Skylanders – the great big risky bet that developer Toys for Bob and publisher Activision took when it combined video games with toys – has more than paid off, quickly becoming one of Activision’s top earning games. It should come as no surprise then that it’s getting a sequel – this time in the form of Skylanders Giants. If you’ve already got a collection of the lovingly created (and much to my surprise, hand-painted) toys and played the game (with your kids of course…a likely excuse) you might be wondering what’s new. I had the opportunity to visit the developer and chat about the game – and I can happily say there’s plenty.
The most obvious addition, of course, is the Giants themselves; dormant, ancient Skylanders who’ve awoken to save Skylands from a new otherwordly threat. There are eight Giant Skylanders coming – each with its own unique backstory, attacks and – importantly – character. They’re more than twice the size of their smaller brethren – giving you not just bigger, highly detailed collectibles to prize, but also new in-game mechanics befitting their increased stature.
Skylanders, if you’re unaware, bridges the gap that exists between toys and videogames by allowing them to work together. All of the physical Skylanders toys you buy can be brought to life in the game by placing them on the Portal of Power, a hardware accessory included with the game. It works like magic; place a character on the portal – and they appear in the game. And for those of you who think they’re a little too old for this stuff; think again. Skylanders might look like a 3D platformer for kids – but at its heart it’s a something closer to a dungeon crawler – complete with looting and levelling, skill trees and upgrade paths. Adding to that magical sense of wonder is that the toys are “living,” with each saving its statistics to the toy itself, allowing you, for example, to take your characters to your mates house and pick up where you left off – even if he’s got the game for a different system.
My favourite thing about Skylanders though is that though it’s aimed at younger gamers, it’s a perfectly entertaining game for older gamers – and probably the perfect go-between; something I can play co-operatively with my kids without worrying about gratuitous violence or sex.
When Skylanders Giants hits retail later this year, there will be 8 Giant toys to go along with it. Here’s a look at the Giants that’ve been revealed so far:
Long ago, Bouncer was an All-Star Roboto Ball player. His big, lively personality helped popularize the sport, but after taking too many hits to the head, he retired and the sport faded away. Bouncer then became a security-bot in the Crystal Mines. It was there he encountered dozens of Mabu from his Roboto Ball fan club that had been enslaved by the Arkeyans. Not wanting to let his fans down, Bouncer came out of retirement and began shooting at a new goal – defeating the Arkeyan King. Soon after he teamed up with other Giants, and together they became the first Skylanders.
Crusher knew from the moment he put on his father’s mining helmet that his true passion in life was crushing rocks. He was fascinated with rock-lore and travelled all throughout Skylands in search of rare minerals to pulverize with his powerful hand-crafted rock hammer, which he also named Crusher. But along his travels, he discovered that the evil Arkeyan King was also searching for rocks – to melt down into weapons of war. Crusher’s fury built up like an avalanche. After all, crushing was his job! So he put aside his life’s passion and decided to use his hammer for a greater purpose – crushing Arkeyan Robots!
Swarm was once a prince from a proud race of mysterious insect warriors that had built their entire civilization inside a giant honeycombed pyramid. Growing up as one of the 9,000 members of the royal family, he was never permitted to leave the hive. But unlike his brethren, there was a magical quality to Swarm that caused him to grow much larger than the rest of his kind. No longer able to fit amongst the rest of his colony, the young prince broke the long standing tradition and stepped out into the open world – where his size and strength would be put to good use in the legendary battle between the Giants and the Arkeyans.
Long before the Giants protected Skylands, Tree Rex was a majestic tree living peacefully in the ancient woods. But this tranquil existence came to an end when the Arkeyans built a nearby factory to produce war machines. After years of his soil being poisoned by the magic and tech waste from the factory, he mutated into who he is now – a powerful Giant who will crush anything that threatens the natural order of things.
Giants aren’t the only things new to Skylanders – but they’re certainly the biggest.
Look for more Skylanders news and info soon as I share my experiences at Toys for Bob – including a chat with Toys for Bob’s Paul Reiche III about the fate (and future!) of Star Control.
Last Updated: September 17, 2012