Skylanders Giants Hands-On Preview – Toy Story 2
Written Wednesday, June 27, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Something about Skylanders really speaks to our inner child. Perhaps it brings back fond memories of collecting 'Monster in My Pocket' figures or just simply collecting anything and everything, comparing those collections with friends and playing games with toys. There's something inherently nostalgic about it all, and while the first Skylanders capitalised upon the Spyro the Dragon license, including his name in the title, Skylanders Giants is a fully-fledged sequel and is as such considered an entirely new IP separate from the Spyro franchise.
Dropping Spyro from the name is just the first of a few changes in Skylanders Giants. Obviously, the new title is also a dead giveaway: this one has huge Skylanders in it and you'll get one included in the box. There's a total of eight giant-sized Skylanders to collect, each attached to one of the game's eight elements, so when we get our hands on Tree Rex, we're able to sample the powers of the life element. The other elements are as before, tech, magic, undead, water, earth, air and fire, and there'll be a range of new standard-sized Skylanders available for the game, including the likes of undead dragon Cynder and air elemental, Jet-Vac.
Skylanders Giants is every bit as full of character and charm as its predecessor, with Jet-Vac sucking up and shooting things from out of his vacuum gun, or the zany alchemist Pop Fizz (voiced by Family Guy, Rules of Engagement and The Tick star, Patrick Warburton) swigging potions to become an unhinged Mr Hyde character, throwing caustic vials to dispatch enemies. Still a game aimed firmly at a young audience, Skylanders Giants retains the same style of gameplay as Spyro's Adventure, albeit with a larger world that promotes more exploration.
During our hands-on, we encounter similar block-pushing puzzles and treasure collection, meaning that Skylanders Giants is essentially more of the same. We doubt you'll find the game's target audience complaining about that though, and when you consider that you'll be able to use all of your existing Skylanders with the same Portal of Power, preserving all of your hard-earned upgrades, abilities, attributes and such in the process, Giants seems to have all of the bases covered. You can even use the new Skylanders – including the giants – in the previous Skylanders game.
While you can also complete the crux of what Skylanders Giants has to offer with the single bundled giant character, additional areas can be opened up provided you have the relevant elemental character for the gate in question, which means to explore everything the game has to offer, you will have to shell out for other characters. You could for instance use Cynder to open the gate to an undead area, giving you extra ground to explore, more puzzles to solve and treasure to unearth, or use Tree Rex to unlock a leafy life-themed zone like Quigly's Grotto. It's a simple case of swapping characters using the Portal of Power, with each figurine storing all of your data, progress and statistics, so you can continue playing at a friend's house alone or in drop-in/drop-out co-op on any format.
Skylanders Giants also introduces so-called 'light core' characters like Prism Break, that light up in the vicinity of the Portal of Power, which is a neat touch that adds to the overall magic of the game. It's all incredibly smart stuff, and the younglings will most definitely get a kick out of it, especially if they enjoyed the last game. The sheer size of the new giant characters is also pleasing, and stomping around leaving huge footprints and thumping enemies across the screen is entertaining. There's still no jump button and thus no platforming, but simple exploration, light puzzling and pummelling things will no doubt be enough to coax fans back for another round of Skylanders.
Our hands-on takes us through a green and verdant land with castles and blue skies, and has us pushing blocks, smashing urns for gold and other trinkets, while bashing red ninjas led by warrior monster, Brock. Starting out with Tree Rex, we're able to charge a ground-quaking punch and stomp, but we decide to switch to the game's tech giant, a one-wheeled gold robot Bouncer. He's a formidable giant too, able to shoot from his fingers and launch homing rockets, as well as evaporate enemies with red laser heat vision that shoots from his eyes. Eventually, we find our way to the Practice Pit with Bouncer, where we have to face waves of Brock's ninja minions while the centre of the arena spews flames. After a few waves, Brock shows up himself and a boss battle ensues.
It's all jaunty, straightforward fun, perfectly tailored for the young 'uns, and with the return of Battle Mode, you'll be able to pit your own Skylanders against your friends' and upgrade each character with a choice of two skill paths. For instance, you could hone either Tree Rex's beam or gem abilities, creating two potentially very different versions of the same character. With Skylanders Giants, the number of characters will also increase to 48 in total, adding 16 to the existing roster of 32.
A suitably colourful looking sequel, Skylanders Giants looks set to offer more of the same kind of gameplay that made Spyro's Adventure so popular, and with more characters coming with the game's launch, parents can expect to be subjected to another round of pester power from their kids. That's assuming that they haven't been drawn in to playing Skylanders Giants themselves. After all, it does appeal to the child within. Gotta catch 'em all! Wait... Wrong game.
Skylanders Giants is slated for release in October 2012.