Published on November 30th, 2012 | by RyogaWanderer7
Review: Skylanders Giants
Developer: Toys for Bob (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii), Vicarious Visions (Wii U)
System(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U
Release Date: October 21, 2012 (PS3, 360, Wii), November 18, 2012 (Wii U)
So here we are again. some of you may remember my Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure review about a year ago. It was a tale of an interesting little game, and it’s horrible, meteoric impact on my wallet. Skylanders are back! Bigger (literally) than ever! The new game in the franchise being Skylanders Giants. I am a little late in my review but that’s for 2 reasons. The first being, I couldn’t afford more toys at the time of release. The second being that after waiting for so long I decided I wanted to get it for my brand spanking new Wii U. I will be reviewing this version.
The game functions very similarly to its original incarnation. You have a Portal of Power that the game uses to read figures into the game that you then use to play with. The original Skylanders game had 32 base figures. 8 Elements with 4 Skylanders in each. They included some marketing exclusives that bump this number up, but the base was 32. The terrific thing is that Skylanders Giants is not only completely compatible with all of the original figures, it also raises their level cap from 10 to 15, giving more usefulness to an avid collector (me). But of course, when you have the wallet destroying power of Skylanders why would you be content on just having 32 figures? This is there the Giants name comes from. The keep the same elements, however for this game the made a TON of new figures. Each element now gets a Giant. Giants are needed to access certain areas in the game, as only they can move certain objects. They are also Bigger both in game and out than regular Skylanders (and of course this is reflected in their pricing). Buying the game includes a giant, no matter how you go about it, so you are never left out in the cold. The giant figures also include a new bit of technology. As they get placed on a portal parts of them have lights that will glow. This ranges from really cool looking, to kind of sad. But is an interesting big of tech. This tech is not restricted to just the giants though! they also added a new figure to each element called a “Lightcore” Skylander. These also have lights on various parts of the figure that glow when you place them on a portal! But the fun doesn’t stop there. When placed in game the have a HUGE explosion effect that kills everything near where they appear. You have to be thinking they are done by now with new figures right? Wrong! In addition to a Giant, and a Light core each element ALSO gets a completely new regular Skylander! So far for Giants we are up to 8 new giants, 8 new light cores, and 8 new regular Skylanders you would think 24 new Skylanders would be enough right? WRONG! They ALSO remade 3 of each element from the original game as a “Series 2” Skylander, with the figure being a different sculpt, in a different pose. I can already hear what you are saying. “But if I already have the from the first game why bother?” Well, let me tell you. Not only do the figures have new poses but for the new game they have a brand new power, called a Wow Pow that the series 1 figures do not get access to! Some of these powers are pretty incredible (I guess thats why they called them Wow!). Another nice feature of the series 2 figures is that they are 100% backwards compatible with the original Skylanders (but only the Series 2 figures are). So lets break down a little math here. 24 brand new Skylanders in the form of Giants, Lightcores, and new guys. and then ANOTHER 24 Series 2 revamps. This brings the total (before any promotional or marketing exclusives) to a whopping 48 new Skylanders! This dwarfs the original collection and if you are the “gotta have them all” type like I am? that leaves you with 80 base Skylanders to collect. I think my wallet just screamed.
