Posted on November 7, 2012 AT 06:42am
Finding that game that is entertaining enough for players of all ages and skill levels can be very difficult. It has to be challenging but not so much so that younger players will have trouble playing. It must be easy but not so easy that more advanced players will get bored and wander off. Skylanders Giants pulls off this tough balancing act. It is also nice to see a new generation of people enjoying Spyro games. I had always enjoyed them when I was younger, except those handheld versions but we will just pretend those never happened, and I think this new series is far more family friendly than the original. With easy to learn controls, multiple difficulties and that oh-so-awesome portal system, it packs a deceptive amount of game into what appears to be nothing more than a kid’s game.
Kaos is back in Skylanders Giants and once again, he wants to take over the Skylands. The game opens with Kaos finding himself in a toy store on Earth. He decides to use a portal to send himself back to the Skylands. The portal electrocutes Kaos and the electrical charge immenating from his body awakens a Arkeyan Conquertron. Kaos takes over control of this ancient robot and sets off in search of the Glove of Arkus, located in the Lost City of Arkus. The glove holds immense power and will allow the wielder absolute control over the ancient Arkeyan machines. The Skylanders and Cali set off with Flynn in his new airship, the Dreadyacht, to reawaken the first Skylanders known as Giants and to stop Kaos.
As a parent, I am always on the look out for games that are fun for everyone in my house and yet, still age appropriate for my younger kids. Skylanders Giants fits that bill completely. I assumed the game would be easy with a short story line since it is marketed more towards kids but I was happily proven wrong. The story is 16 chapters long and I do mean long. You will spend hours just on your first playthrough. Sure it’s a linear story but there is so much to do and find within the game that you will find yourself replaying chapters again and again in an attempt to get the 3-star rating for finding/doing everything. The chapters are challenging and since there is an easy, normal and hard mode, you will be able to find a difficulty to fit anyone’s needs. There is even an unlockable “Nightmare” mode if you are looking for a little something extra.
The controls are easy enough for anyone to learn. You have your basic three action buttons and occasionally during the flying or mini gun sequence you have the option of using a trigger instead or will have to use the thumbsticks as aimers. The chapters involve fighting your way to the end. Within that there are challenges for finding the winged sapphire, finding all the treasure chests and hats, playing the Skystones mini game that can be found in each chapter, finding story scrolls, finding the legendary treasure and finishing the chapter within a time limit. Some levels even require that the player not lose a life. Just adding the time limit challenge instantly creates replayability. Though replay value is already high due to the sheer amount of collectibles to find and challenges to complete.
In case you are worried about getting bored replaying Skylanders Giants multiple times, fear not. The absolute genius of this game is the portal system. If you are tired of playing with a character, there is no need to start a chapter over to switch characters. Just take the figure off the portal and replace it with another one. The game will resume right where you left off. This feature is included in the game play as well. Skylanders are divided into elemental groups (water, air, undead, tech, fire, life, earth, magic) and in certain areas using a specific type of Skylander will allow you bonus strength or even access to a restricted area. So not only is the portal technology sheer genius, it’s also necessary to complete the game. The portal also allows for extended life and this is a great feature for young players that might become easily frustrated if they die over and over. If your Skylander is killed, it becomes too tired to fight. Replace it with another one on the portal and just continue where you left off. If you die a lot, you might run out of Skylanders and have to restart the chapter but if you own enough figures, that shouldn’t happen.
Skylanders Giants is not just about fighting and killing enemies. It is also about puzzle solving and strategy. Completing chapters with involve solving problems and puzzles. As the story progresses, so do the puzzles. They will become more complicated and difficult as you move through the story. They will range in everything from moving blocks to building bridges and moving giant boulders. Opening up areas where treasures are hidden can also mean solving puzzles or at the very least, combing every inch of the environment looking for those hidden places. You won’t find them all just following the main path of the game. However, I do wish the game had checkpoint saves. If you need to walk away from your game for any reason, you will have to start that chapter over from the beginning. Some of the chapters are very long and having to restart at the beginning can be frustrating. I would have liked to have the game do an auto save at different points within the longer chapters.
I was given the edition that came with a portal, though there is the option to buy the game without the additional portal (Portal Owner’s Pack) of you happen to have the first Skylanders set. The starter set includes three different Skylander figures; Cynder, Jet-Vac and Tree Rex, the Giant. You will need more figures if you are to complete this game. Fortunately, if you happen to own figures from the first Skylanders game, you can use them with Skylanders Giants. The figures are completely integrated into the new story. This is a blessing for those of us that already have a nice collection of Skylanders. However, if you only have the starter pack, you will need to invest in a few more. I do suggest trying to get at least one of each element type. I am lacking an Earth Skylander so I cannot complete the game 100% until I purchase one. Being forced to purchase figures might be considered a bad thing by some people, but honestly, they aren’t that expensive and if you buy figures from the first series you can use them with two separate games. That is actually a money saver. Another really neat feature that might be overlooked deals with the “adventure” packs from the original Skylanders game. These packs came with a figure, a realm and some extras like charms or potions. You can also use these in the Giants game. Just slap that realm figure on the portal and it will unlock in Giants. Think of it purchasing DLC for one game but still being able to use it for the sequel. It is really a nice way of getting the most bang out of your gaming dollar.
One downside to the use of figures is the collection aspect. As new figures are released, or when special character variants hit the market, players will have to compete with the collectors. Figures sell out regularly and quickly. The more rare the variant, the quicker it sells and the higher the price will be when you try to find it on eBay. I am all for people collecting things they love but on the flip side, this competition robs the younger players that just wanted a cool figure to use with their game. People will line up at their favorite retail stores before they opens just to be the first ones to snag a new figure. It reminds me of Hot Wheels in that way, or when Beanie Babies were all the rage.
Now you find that you are all finished with the story, or maybe you just need a change, you are in luck because there is a battle mode. You can challenge your friends, and their Skylanders, to a fight to determine who has the better Skylanders. Unfortunately I was not able to explore this but it does look like a pretty cool way to interact with your friends within a decidedly single-player game. There are also mini games in the main story that will allow you to train your Skylander or do battle against waves of enemies. This allows you to level up your Skylander as well as try different strategies with your figure’s powers.
The graphics are cute and colorful. They reminded me of the old Spyro games. We aren’t taking high def, overly realistic graphics here. It is a fantasy world, it should have fantasy graphics so I found the overall look of the game appealing and pleasing. The developers did a great job of recreating and reinventing everything people loved about the original Spyro games. The voice acting is still decent and many of the actors from Skylanders have returned for Skylanders Giants. It is always nice when there is that kind of consistency in a game series.
Honestly, if you are looking for something different or maybe a great game for the family, you should look into purchasing this. With the holidays fast approaching, it would make a great present for that budding young gamer. With all the mini games, the figures, and the hours one can spend just playing the main game, Skylanders Giants will not be one of those games that gets tossed aside in a couple of hours. Now I need to go buy an Earth Skylander figure so I can finish this game…oh, and maybe I’ll grab the last two adventure packs we don’t own from the original Skylanders while I am at it.
The Good: All figures from first Skylanders game work, engrossing gameplay, high replay value, easy controls
The Bad: Required figure purchase to complete main game, no checkpoint saves
The Ugly: Fighting with collectors for figures
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