Review: Skylanders Giants stomps onto Wii U with authority
When Skylanders Giants came out earlier this year for various platforms, it introduced a bigger potential market for Activision, with more figures to collect (this time, larger ones that light up when standing on the portal) and a huge new adventure to partake. But it wasn't just made from a business standpoint – it's also a very entertaining game, taking what worked so well the first time around and improving it in a number of ways.
Now that same game has finally made its way to Wii U, and despite the slight delay in its release, it hasn't lost any bit of its gigantic luster. Skylanders Giants is easily one of the best third party games for Nintendo's console, despite one little decision that can get in the way of off-TV play.
The game once again follows a group of Skylanders as they set out to stop an evil madman from gaining access to a powerful orb, one that would essentially give him control of the world. It's a task that isn't easy, as his armada is constantly running around each level, just begging to be pounded.
Skylanders Giants supports all the characters from the first game, so you don't really need to upgrade to new figures if you don't want to. (Their stats are also intact, so you don't need to start from scratch this time around either.) However, there's something noteworthy about the new characters, both big (Tree Rex, Bouncer) and small (Jet-Vac, various Level 2 upgrades). They seem to fit in better with this adventure, and being able to level them up to various degrees – and open up new abilities in the process – is awesome. Granted, that means forking over $10-$15 for these new figures, so act accordingly.
The Giants characters in themselves are overpowering, sure, but they're also quite entertaining, especially Tree Rex, who growls low-pitched threats and destroys enemies with the power of nature. It's not something you see that often, folks. On top of that, they light up when they're put on the interactive portal, and Toys For Bob, the game's developer, isn't spilling the beans on how that's happening. Sneaky, guys.
Skylanders Giants supports up to two players, with the second able to join in with a Pro Controller. Co-op is enlightening and fun, and you can also compete against each other in enclosed arenas, in case you wish to settle who's the baddest Skylander of them all. (Two can stand on the portal at the same time – even big 'uns like Giants.)
That said, the small issue that stops this game from complete success is the inclusion of a wired portal. The game also works with wireless ones from previous systems, though this gets in the way of Off-Play TV, where you switch the display to your GamePad. It can take several tries to get this working right. Activision should've simplified the process a little bit during testing.
If you do elect TV play, however, there's a nice bonus waiting for you, as you can see the stats and abilities of your Skylander at any time, through an informative little display. It's not bad, really.
The rest of the game comes together as you'd expect. The level design is beautiful, though simplified in a "point A to point B" manner, and the enemies are adorable, though threatening. The Skylanders and side characters are fun to watch, and the giant robot sequences are a blast, as you trash city buildings and enemies with ease.
As for the sound, it's entertaining at best. The music is all right, lacking that definitive touch that makes it a must-listen but still finding that right Skylander groove. The voice work also impresses, with Patrick Warburton once again returning as a cocky pilot who hogs all the credit for your work.
Though you'll have to fork over mad cash for new characters (and put up with the inconvenience of portal connectivity with the Off-Play TV), Skylanders Giants is a worthy successor to the game that started the craze last year. The new characters are a blast, the presentation remains comfortable and enjoyable (especially for Wii U standards), and the gameplay has the same "pick up and play" mentality as before. You really can't go wrong with these big guys – unless you're pinching pennies, obviously.