Review: Skylanders Giants manages to keep the toy craze going strong
Considering how the developers Toys For Bob were able to convert Activision's average Spyro franchise into the "next big thing" with the launch of Skylanders, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that both the developer and publisher were already moving forward with a sequel. After all, with millions of copies of the game sold – and the sales of figurines to go along with that – who wouldn't want more of a good thing? And so here we have Skylanders Giants, the next chapter of the series, featuring an all new single player adventure, some new multiplayer arenas, and, as the title indicates, larger characters. But does bigger automatically mean better?
In the story, your Skylander of choice – whoever you decide to place on the portal that interacts with the game – teams up with a small brigade dedicated in bringing down KAOS, a madman behind the wheel of a rather large, and menacing, robot. He's chasing after an ancient weapon that will pretty much give him control of the world, and that's the last thing anyone wants.
Skylanders Giants comes with the same level of variety as the original game, as you can choose from dozens of figurines – three are included with the starter pack – and play as them in the game. Your original Skylanders heroes will work just fine with the sequel, though you won't be able to level them up as efficiently as the new Level 2 figures being sold in stores alongside this game. Still, it beats playing with nothing, right?
Anyway, the Level 2 figurines come in two sizes. You've got regular heroes, like upgraded versions of Cynder and Spyro, along with the new wind cannon-carrying Jet Vac; and you've got the Giants, including the environmental hulk Tree Rex and the personality-laden robot Bouncer. What's cool about the Giants figures is that they actually light up when you put them on the portal, without the need for extra batteries. Sure, they're a little more expensive, but they're much more powerful in the game, picking up rocks to lob at enemies and find gems, as well as dishing out better damage to groups.
The gameplay works the same as the first game, as you work your way through each level, collecting loot and beating up foes. You can upgrade your character as you go along with better strengths and expanded attacks, and even work alongside a friend, as the portal is big enough to hold two characters. Though the game hasn't really grown too much in the way of how it plays, it's great to work through the hours worth of quests, along with the various challenges along the way. Good luck completing them all. (Oh, and the tile-based card game that's included is pretty cool, too, once you've mastered the rules.)
In addition, you can challenge a friend to multiplayer combat in the Arena mode, trying to see who's king of the hill. Pitting a normal Skylander against a Giant isn't the greatest idea, but Giant against Giant definitely evens the playing field. This is fun, even if you can't log online to take on friends.
Skylanders Giants also doesn't go next-level with its presentation, but it's good. The fantasy-based world your team runs through is decorative and fun to romp through, and there's a good mixture of places to explore, including a shady pirate town and a spectacular air world. The sound is equally pleasant, thanks to soft little background tunes and strong voice acting, headed up by the returning Patrick Warburton as Captain Flynn. He's ideal for the role – even if he is Brock Samson on other days. (Venture Bros. fans will get that reference.)
So, no, Skylanders Giants doesn't go leaps and bounds like most sequels these days, but the minor change-up to character size, along with plenty of stuff to do in single player and multiplayer, guarantees a good time for platforming gamers of all ages, as well as dedicated Skylanders fans. Just make sure you got a deep enough wallet to buy all the Giants figures – it's sweet how they light up the room.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]