Skylanders Giants

9 Overall Score

Load of pure fun / Great animation & voice acting / Four multiplayer battle modes

Occasional sluggishness on Wii / inconsistent character movement / in-game character ads

I have to admit up front—I’m coming to this review with a bit of a bias. Okay, maybe more than a little bit. It’s possible that I loved the first Skylanders game after the first ten minutes of gameplay when I tried it back in December 2011… a lot. A lot. If you happened to see a twenty-something female standing by the empty Skylanders store displays during the Great Skylanders Shortage of ’11—next to a couple of pouting 8-year-old boys—that was probably me.


So, needless to say, I looked forward to the arrival Skylanders Giants with an enthusiasm only rivalled by those now 9-year-old boys. While my bank account wasn’t too thrilled, I couldn’t wait for new figures and a new game. Thus, my bias. However, aside from that, there’s a lot to like about this game—regardless of your age or experience with the first Skylanders title.

The Premise

Now, if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of Skylanders before, it’s a game that uses RFID technology to bring real, plastic toys to life inside a virtual world via a “Portal of Power.” Standing a figure on the portal makes that character appear in-game, where the character can level up, upgrade their skills, and wear funny hats for a stat boost. Because the statuette toys carry their stats with them, a player who’s playing on the Wii can take their favourite character to a friend’s place and play with their levelled character there, even if the friend is using an Xbox 360 or PS3.

With Skylanders Giants, any of the characters from the original game can be used—though they won’t be able to level higher than 10, which was the original level cap. For the latest game, of course there are new figures to purchase—eight giants, plus new figures for each element, and as if that weren’t enough for your wallet to handle? All the original characters have been reposed (along with an addition of new “Lightcore” figures that light up on the Portal of Power)… and these new guys can level up to 15.

That said, any new figures for Skylanders Giants cannot be used in the original Skylanders game, so do be aware of the notation on the character boxes when making purchases (a small box at the base of the character package will indicate which games the figure can be used in).



The Package

If you’re purchasing Skylanders Giants and you already have a Portal of Power from the original Skylanders, you’re able to buy game packs that simply don’t include another one. Everyone starts with three Skylanders—one Giant named Tree-Rex, and two regular Skylanders, Jet-Vac and Cynder.

The Gameplay

As in the first Skylanders game, the gameplay is fairly standard fare—it’s a hack-and-slash game where you run around destroying everything you can, earning experience, loot, and collectibles which can be used for character upgrades. Occasionally, there’ll be a puzzle to solve, and these range in difficulty according to your advancement in the game. As before, you’re able to switch characters any time in-game, and a second player can join at any time by connecting a controller and placing a second character on the Portal of Power. If a character happens to “die”—ie. runs out of health—they can no longer be used for that game session.

Now, if you only have the starter pack, you will be able to complete the game, albeit only the core of things. Just like the first game, there are areas set aside that can only be reached by Skylanders of a particular element, and you’ll need one from each element in order to reach all the areas and find all the secrets. For those of you keeping score, that’s a minimum of eight Skylanders for a complete experience.

If you’re thinking about your own children and whether they’ll notice they need another character, sorry!  It’s out of your hands—some of these areas contain “Soul Gems”, which are basically just in-game advertisements for specific characters. Snag a soul gem, watch a clip of the character in action, and you’ll then have access to a special ability for that character… once you’ve purchased it, of course.

The addition everyone is asking about, of course, is… the Giants. These figures are twice the size of the regular Skylanders (so those branded carrying cases you bought after the first game? Yeah, they’re not going to fit in there… sorry, you’ll have to get one of the NEW ones…). In-game, they’re able to lift boulders that are untouchable for regular characters, and they can either smash or run through walls that Spyro would need a bomb to get through. Giants can walk through obstacles instead of needing to use a power to smash them, and they have special tasks that only Giants can perform, like “Feats of Strength.” And, uh… they have light-up bits when placed on the Portal of Power. Trust me, it looks much cooler than it sounds.

Now, aside from the cash-sucking monster the game is before you even pop the disc in for the first time… it’s a darn good game. Yes, I have a bias, but there was obviously quite a bit of effort put into making the game fun not only for the kids, but for parents and adults as well. There’s a bit of humor that’ll go over kids’ heads, and a range of difficulty settings to suit all levels of players. And speaking of levels, there’s nothing about them that’ll make you scratch your head—most levels are straightforward, with linear progression, and a subtle hint system for the rare moments of confusion (and they are rare). The side-paths toward secrets and extra items are fairly clearly marked, and they all lead back to the main area of the level after completion.

Occasionally, gameplay will be interrupted by shooter sections that use the Wii Remote pointer, where players find themselves in arena-style battles against waves of enemies. You can also play Heroic Challenges (new characters only), accessed from the main hub area.


Just as in the first Skylanders game, Skylanders Giants contains mountains of treasure chests, Legendary Treasures, ridiculous hats, story scrolls, sapphire wings for shop discounts, and a new addition called a Luck-o-Tron. A new store feature—which often shows up in the levels—allows players to buy hats, upgrades, and Skystones.

Ah, yes. Skystones! This is Skylanders Giants’ answer to the basic memory game found in the first instalment. Skystones is a little board game that uses interlocking tiles to gain or steal tiles from your opponent—the winner is the one with the most stones left on the board at the end. Admittedly, it’s not as easy as it sounds, and some opponents are quite difficult. The game has a mildly addicting quality, as you also earn new Skystones based on who you beat, allowing you to spend a good deal of time “perfecting” your selection of stones for each game.

But back to the main game. Upgrades are similar to the previous game as well, with characters upgrading to a certain point before choosing which speciality skill path they’d like to focus on.

And as if that weren’t enough for you? Try one of four multiplayer modes! In these, two players must each choose a Skylander for the duration of these battles: In Arena Rumble, it’s a “battle to the death” where players use their character’s skillset along with random items (a rocket hat!!!), bounce pads, and so on, to defeat their opponent; in Ring Out, characters try to weaken the other player before sending them out of the arena ring; Sky Gems’ goal is to collect five gems before the other person;  and finally, Skygoals, which is a football-style game that races against the clock.

With humorous writing, great voice acting, and fantastic CGI cut scenes, Skylanders Giants is a game that was very clearly designed for children and adults. The art and shadows are very well done, adding that necessary dose of realism to a cartoon world—and it helps that the music is pretty darn catchy too, without being annoying or overwhelming.

In fact, if I had to give the game any criticism, it would probably be in the occasional slowdown when large amounts of enemies come on-screen—but you’re really only likely to see this in the Wii version of the game, and not the Wii U (or other platforms). And sometimes, the movement of certain characters will seem a little inconsistent (ie. a lumbering giant being easier to control than a lightweight or flying character), but it’s not enough to take away from the enjoyment of the game.


The heart of Skylanders Giants is a kid-friendly game, with uncomplicated mechanics and simple goal: smash everything, beat all the bad guys! But what takes it that step further is the amount of variety that the game offers both inside and outside the game world—plus the effort to give parents (or, ahem, adults in general) something to laugh about and relate to within the game’s writing and execution. From a marketing perspective, keeping this Skylanders thing going was a fantastic idea, and allowing kids to take their character from their game to their friend’s game is a stroke of genius.

Plus… the toys are really darn cool.

Want to know what our review scores mean? Read about it here.


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Author: Dave View all posts by
Dave will tell you that he likes to play video games, this is in fact a lie. What he really likes to do is buy games, and leaving them sitting unopened on his shelf. He is a monster.

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