Published on October 28th, 2012 | by octaneblue3
Review: Skylanders Giants – 3DS
Release Date: October 21, 2012
Note: The 3DS version of Skylanders Giants features completely different gameplay than the console version.
Launching late last year, the Skylanders franchise has taken the gaming world by storm. It’s raked in millions of dollars from the sales of the starter packs and extra figures. The first game, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure received a version on consoles/PC and another on the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS version featured a different gameplay type, genre, and setting, and it proved to be a good companion to the console version. For Skylanders Giants, there’s a different developer this time, with n-Space replacing Vicarious Visions. Is it worth taking another trip through the Skylands on the 3DS?
Skylanders Giants comes in two configurations. The first is the Starter Pack, which includes the game, Portal of Power, Tree Rex, Series 2 Cynder, and Punch Pop Fizz, a red variant of Pop Fizz (who’s normally blue) that’s exclusive to the 3DS version of the game. The second is the Portal Owners Pack. This one comes with the game and Tree Rex. Even if you already own Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on the 3DS, it’s recommended to pick up the Starter Pack, as you get extra figures for your game. All figures, items, and Adventure Packs from Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure are forward compatible with Giants, and your Series 1 figures also get a higher level cap (Level 15).
Like the first Skylanders title on the 3DS, this one features a different storyline and setting than the console versions. Instead of Kaos, the team of Skylanders deals with an antagonist known as Captain Frightbeard. Players will travel across various locales, including jungles, deserts, and more, defeating enemies, collecting treasures, and fighting bosses. Like the first game, when the Skylanders characters are placed in-game, some of them are quite different from how they are in the console versions.
Even with the mentioned developer switch, most wouldn’t even know the difference; the gameplay is a natural extension to the first game, albeit with some big changes. The first one obviously is the addition of the Giant Skylanders. Both in-game and in their figure forms, they’re about twice the size of the regular Skylanders. They are much more powerful, and can defeat small enemies and boxes just by walking on them. In addition, the levels in Giants are much larger than they were in the first game. There’s a lot more exploration this time around too.
The main gameplay is still similar to its predecessor. Unlike the console versions, which feature more beat-’em-up gameplay with some puzzle elements, the 3DS versions of the Skylanders games are more platforming-oriented. And because of that, all Skylanders can run and jump in the 3DS version. Your main goal is to get from the starting point to the ending point, which usually has a treasure or an NPC waiting for you. Like the console versions, you’ll get a star ranking after each level for completing objectives; the highest ranking is 3 stars. The first is obtained by clearing the level. The second is the time attack run (more on that in a bit). And the third star is obtained by a combination of objectives, which includes, but is not limited to, finding treasure chests, picking up a certain amount of coins (which replaces the Radiance from the first game), defeating specific types of enemies, and finding the Giant-only areas. You can summon up to 2 Skylanders (regular or Giant) in the game at once before starting a level, and you can swap between them using the touch screen.
In the first game, after you completely cleared a level, you unlocked “Hektore’s Challenge,” which is essentially a time attack mode. Once you beat that, returning to a level forced you to play in that mode; you couldn’t go back to normal exploration. That is thankfully fixed in Giants, as you now have a choice of normal or time attack modes once the level is beaten the first time. As noted, much of the levels are vast, with a wider area to run around. There’s a bigger emphasis on exploring here; as players may notice, there will be times that areas will be devoid of enemies. This can either be a good or bad thing depending on what your tastes are. But if you’re looking for more action, it’s the console version that will provide that.
The graphics in the game are pretty nice, and are about the same as the graphics in the previous game. The game does have a frame rate issue, where the game occasionally slows down when multiple enemies appear on-screen. The game doesn’t become unplayable during these slowdown times, but it is noticeable, and it can get annoying. And also like the first game, Giants doesn’t make much use with the 3D feature. You can play with it all the way up and, for the most part, there’s barely any difference. Sound-wise, the game features a very nice soundtrack; it’s lighthearted at times but the music can get serious when the situation calls for it. Each of the Skylanders now speak their names once you switch to them, instead of just the grunts from the first game. There’s also some voice acting during the cut scenes from NPCs like Flynn, Eon, Hugo, and Cali, but they are heavily compressed.
There are a few more problems to bring up about the game. At some platforming sections, there are sometimes invisible barriers that prevent you from jumping to the next ledge, making your character plummet into the abyss; this is especially apparent when using a Giant. The previous title on 3DS featured challenges in an enclosed area, where you had specific objectives to complete, such as avoiding food, defeating enemies, etc. while collecting a certain amount of Radiance so you could finish the level. These levels proved to be fairly challenging at times. There are less of those levels in this version, but most of them do feature bosses. The enemy AI in the game can be dull; sometimes, enemies will just stand there while you pelt them with attacks. The game overall is a bit easier than its predecessor. The console version of Giants has additional difficulty settings you can swap through, a feature that is not present in the handheld version, which is disappointing.
The Skylanders games feature a good amount of replay value because you can work on upgrading each of the Skylanders that you own. The upgrade system in the game is similar its predecessor, with experience gained through collecting coins (totaled at the end of the level) and defeating enemies. A notable change is that Skylanders gain experience and level up faster here than they did in Spyro’s Adventure. The game can be cleared in a few hours if you just run through it, but collecting everything should double that amount, with more levels available via the Adventure Packs.
Skylanders Giants on 3DS is a solid platformer like its predecessor, but has issues such as the frame rate drops and mediocre difficulty level. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of Skylanders and you had fun with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on the 3DS, this one is recommended too. It serves as a nice companion to the console version.
+ Giant Skylanders
+ Vast, detailed levels
+ Solid gameplay
– Framerate issues
– Not too challenging
– Lacks use of 3DS features
Final score: 4 out of 5