(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 1 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 2.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 3.5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 2 Stars
Skylanders Giants Starter Kit
- Street Date:
- October 21st, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- November 25th, 2012
- Game Release Year:
- Toys For Bob
- ESRB Rating:
- E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
If you have a kid or know anyone who has them, chances are you've heard of 'Skylanders'. The game, which combines toys and video gaming into one wallet-depleting package, was a huge hit that sold over 30 million copies. The game requires that you purchase figures before you can play with that character. The cynic in me feels like this is nothing but a cash grab. Playing through the new title, 'Skylanders Giants', only reinforces that impression.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Giants' focuses on the titular large-size characters, an older generation of Skylanders that disappeared after an epic battle. The plot is threadbare and mainly irrelevant, and you can easily skip the entire story and still understand the whole game. The gameplay is no more complex. You head through the level, punch, shooting, or blasting whatever gets in your way. Every so often you have to solve a basic puzzle or procure an item to get past an obstacle. Nothing that will keep the interest of a gamer for more than ten minutes.
Of course, the game is designed for kids, and everyone I've talked to who has kids says that 'Skylanders' is practically perfect children's entertainment. Not too difficult for the kids, and the multiplayer is easy to drop in and out of, allowing parents to play along too. In that regard, 'Skylanders Giants' doesn't do anything too drastic to rock the boat.
The giants do slightly change the dynamics. Big bruisers, the giants can get through practically anything, including smashing through walls that used to require a bomb. They have double the hit points of some of the other Skylanders, meaning they can take on any enemy in the game without trouble. Their hits do a lot more damage, making them complete tanks. The game has even added obstacles like boulders and cracked earth that only the giants can get past. And the figures do look cool sitting on the portal pad, with eyes and other elements that light up.
The thing is, the giants make the game even easier than it already was. I was able to play through entire levels of 'Skylanders Giants' on the hardest difficulty without taking a single hit because of the power that the giants have. The only drawback of playing with a giant is that they are incredibly slow, making progress through the levels tedious. But you can apply hats to increase their speed, almost entirely negating the need to every play with another Skylander.
Of course, the developers must have realized that it would be easy to play through either 'Skylanders' game with a single character, so they add in areas where certain types of characters are stronger than others, and areas that can only be accessed by certain characters. Even more insidiously, the game includes "soul gems" that prompt on-screen trailers for new figures. At $15 per figure, with forty-eight figures available, I can't help but feel like this is less of a video game and more of a way to print cash.
That being said, the figure/game connection is well designed. You get a portal pad that plugs in to your system (the original game's pad required batteries, so at least here you'll save money constantly replacing those), and at any time in the game you can drop a figure on to play using that character. Each character levels up and gains their own items, and the data is stored in the figure itself. You can take figures over to a friend's house and they'll have all the upgrades they received from your play-through at home. Even better, upgrades you got from playing the first game still work in the new title. Of course, you can't take new characters and use them in the old game, but that's to be expected.
When it comes to basic gameplay, though, 'Skylanders' pales in comparison to the Lego games, which not only are fun for gamers of all ages, but include collectability and a wide range of characters built into the game without additional purchases. And they have a great sense of humor, while 'Skylanders' is juvenile. What's the incentive for a parent to get this over the Lego titles?
The one place that 'Skylanders' does shine is in the competitive multiplayer, which pits two Skylanders against each other in a 'Super Smash Bros' style fight. Playing against another person is far more satisfying than bashing the brain-dead AI, and the match-ups feel more epic when it's two characters you've played with throughout the game. 'Skylanders Giants' does not allow online multiplayer, nor does it allow more than two people to play together at once.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Skylanders Giants' takes place in another world, populated by floating islands, which are a neat visual theme. However, the graphics themselves look cheap and rushed. There's not much detail to the characters or the surroundings, and textures look low-res. The characters themselves look mildly grotesque in their attempts to anthropomorphize everything from whales to molten lava. Even compared to other children's games, 'Skylanders' underwhelms in the visual department.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Skylanders Giants' improves the audio over its predecessor. The biggest change is that many of the Skylanders now get voices, which is a big improvement over the muddled fake language they spoke last time. There are a few surprises on the voice acting list, such as Bobcat Goldthwait and George Takei. Patrick Warburton returns and remains one of the highlights of the game.
The gameplay itself doesn't offer anything that would promote repeat plays, but the fact that you level up each character individually means that your kids will probably want too play the game for each figure that you buy them. Additionally, the competitive multiplayer remains fun long after the main story has become a drag. The game does support drop-in and drop-out co-op, so you can play with your kids when you have some spare time, and jump back out when you need to do something.
If you have a child, and that child liked 'Skylanders', they will also like 'Skylanders Giants', as it's virtually the same game with some minor improvements. As the adult buying all the 'Skylanders' figures, you might be less than thrilled that there are now even more expensive toys to buy. The total cost of ownership is high, with the cost of all the figures coming out to over $500. If 'Skylanders Giants' was a complete blast to play, it might be worth the investment, but as it is, the series can't touch the quality or fun of the Lego series of games. And those cost significantly less, leaving me to wonder why anyone would bother to get 'Skylanders Giants' at all. The one bit of good news is that if you did purchase the last game, you can use all those figures in the new one with their upgrades intact. If you haven't yet gotten into the series, you'd be better off staying away from the money-sink that is 'Skylanders'.
- Portal Pad
- 3 Action Figures
- Dolby Digital
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