Gamescom 2012: Skylanders Giants Hands-On Preview – Opening the Toy Box
Written Thursday, August 30, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Along with Call of Duty, Skylanders is – believe it or not – one of Activision's hottest properties, raking in around $500 million and selling over 30 million toys worldwide. A sequel was inevitable then based on those sales figures, and Skylanders Giants promises to be bigger and better than its predecessor with a bunch of new figurines to collect, including – as the game's suffix suggests – several giants. There's eight of them all in total and you'll get one included in the box, which is all you'll need to complete the game's story.
Skylanders Giants will be released as two SKUs, one being the booster pack with the game and the Tree Rex life giant and the other being the starter pack complete with the Portal of Power. For the uninitiated, Skylanders uses a range of 'toys with brains' that record and save your character's progress, upgrades, abilities and so on, and at any time, you can use the Portal of Power to swap characters in and out of the game by simply placing them on the portal peripheral. It's all clever stuff, and perfect for little kids and big kids alike.
The whole thing is cross-platform too, so you can play the game on your Xbox 360 and then take it around to a friend's house and pick up where you left off on their Wii or PS3. Again, it's smart stuff. As well as eight new giants, Skylanders Giants also sees the introduction of series 2 variants of existing characters with new 3rd tier abilities. As an example, we're shown what the new Trigger Happy figure looks like in his series 2 guise, toting a gatling gun in place of his dual coin-spitting pistols. In-game, his gatling gun 3rd tier ability sees Trigger Happy able to fire a hyper beam, and there'll be a host of original Skylanders characters who'll be re-issued as series 2 figures that look different and have a new ability. You can also use these series 2 characters in the previous Skylanders game.
You can use all of your existing Skylanders with Skylanders Giants, and you can distinguish the difference between Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure figures and new Giants figures by the colour of their base: green for original figures, orange for series 2 and any new figures for Skylanders Giants. Last time we played Skylanders Giants, we were also able to sample new characters Jet-Vac, Cynder and Pop Fizz, and for our Gamescom demo, we were able to get our hands on Shroomboom - another new character with funky fungal powers – and Chill, a female water elemental that can hurl freezing spears and create walls consisting of blocks of ice.
Both characters have defensive and offensive moves, so where Chill can deploy blocks of ice and shove them into enemies, Shroomboom can create a ring of mushrooms to create protective perimeters, before chucking mushrooms with his slingshot. All characters can now level up beyond the level 10 cap too, with the cap now raised to level 15. As far as the giants go, we had the chance to take air elemental Swarm out for a spin, using his hover ability and his stinger to kill enemies. He can also fire projectiles from his stinger and transform into a swarm as his name implies.
During our hands-on demo, we're shown more of the exploration, block-pushing, light puzzling and treasure collection that proved such a hit in Spyro's Adventure. In Giants, the exploration has been expanded and with each elemental character, you'll be able to open up new areas with various treasures and collectibles to discover. There's a fair share of battling to be done too, and each character has their own unique abilities that you can use to your advantage while fighting the minions of the game's returning antagonist and evil portal master, Kaos.
We're also taken to 'Cap'n Flynn's Ship', which acts as the game's hub. Collect legendary treasures and they'll be added to your hub, as will various characters who will join your team. An enemy boss like Brock for instance will join you once defeated, adding him to the deck of Flynn's ship, where talking to him enables you to access Arena Mode in which you can engage in wave-based arena combat. Meeting and enlisting other characters will add additional heroic challenges for you to complete, and alongside the range of quests for each character and element, you'll find a slew of content to help your characters level up.
Boasting a larger world with increased scope for exploration, a raft of new characters – all with their own figurines, of course – and more of the same kind of compulsive gameplay, Activision and Toys for Bob look set to repeat the success of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure with Skylanders Giants. Tapping into the desire to collect absolutely everything, the premise is still a masterstroke, and Skylanders Giants hits all of the right buttons.
Skylanders Giants will be firing up its Portal of Power on October 19th in Europe and October 21st in North America.