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Skylanders Giants PS3 Review

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Skylanders Giants PS3

Skylanders Giants PS3

Image © Activision
There are two ways to look at the mega-hit "Skylanders" game franchise, which exploded with 2011's "Skylanders Spyro's Adventure" and returns for more financial carnage with this year's "Skylanders Giants," an addictive platforming adventure game that promises to strain the wallets of parents everywhere. On one hand, it could be argued that these game are more cash grabs than creative ventures -- ways for a company to appeal to a youth audience that craves complete collections and a constant flow of new toys. On the other, you have to give credit to a group of developers who figured out a way to target an under-served demographics of gamers -- pre-teen boys who love physical toys as much as they do video games. Sales of Skylanders toys for both games were expected to exceed $500 million by the end of the year. In a market in which companies have failed to stem the flow of used games, thereby taking profit away from the corporations, Activision and Toys For Bob figured how to turn a game into a cash-making machine.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Activision
  • Developer: Toys For Bob
  • ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
  • Genre: Family Action
  • Pros: Unique Gameplay, Fun Character Design
  • Cons: Boring Environments, Dull Action

Is it any good? Not really. "Skylanders Giants" is a relatively straightforward platforming game that relies heavily on smashing items to collect things -- the basic foundation of most kids action games. The player moves action figures on to a physical pedestal and they enter the game. The figure even remembers your progress, which means you could build up a character with new skills or experience points and take it on the road. One can also constantly buy new characters to bring into the Skylanders world and all toys for the "Skylanders Spyro's Adventures" game are compatible here.

Gameplay

Skylanders Giants PS3

Skylanders Giants PS3

Image © Activision

Smash items. Smash enemies. Jump. Smash some more. There's something to be said for simplified gameplay that allows a game like "Skylanders Giants" to appeal to a wide fan base. However, it doesn't have to be THIS simple. The "LEGO" games have proven that family games could be complex enough to appeal to older players while also working for the young ones. There are times where "Skylanders Giants" becomes numbing in its repetition, something little kids don't mind but that will frustrate older games. There are so many creative family games on the market ("LittleBigPlanet: Karting" is a great example) that I really hoped "Skylanders Giants" would have a bit more depth in its gameplay and I was disappointed to find that the game really disappoints for most gamers over ten.

The fact is that a lot of this game feels like it was produced to a bare minimum. "What's the simplest environment we could create for players to inhabit with their toys?" The landscapes are practically two-dimensional and the actual combat is deadly dull. And nearly everything the player needs to do in "Giants" comes down to simple quest tasks -- for example, find the key, open the door. There are a series of mini-games throughout the title that are actually more inventive than the core of the title. And this version introduces more competitive gameplay, including a Battle Mode.

And yet there's something kind of fun about the action figure structure of the title. As I switched between the three characters that came with my "Giants" starter kit, I could easily sense how the 10-year-old boy in me would have loved the blend of physical toys and virtual reality. Imagine your favorite action figures as a child not only come to life on your TV but in a way you can control. There's a reason these games have made a fortune and with 40 new toy figures for this release, the money will keep rolling in.

It helps that the best thing about the game, by far, are the actual figures. The three that came with my Starter Kit had different skill sets and were better equipped for different portions of the game. They also felt like the elements of the title that were most detailed in their design. It makes sense -- where do you put the most love and care as a development team? On what you can continue to sell to fans after they buy the game.

Graphics & Sound

Here's my biggest problem with "Skylanders Giants." Perhaps the visuals need to be kept simple to allow for the virtual capabilities of the Skylander toys within it (which, as mentioned, do look fantastic) but I couldn't get over the lackluster presentation of a lot of this game. Much of it looks worse than most handheld titles released nowadays, much less PS3 titles. Going back and forth between some of the most visually accomplished games of the season (like "Assassin's Creed 3" or "Medal of Honor: Warfighter") and this game, one might think they're not even made for the same machine. And don't think I'm being hard on it given that it's just a family game. "LBP: Karting" is a family game that looks great.

Overall

Skylanders Giants PS3

Skylanders Giants PS3

Image © Activision
The person who conceived the "Skylanders" franchise deserves the raise he or she probably received. It was a brilliant concept to blend toys with video games and allow kids to collect characters that they can watch come to life. The fact that parents will have to spend WAY more than the initial purchase price to satisfy kids who love this game may not be too happy about it but one can't deny its genius -- at least financially.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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