemed insane and different, the game (and its figures) went on to become THE thing to buy that Christmas. While the audience may have been for the younger generation, it managed to deliver a surprisingly solid adventure with plenty of collectables that were just too irresistible to ignore for older gamers too (like myself). Now Activision is looking to capitalize on its surprise hit with a sequel, Skylanders Giants. Is this a worthy successor to last year’s mega hit?
The story in Skylanders revolves around the Ancient Skylanders – the Giants – and how they were separated from the rest of the normal sized cast. Kaos and Eon are back and as evil as ever and it’s up to you as a Portal Master to save the day. The story is standard Saturday morning cartoon stuff, however the voice acting and at times funny writing keep it afloat, preventing it from ever reaching cringe worthy territory.
Skylanders Giants, much like its predecessor is essentially a light hearted dungeon crawler complete with a range of enemies to battle, the odd puzzle to solve and a number of hidden areas to discover. Split into sixteen chapters (and all accessible via the game’s hub area) you’ll venture snowy landscapes, carnivals and plenty more environments. Just as before the locations you visit are full of things to do, enemies to pummel and offer a decent amount of variety. Sadly the flying ship hub you come back to after every stage doesn’t seem as expansive nor interesting as the Ruins from the first game thanks to its smaller size and general blandness.
Purchasing figures is once again the only way to unlock new Skylanders in the game, using the Portal of Power as a means to zap them from the collectable figures into the game itself. It’s a neat idea still, especially since some now light up when placed on the device but still comes off a little greedy. However if you owned the original, chances are you have a decent selection to mix and match with already. Skylanders Giants doesn’t force you to buy extra characters, instead just locking away small hidden areas in stages to those who don’t.
Your Skylanders each have a handful of abilities at their disposal for dispatching waves of enemies. With two attacks (and a third once unlocked) the fighting is once again very basic, yet oddly enjoyable with every character having their own abilities and powers with room to upgrade further using loot collected. Newcomer Jet-Vac for example uses a powerful vacuum device for attacking while Pop Fizz (a personal favourite) drinks potions in order to enter beast form for brief periods. Just like before you’ll have fun trying and testing new characters and seeing where their strengths and weakness lie. Experience earned will level up your characters boosting stats such as health, power, defence and so on while hidden hats (of which there are many in all shapes and sizes) provide extra perks when worn. Discovering new hats becomes one of the more addictive aspects of the game let me tell you.
As the title suggests, Giants play a big (excuse the pun) role in the game offering increased power, health and the ability to physically move floating islands within reach and smash through weakened floors opening up new areas. They essentially play like bigger versions of the smaller sized characters, albeit slower and stronger so while not game changing, they are certainly good fun to try out. As well as the Giants, eight new regular sized characters are introduced (one per element) too bringing the entire roster to forty eight (excluding special editions and series 2 figures). Of the ones available so far, there’s a nice balance of speedy, slower, projectile throwing Skylanders and up-close attackers. Like anything, you’re sure to find a favourite to rank up and battle with. It’s also worth noting that all original figures work with Skylanders Giants and now have a level cap of fifteen (up five from last year’s game) meaning you’ll still get some use out of your old collectables.
As with the last game, the entire story mode can be played with a friend locally. This is definitely more fun than playing alone and only heightens the chaos amidst battle. Sadly two is your limit. After playing Spyro’s Adventure, the series seemed to be begging for four player co-op but for now at least it remains a dream. Competitive arena battles make a return, this time with more modes and stages. Once again like the co-op, a four player option is sorely missed in what could have been a very fun distraction.
When all is said and done, this really is just like the first game – almost too much alike perhaps. You’re still moving from section to section of a stage disposing of enemies, pushing blocks or moving light beams to solve a quick puzzle and fighting the odd boss battle at the end. Is that a bad thing? Well yes and no since on one hand what we have here is a much more polished and generally better presented sequel, but on the other there is little in the way of surprise or new ideas. The game overall also feels shorter than the original at just sixteen chapters long. Plus with no extra expansion packs (as with the original) the sixteen plus the four original add-ons is your lot.
While the original title wasn’t exactly cheap, the prices for this year’s figures feel like they’re too much – £8.99 for a regular figure, £11.99 for one that lights up and £14.99 for a Giant being the going rate at the moment. While you could argue, that you don’t actually need to purchase all the extra characters to play the game, for those that want to venture out and try Thumpback or Hot Head when they’re released, the prices aren’t exactly going to be very friendly. Also the addition of reposed series two figures of characters from the original game just seems like an excuse for creating less new faces and selling more figures in the process.
Skylanders Giants is highly enjoyable adding some cool new characters to the existing roster while also delivering another solid adventure. While there are still some features sorely missing and it’s perhaps not as big a leap up from the original as some may hope, this is still a decent attempt to further the franchise and expand Skylands.