Video Game + Action Figures
Skylanders Giants is a video game that makes use of a peripheral called a Portal of Power to transport characters into the game. Each game character has a corresponding toy action figure. Kids bring the characters into the game by placing the toy on the Portal of Power. At any time, kids can change the character they control by simply swapping out which toy is sitting on the Portal. Two toys can be brought into the game for cooperative play.
You don't have to have played last year's Skylanders Spyro's Adventure to be able to enjoy this year's Skylanders Giants. It's a fantastic, stand-alone action game for kids new to the franchise. But if you caught the bug last year, all of the toys you played with (and the statistics you earned to make them stronger) will transfer into this new game. Plus you get to adventure with the hilarious, egotistical Captain Flynn and his fast-quipping shipmate Cali, two characters from the original game.
Kids play this adventure in Skylands, a fantasy world of floating islands. They face off against Kaos, the villain of the original game, who's trying to take control of this island community. Kids assume the role of Portal Master as they bring the Skylanders heroes, both giants and other fantasy creatures, into the game to help defend Skyland.
The story involves the reawakening by Kaos of giant robots known as Arkeyans. These robots had invaded Skylands 10,000 years ago, but had been defeated by the Sklanders giants. As Portal Masters, kids need to bring the more powerful Giant heroes into the world to once again fight the Arkeyans.
How to Play
This action adventure game is played out over a series of chapters, with each chapter taking you to a different location. Kids have objectives to meet at each site and will be on the hunt for a wide variety of collectibles. Most of the objectives involve finding something or locating an individual. But to do this, you need to figure out how to manipulate things in the location so that you can travel through it. Kids will push blocks in to fill gaps, find keys to unlock unbreakable gates, move lasers so that they melt frozen blocks of ice, and find paths to hard to reach places. These locations are also filled with bad guys who attack you.
The key to winning this game is to use strategy in placing characters on your portal. Each Skylander hero is aligned to one of the following eight elemental classes from which they draw their power: air, life, undead, earth, fire, water, magic, or tech. As kids travel through locations, they'll encounter areas where having a specific power will make your hero stronger; so it is best to trade out the characters according to the element that is needed. Some locations also have Elemental Gates where a specific kind of Skylander is needed to open this area of the game and explore its challenges.
As the heroes explore an environment, they can find jewels and other valuables (the currency of this world) hiding in all sorts of crates, barrels, piñatas, stoneware, and other vessels. Defeating foes is also important, since this is your way of leveling up your hero to make him or her more powerful.
In between chapters of the story, you fly on Cap'n Flynn's Dreadyacht. It has special cabins to visit to purchase upgrades for your heroes, take on special hero challenges, play a strategy board game called Skystones and customize the look of the Dreadyacht.
In addition to adventuring on three levels of difficulty, players can also fight with friends in the Battle Mode.
Why It Earned Such a High Rating
Skylanders Giants is a great game for kids who like action adventure games. Engaging characters slowly reveal the interesting story, while also amusing you with clever repartee. The cartoony battles periodically intensify the action, but no one is shown hurt -- the baddies simply disappear. Kids will spend the most time solving the environmental puzzles, which vary greatly and have clever twists.
As great as this game is, it's the toy action figures that really hook kids. The action figures' stats travel with the toy. That way, when you bring your favorite giant to a friend's house to play his game (no matter what platform), your toy's strength and upgraded abilities travel with you. That's gigantic.
A starter pack ($74.99) includes the game, a portal, one Giant, and two other heroes. Those who owned last year's game can purchase the Skylanders Giants Portal Owner Pack ($59.99) which comes with the game and one giant action figure. There are eight new giants and eight other new Skylanders heroes, which are sold separately from $9.99 to $14.99.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.