PlayBack: Skylanders Giants

Two years after the series’ debut, Skylanders is now a household name, not to mention a meaty cash cow for Activision. Though it hardly came out of nowhere, looking at preview builds and the game’s reliance on physical add-ons made it seem like a risky venture, akin to THQ’s uDraw which helped to sink that troubled firm.

The two products didn’t share the same fate, however. Though feedback from critics was far from overwhelming, Skylanders achieved its goal by latching onto younger audiences and kick-starting its very own industry craze. Before long, kids and casual gamers were stocking their drawers and shelves full of plastic figures and other memorabilia, paving the way for a sequel.

And that’s just what they got. Soon after the launch of Spyro’s Adventure, Activision announced Skylanders: Giants. Needless to say, the sequel has been met with similar success, offering a brand new range of collectible models, some of which are notably bigger than the rest. The game itself, however, remained largely unchanged – a good or bad thing depending how much you favoured the original.

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Best Bit

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Content. If there’s one thing Giants built upon since the launch of Spyro’s Avdenutre, it was making sure players always had something to do. Sure, the campaign levels made up the bulk of the experience but the developer had implemented dozens of diversions, collectibles, and optional objectives for players to juggle whilst roaming Skylands.

For instance, each chapter had its own shopping list of bonus tasks. These included objectives such as discovering hidden areas, finding certain collectibles, or even clearing a stage within a specified time limit. Not only did this give gamers an excuse to rerun a previous chapter, it also teased them with unlockable stars, coaxing them into proving their steel against some surprisingly difficult challenges.

Other features also made their way in, and alongside the battle arena was an all-new mini game called Skystones. Part card-game, part board-game, Skystones had players vying for control of a three by three grid, throwing down tiles used to represent in-game fighters and creatures. Though fairly simplistic, it was still a smart diversion and one the developer could easily build on further down the line.

Then there are the Skylanders themselves. As in Spyro’s Adventure, the type (or “Element”) of your Skylander can come into play with occasional stat bonuses and even access to exclusive areas. More interesting was how players could develop their characters, storing data such as items and experience in the figures themselves and not just the game.


Worst Bit

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As someone who considers themselves a core gamer, Skylanders was never meant for me. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t expose the game’s flaws which are, rather conveniently, centred around gameplay.

I remember sitting down with Spyro’s Adventure a good six months after launch, under the impression that I was genuinely missing out on a decent gaming experience. I wasn’t however. Though my sister loved to romp through stage after stage, swapping Skylanders left, right, and centre, I was genuinely struggling to maintain interest. This was solely down the button-mashing combat and abject lack of competent puzzling and platforming. Even though I knew there was no real connection, to think Activision could slap the name Spyro on the front cover made me a little sad inside.

Sadly, the same problems were still present in Giants. Combat was pared back with little in the way of depth, puzzles simply had players pushing blocks, and platforming… well, there wasn’t any really. It may sound ridiculous, but the introduction of jumping (yes, jumping) in Skylanders: Swap Force is a genuinely exciting prospect and could be one of two missing pieces to the puzzle.


Skylanders Giants is exactly what you’d expect from a 12-month sequel. Developer Toy For Bob did a grand job of adding new content and the figure technology is still impressive to this day. However, the studio only glossed over the series’ main flaws, with the presence of Giant-sized figures not really adding much to the experience at all (aside from a beefed-up price tag).

Still, like I said, Skylanders was never meant to be my favourite game of all time. It needed those basic gameplay systems and mechanics to appeal to its target audience and rake in the money for Activision. Like many low-budget gamers and parents, I’m not too enthused by the necessity of physical add-ons either, though these will – and already have – paved the way for similar games from other publishers. Take Disney Infinity and Pokemon Rumble U, for instance, which would likely not exist were it not for Skylanders.

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1 Comment

  1. I have to say, I enjoy playing this with my 6 year old son. I enjoy trying to get 3 stars on each level while he likes upgrading the characters.

    One problem I noticed with Giants was the sound, the explosions were deafening, the dialogue was silent, all messed up. I had to turn off all the LPCM options on the PS3’s audio settings so it would bitstream DD5.1 to my receiver to make it work.

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