So, you just spent ALL the money on Skylanders, new and old and you’re like “well Paul, how is the game?” and I am here to tell you. It’s still pretty good! there are a lot of improvements from the first game. The stages are more diverse, there’s a LOT more to explore in each one, and completing one with all 3 stars really feels like an accomplishment. Especially now that the game has selectable difficulty modes. A lot of players found the first game very easy, and I fell into that category. They give you the option to choose Easy, Normal, or Hard to start. I played the game through on Hard and there were a number of instances I felt the game may just be cheating. There are some enemies that are just not to be taken lightly. And I appreciated this. In a game marketed for children it’s good to have it be able to scale. Younger or less experienced gamers can tone it down, while people like me or parents can ratchet it up. The Puzzles in the game stay largely the same and unfortunately especially with push-block puzzles it’s usually a matter of just pushing it till it wont go anymore. The Puzzle locks are back and some of them are pretty cool, and in general I found them very interesting. Some of the real challenge of puzzles in the game really comes from finding the secret areas or items. The Winged Sapphires are back, and there is one hidden in every stage. There are again 2 hats in every stage hidden behind elemental gates. There are new things called “Luck-o-Tron” wheels which can be used to increase the chance of things dropping. There are 4 Types of wheels. Experience, Health, Power and Wealth. There are 4 of each and you can set up to 4. Each one of a type you set slightly increases your chance of the corresponding effect happening. They increased the number of Treasure Chests per stage to 4. Soul Gems are also back, again 1 in each stage, as are story scrolls. So they expanded the number of items you are looking for in the stage. I never really found myself getting frustrated at trying to find everything. Nothing was ever impossibly hidden and all of the stages are diverse and fun so I really found the experience of trying to 100% them enjoyable, which adds a lot of play value. What I found incredibly refreshing were the boss fights. in the first game there were very few, and they were mind numbingly repetitive. Especially the final boss, which was just the attack patterns from the other bosses reused. This game they are far more varied and finding their attack patterns can make a huge difference. I found them much much more fun and enjoyable. The game-play shows a marked improvement and I sincerely hope that as the team matures, future games will continue to improve on the formula.
The game also has a ridiculous amount of side content. The Heroic Challenges are back, with of course, many new ones. Each challenge is a stage that has a specific goal and completing them improves your Skylander figure. This means for any Skylander you want to improve, you are looking at quite some playtime doing these challenges. Thankfully the majority of them are fun! In addition to Heroic Challenges are Arenas. These are very much like Heroic Challenges, with a specific goal you have to meet, but they are far more combat oriented. There is also a mini-game called Skystones that plays a lot like Tetra Master from Final Fantasy IX. You have a tile board where you place stones that have arrows indicating attack strength on a side. When you place a skystone if the attack strength on a side is higher that the stone it’s facing, you take that stone. The person with the most stones their color at the end wins. There a couple of parts in the story mode that require you to play the game, but there are a LOT more optional times to play it, too. There is also a battle mode where you and a friend can pit Skylanders against each-other. This mode is really where completing the heroic challenges matters. It can be a lot of fun putting very powerful Skylanders against each-other!
But it’s not just game-play and re-playability that make this game so awesome. For anyone that played the first game you should know that the voice acting was top notch, and the story while a bit shallow was enjoyable. They REALLY amped this up for Giants. All of the voice actors are back, plus a lot of new characters. There are far more FMV cut-scenes that really move the story along, and give it a lot of depth the first game lacked. They also re-did many Skylanders’ voices. Most notably several that had no voice, such as Sonic Boom, now have a definitive one. This gives a lot of them much more personality. The writing and humor in the game are just fantastic and I think that if anything, those alone make the game worth playing. Even if you don’t want to invest the money in the toys, at least give it a quick play through with what it comes with. You will not be disappointed.
Really Skylanders Giants has a great deal going for it. My only real complaint is that… Multiplayer for the general game, at least in the Wii U version, is not possible. The Portal is reproducibly buggy in any instance where you need to switch Skylanders, which is ALL THE TIME. whether it’s to go into an elementally locked area, or someone died, switching completely breaks the entire game down. Often times it will boot one player completely from the game, or swap who has control one a specific Skylander. Once you get used to it you can work around it, but it is time consuming and frustrating. and it is really a shame because I enjoyed playing the first game multiplayer a lot, and with such an extensive collection as the one I (and may other I am sure) have, multiplayer really gives you a chance to see a lot of your collection in action. It is the only black mark on an otherwise perfect execution. I hope to update this when I find out if this bug is platform specific. Please let me know in the comments or through email!
With all of the really cool toys and just how much improvement the game has shown over the first I have to rate this one highly. It is very fun, the characters and story are awesome and overall the game is just simply great. One moderately large bug that may be platform specific just does not take away enough to not recommend this game to pretty much everyone, young and old.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5