STAFF REVIEW of Skylanders Giants (Xbox 360)

Thursday, October 18, 2012.
by Stephen Cameron

Skylanders Giants Box art Greetings portal masters! The Skylanders family is back, and this time they've brought a few big friends. Skylanders Giants!

Before I get started: For those of us that have children, and an Xbox, was no escaping the all mighty Skylanders toy phenomenon last year, especially around the holidays. What wasn't there to like? A wide variety of awesome looking collectable figurines, and they actually held your game data inside of them. There really was, and still is nothing like it on the market! If only our 80's Star Wars collection did that!

Let me educate you on what I personally went thru last year with this craze. As a relatively new parent I wanted to make my kids happy last Christmas. So, like an unknowing father I bought them a small stable of Skylanders toys for Christmas! I honestly had no idea what in the world I was getting myself into. A few months after the holidays, I found myself frantically hunting around the major department stores looking for those elusive missing characters, this lasted something like six months! Uggh! Slam-Bam ended up being that final character in our collection. Additionally, I was also able to acquire a few rare ones too!

After, playing the first Skylanders (not Giants) throughout the year. I decided to ask some of my close friends (that owned the game) what their thoughts were on it. Questions like, 'How long did they play for?' and 'What did they find the funnest?' It literally was a mixed bag. Some loved it till the cows came home. Some, played it for a week and forgot it ever existed. However, any way you sliced it, nobody really hated it.

Let's jump in to what this new title is all about. Giants is plain and simple a sequel. That's it. Thanks for reading the review, good night! Just kidding. As you open the package, you'll be presented with three new characters, Tree Rex (Giant), Jet-Vac (regular-sized) and a Series 2 version of Cynder (regular-sized) which was available later in the year as a collectable. Lucky for us, Activision is selling a new and previous owner version respectfully, so there is no need to buy another portal, if you've got one already.

The game starts off by re-introducing our good ole friend Kaos, man this guy is like a Terminator, he just keeps coming back! And he's up to no good again!

As you play through the game you'll quickly notice that the level cap of the older characters (series 1) has been increased from ten (10) to fifteen (15). Do these extra levels really do anything? Well, yes, and no. First off, you can take every single one of your Skylanders that you've leveled previously, and get them up to 15. Do you get additional powers? Unfortunately, no. Your overall stats (i.e. health points) however do increase, thus, making you a little stronger. If you had a character like I did, My Trigger Happy had over 23,000 gold, so I went on a little shopping spree. Why not right? But more on that later.

If you decide to set down a series 2 character on the portal, example Trigger Happy. You have the ability to buy an extra power. They call these wow-pow, in which the first gen characters will never have.

You'll quickly notice that you'll be swapping out character a little more to get into the 'Giants only' areas, if that's the way you wanna play. From what I could tell, you can go thru the whole game without a Giant, but why would you? The reality is that Giants are an intricate part of this title, hence the name of the game, duh! This swapping is not a show stopper, in fact my kids would exchange characters several time during a session, or until every single one has perished.

In Skylanders Giants there are a total of eight unique Giants characters, eight unique and never seen before ones, and eight unique regular sized characters which are a mix of old familiars such as Hex, Prism Break and new ones with LIGHTS! (I was told that those are actually powered by magic!). And lastly there are twenty-four Series 2 variants of the originals that have different poses and the additional power; for a grand total of forty-eight new Skylanders! So, when you get the game, you'll only have 45 left to collect! Let's not miss the point here: the additional fun that you get out of this game comes from collecting the characters. Think of it like a never-ending Easter Egg hunt!

Toys for Bob has also added story difficulty levels this time around. Finally! So, if your kids are small and just want to blast through the game now they can. If you want to step it up and go medieval Skylanders, you'll want the Nightmare difficulty. As for the environment, Toys for Bob added multiple houses throughout the game that contain vendors where you can do various purchases from lucky charms, Skystone pieces, battle arena levels, and a few other things. In the previous game you couldn't really spend your money on anything other than powers.

I also, experimented by putting the series 1 adventure statues, from the packs. Well, they work, and they look great! So, nearly everything you've purchased or will purchase is compatible in this version of the game. I was really curious to see what they'd carry over.

Another improvement is the overall graphical quality of the game, it has been greatly improved, and heaven only knows I've stared for several hours at the previous. Let me tell you it looks great! You see even bump mapping (google it!) on Tree Rex the giant's bark texture. The interface also got some much need improvements.

In the audio department. I've noticed some use of famous voice actors. I'm going guess a few. The Conquertron has to be George Takei from Star Trek! Also, I'm told Kevin Sorbo from Hercules (TV series) is in there somewhere. Sounds great anyways!

Multiplayer is the same as the last game, two player on screen co-op. I really wish Xbox Live support would have been added, thus the loss of a few points.

The bottom line is, that if you are new to the Skylanders universe, please read my Skylanders review. It will give you a good introduction to the whole thing. This particular review is taking the approach of having the previous title and how it migrates. And if you are in my situation, where you've collected Skylanders, you'll definitely enjoy this one! The same awesome fun as the first original, and much more! Enjoy!

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.7 / 10
Visuals: 8.9 / 10
Sound: 8.9 / 10


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