Next week will see the release of Skylanders Giants, the follow-up to the immensely successful all-ages platforming game from last year. Skylanders was built on a novel idea, where you venture through worlds using a variety of characters. However, instead of just picking and choosing ones included in the game, you activate characters by placing interactive figures on a portal plugged into your system – thus giving you something physical to own, even after you turn the game off. Like we said, the game sold millions of units and figures, prompting Activision to continue forward with the series. We took a quick test drive with the game to see how it was shaping up.
The plot involves saving the world from the diabolical KAOS, who's managed to grasp control of a large, nearly unstoppable robot with superpowers. This enables him to try and track down a lost city, containing an artifact that could give him even more power. As one of the Skylanders, you team up with an unlikely crew of allies to find the components necessary to stop the evildoer.
As the title might indicate, Activision and the developers at Toys For Bob decided to go bigger and better for Skylanders Giants, introducing a set of new figures that are much larger when they stand on the portal. What's more, these figures actually light up, without the need for batteries (save for the ones powering the portal). We were introduced to a pair of these giant Skylanders, and they performed admirably.
Tree Rex is a huge, hulking beast that likes to growl taunts while utilizing a ground pounding ability and a rushing attack. He can mow down enemies easily this way, and also pick up rocks to use as projectiles and locate hidden gems that regular Skylanders can't access. He can also power up his abilities to shoot green beams of energy that can do damage to enemies from a distance.
The other Giant we checked out is Bouncer, a Tech Giant who rolls around on one wheel and actually shows better signs of personality than Tree Rex. He can get around faster when it comes to moving from platform to platform, and shoots laser beams that can do a whole lot of damage. His melee attacks are noteworthy, too, especially against large groups.
But just because Activision has introduced Giants into the game doesn't mean they get to have all the fun. In fact, all the figurines from the original Skylanders game will work for the sequel, though some of them won't be able to access all the upgrades that are reserved for Level 2 figurines. These include an eagle-like wind Skylander named Jet-Vac, who can either suck up enemies close to do some damage or shoot air blasts to take them out; and the returning Cynder, who's been leveled up accordingly with stronger lightning capabilities. More figures will be introduced over the next few weeks, along with bonus levels that can be accessed with special locale figurines.
Along with a single player game that spans across multiple levels with plenty of baddies to destroy and secrets to find, Skylanders Giants will also bring back the versus fighting mode, where you can place two figurines on the portal and do battle locally with a friend. You can fight to see who gets the most KO's in a stage, or try out the new Ring Out mode, where the goal is to knock your adversary off the stage completely. There's no online play in Giants, but it's not really necessary when it comes to something like this. Just grab a friend and have fun.
The controls are quite easy to get into on the Xbox 360 controller, as you can activate abilities with ease and get around the stage without any fear of falling off or screwing up. In addition, Giants also introduces a new tile card game, one where you have to strategically lay down pieces on top of your enemy's so you can take control of them, using arrows indicated on the sides of the card. The beginning matches are easy, but, from what we've seen, the difficulty picks up quite a bit. Best save your greatest cards for tougher opponents.
Though the design of Giants hasn't changed much from the original Skylanders, it's pleasant from what we've seen so far, between imaginative level designs that differ, ranging from a pirate town to a skyward cove. The characters are a lot of fun as well, particularly Captain Flynn, who's once again voiced by the humorous Patrick Warburton.
If you loved the original, and can't wait to collect more Skylanders, then Giants will definitely be worth getting when it arrives on October 23rd for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and in mid-November for the Nintendo Wii U. Just try to save some room on your shelf for figures, if you can. These things take up space.