Skylanders Giants Review
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On 11/01/2012 at 11:35 AM by Nick DiMola
More toys, same mundane experience.
There are definitely better games for your kids out there, but if they’re antsy for something new and unique, Skylanders Giants fits the bill.
I really wish I understood this Skylanders craze. Don’t get me wrong; I totally understand the obsession over the toys themselves, they’re pretty neat on their own right. Plus, bringing them into the game via the Portal of Power truly excites both my inner-nerd and inner-child. However, the game these plucky creatures get dropped into is so basic and mundane, it’s puzzling to me that there’s still a market for it all.
Just like with the first game, Skylanders Giants is essentially a dungeon crawler ala Gauntlet. Featuring a total of 16 levels that each last for about 30 minutes, there’s a pretty hefty amount to do and see. As you progress through the game, you’ll collect money that will allow you to upgrade your character’s moves and purchase various helpful goods. You’ll also level up as you kill enemies, which gives you a variety a stat boosts. Given that you can use your figurines from the first series of toys, Giants offers a max level bump from 10 to 15, giving you a reason to pluck those original toys out of their box.
If it weren’t apparent, Skylanders Giants is geared at kids and the challenge level of the game clearly reflects this as well. Even playing on the hardest difficulty setting it’s all a breeze with very few enemies posing a real threat outside of locked arena challenges. While there are some basic puzzles outside of the battle-heavy gameplay, they require very little effort to solve and as such don’t provide much of a diversion.
While almost everything about Skylanders Giants is the same as Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, there are some definite changes. Giants are, of course, the most touted of these changes. Aside from introducing a new revenue stream for Activision, these embiggened Skylanders allow you to perform some unique actions in the game. Some larger rocks can be moved, barriers knocked down, and enemies can be disposed of with greater ease.
There’s a slight trade-off when using them in that you do move much slower, which puts you at greater risk of being injured. In most instances, it’s good to bring the Giants out only when you need them and revert to a standard Skylander to do your typical dirty work. If these new characters had played a more important role in the game I’d happily applaud the effort; however, the Giants are barely, if at all, necessary to progression in the game.
What really distinguishes Skylanders Giants from its predecessor is the more streamlined overarching experience. Rather than being tossed back to a fairly large hub world after each mission, you’re brought back to a flying ship that’s rather small. There are only a few things you can do while you’re aboard and most of them are tailored toward improving your character in some way, which should improve your chances of success in the upcoming mission. NPC interactions have been cut short, too, making it much easier and more enjoyable to progress through the game.
Though I never made the connection with Spyro’s Adventure, Giants feels akin in tone to the Ratchet & Clank series. Unfortunately, it’s missing all of the stuff that really makes those games particularly fun and interesting, despite being similar in many ways. The lack of platforming (which really feels like it should be there), limits what you can do in the game, and boils down to just fighting enemies and exploring every nook and cranny of the levels.
As someone who never went out and invested in more toys, the figurine-based DRM still stings whenever a segment comes up in the game. Even worse are the previews from some of the other characters, which will no doubt incentivize children to harass their parents for any and all characters they’re missing.
While I understand that the toys and the Portal of Power are the cornerstone of the game, it’s still annoying to constantly swap in and out characters to reach everything in the level. I would’ve much rather gone to a menu and made the switch than physically take the character off the portal and drop a new one on. All of the associated loading is quite slow and it breaks my immersion in the experience.
Presumably many parents will purchase Skylanders Giants for their kids to play together, but the fact of the matter is, co-op has some definite flaws. On the higher end of the difficulty spectrum, you can be killed in as few as two hits during co-op. The damage taken in single player pales in comparison to what’s done to you in co-op. Furthermore, the tether that holds both players together is a bit intrusive and can easily turn you around (against your will) if you go too far.
Skylanders Giants isn’t a bad game, but it’s not particularly a good one either. Even for the target demographic, it’s a disposable experience that’s sold on the power of the toys alone. While neat in concept, the game and the toys will have limited shelf life and ultimately, limited appeal for those that buy in.