Peter Skerritt Avatar Posted on 11/18/2012 by Peter Skerritt
Games
Reviews
Continues Activision's toy-gaming franchise nicely, with plenty of new characters, cross-platform play, and flexible gameplay all ages can enjoy.

Despite these flaws, Skylanders Giants still earns a solid recommendation. Itís fun, easy to play, and the experience can be as simple or as expansive as players want it to be. While itís easier to recommend this game for younger players, donít be surprised as an adult if you sneak a few hours into playing this game, too. Even better is the cross-platform play between the different console versions - a feature we should see a lot more of. Itís addictive in its simplicity, and thereís plenty to do in Skylands. Chances are that youíll probably see a few other adults at your local store hunting for the same extra characters that you are.
Release: October 21, 2012
Rating: E10+
Publisher: Activision
Written by Peter Skerritt (editor-at-large)

I missed out on Skylanders: Spyroís Adventure when it came out last fall. I had a feeling that, when Activision unveiled the game during E3, it was going to be big because it combined two enjoyable pastimes for kids of all ages: toy collecting and video games. When I was given the opportunity to check out Skylanders Giants this year, I was excited to put it through its paces and to see what the commotion was about. Iím a big kid at heart, and wanted to find out if Skylanders would resonate with me as it has with so many others from ages 4 to 84.

I can say that, despite a few complaints, Skylanders Giants is as enjoyable as I thought it would be. The gameís single-player mode can be deceptively challenging at times, and itís as quick or as deep as players want it to be. If you get into the collecting aspect, with so many different elements and creatures available, a host of originally locked areas can be opened up as you hot-swap the correctly-elemented creature onto the Portal of Power. Itís possible to focus mainly on the gameís 15 story-based missions and find out how the Skylanders and their friends fare in trying to prevent Kaos from trying to take over Skylands, but there are many areas off the beaten path to explore and several different kinds of activities to take part in, such as Heroic Challenges to boost your Skylandersí stats and engaging in games of Skystones, a strategy-based minigame.

The Skylanders toys are an integral part of the experience. For those who bought the first game, all of those toys work in Skylanders Giants, which is a wise move by Activision. Hunting down and collecting the toys is half the fun. The character designs are varied and the addition of Giants means that much bigger figures accompany the smaller ones. If youíre collecting the figures, itís important to focus on having one of each of elements in the game represented so that all of the available areas will be accessible to you. This can be a rather expensive process, but it can be done gradually so that replays of the various chapters can reveal more areas, more treasure, and more items. Completionists will want to track down all of the characters, and thatís quite the process; however, the figures are appealing to look at and, since each plays at least a bit differently than any other, itís a different experience each time.

It is important to note that, if you buy the Starter set and havenít played Skylanders before, it is possible to complete the Story mode with the figures/characters that come with it. At the same time, there will be plenty of areas that will be locked away unless you have figures representing the correct elements... so 100% completion wonít be possible without rather significant spending on new figures.

Playing is easy enough. Itís a basic hack-and-slash kind of game, with RPG elements such as leveling up, finding items to enhance your creatureís stats, and lots of button-mashing. Giants isnít an overly difficult game, and is easy enough to pick up and play for just about anyone. Each Skylander has two attacks to start with - a basic attack and a stronger attack. One extra attack type and upgrades to all attacks can be purchased as the adventure continues. The trick to getting through each level with minimum difficulty is to ideally swap in Skylanders of the suggested element, but basic pattern recognition and a bit of patience can lead to success as well. ďTankingĒ through levels only works at times. If players fail to recognize and account for certain enemy attack patterns, even the most powerful Giant characters can be forced to the sidelines for the duration of a level. Each level has a fair amount of gold to collect, as well as hats (which can increase certain stats when worn), Skystones, treasure chests, and more.

The gameplay in Skylanders Giants is simple, but it works well and lends itself to players of all ages and skill levels. More advanced players may breeze through the game faster than lesser-skilled players, but completionists will have a lot to come back to here. Heroic Challenges, Arena Battles, and easy-to-miss secret areas await players who are interested enough in finding everything... and repeat plays are the best way to level up all of the Skylanders that you own. The light RPG elements add a measure of addictiveness, too. Playing to reach the level cap for your Skylanders can be a goal and help to get the most for your money either playing with the included characters in the Starter Set or with extra Skylanders bought at your favorite store.

While I did have a lot of fun with Skylanders Giants, there are a couple of things that I didnít like. The biggest thing is a lack of jumping ability for the Skylanders. I understand that some of the gameís light puzzle-solving elements revolve around the fact that Skylanders canít jump, but when you have characters like birds and dragons to play as and they canít jump, let alone fly? It doesnít make a lot of sense. I also didnít like the fact that thereís quite a bit under lock and key unless you spend extra money on necessary additional Skylanders characters. Itís a unique take on DLC, where consumers get tangible items to go along with access to certain areas or features, but it can be disappointing to see that extra money is needed to be a completionist, as opposed to spending more time on the game to gain mastery.

Despite its flaws, Skylanders Giants still earns a solid recommendation. Itís fun, easy to play, and the experience can be as simple or as expansive as players want it to be. While itís easier to recommend this game for younger players, donít be surprised as an adult if you sneak a few hours into playing this game, too. Even better is the cross-platform play between the different console versions - a feature we should see a lot more of. Itís addictive in its simplicity, and thereís plenty to do in Skylands. Chances are that youíll probably see a few other adults at your local store hunting for the same extra characters that you are.







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