Written by Ready Up Junior Vigo.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m sitting in front of the TV, fighting giant robots as a vacuum cleaner-armed eagle, my brother, Mondo, is sitting next to me, smashing through stone walls that I would otherwise need to blow up, playing as an enormous pun: Tree Rex. We are of course playing Skylanders: Giants, and bloody good ride it is too.
The first mission takes place before the events of the first game (I believe) and it tells us the story of how the first Skylanders (the giants) defeated a race of evil robots, called the Ahrkeyens- Arkhemans? Arkamen? Really evil robots who like enslaving mole people. This gives anyone (even newbies like us) a good platform from which to start the experience, with cute characters, blessedly brief-yet-comprehensive introductions to most new elements and a fittingly comic quasi boss fight.
While this is a game that I wouldn’t want to play on my own (it’s most certainly a shared experience) there did seem to be a considerable lack of bad guys, to the point where I feel I’m most certainly in the wrong age demographic (Too much time playing Skyrim means that a bunch of robot guards that blow in one or two hits are child’s play) . Or it could have just been the fact that my young companion was a freaking giant and could pretty much beat the hell out anything in the immediate area before I had brought my vacuum cleaner/lightning breath/harpoon gun to bear.
It is a testament to just how financially clever this game (and its predecessor) is, that you just have to try every character available, and that’s before you even take into account the fact that you can only get into some areas with a character who belongs to a certain element, or the fact that different elements are more powerful in certain places than others. In fact I was changing character so much that the fact that the whole game has to stop every time you swap the little figures around became extremely irritating extremely quickly.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Skylanders franchise, its basic principle is one of the greatest marketing ploys since Pokemon. You buy the game and with it you get a “Portal of Power” that you place a Skylander atop, whereupon it miraculously appears on your screen. Literally adding an extra layer to the plaforming genre.
This plays on children’s love of collecting things (I’m fourteen and I want all of them) and therefore will rack up quite a hefty sum on the old wallet (around forty quid for the game/portal and about a tenner for a three-pack of figures), but at the same time gives distant relatives the opportunity to send something small over for Christmas.
Despite the fact that the main story line (what little we played of it) was extremely entertaining, with fun (if brief) combat, a sense of humour and all the old characters we love to hate (Flynn, I’m looking at you) the part of the game that sticks in my head the most was the two player vs mode.
This consisted of four parts. Firstly a brawl mode where the two players kick the crap out of each other until the other is dead, making use of health boosts and rocket hats to get the advantage (Mondo won this).
The second mode was basically brawling but with a twist. Instead of health you picked up gems. The first to five was the winner (Mondo won this too). The third mode was basically American football, where the two players fight over a ball and try to get it in a goal (Mondo won this).
And finally we have boxing, where the two players build up power and try to knock the opposing player out of the map, with each punch getting more powerful as time goes by (I won this, then Mondo beat me). Unfortunately for both of us, Mondo is a terrible winner and I’m a worse loser. So that combined with the fact that Mondo KEPT PICKING NOOB CHARACTERS THAT HAVE PRACTICALLY THE SAME POWERS AS MINE BUT THEY CAN HIT ME FROM ACROSS THE SCREEN WHEN I CAN’T EVEN SEE THEM, our game testing session ended the same way that most multiplayer experiences end, with Mondo cowering in the corner and me belching gouts of flame and steam coming out of my ears.
Apart from our little tiff I genuinely enjoyed Skylanders Giants. It doesn’t do many new things and the bad guys could be a bit tougher and in greater numbers, but the story is fun, you can use characters from the first game so it’s not a complete money grabbing enterprise. I love the terrible puns thrown in whenever a new character is chosen (e.g when you choose the vacuum cleaner eagle he over confident barks “Hawk, and awe” before jumping down to hoover up a bunch of tiny skeletons).