This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Toys for Bob's collectible figure-driven adventure game Skylanders Giants, which reviewers describe as "one of those rare titles that offers something for everyone." Skylanders Giants currently earns a score of 82 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Adam Pavlacka at Worth Playing scores Skylanders Giants at 8.5 out of 10. "Playing with action figures and video games is something almost every child does, so it's somewhat surprising that no one thought to combine the two before last year's release of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure," he notes. "Skylanders was the first crossover product to do it well, and now the game (and toys) have returned for round two."
"For those unfamiliar with Skylanders, the franchise consists of both a game and a series of posed plastic toys," Pavlacka explains. "When placed on the portal, the toy character appears within the game and is fully playable. Any upgrades, items or money earned in-game is saved to the toy."
The game itself is an improvement over its predecessor. "Gameplay in Giants feels like a cross between Diablo II and Gauntlet, with a dose of cute tossed in for good measure," Pavlacka writes. "It's straightforward enough for young children to understand but deep enough to appeal to adult gamers.
"One of the big complaints about Spyro's Adventure was that the single difficulty level was tuned for young players. In Giants, there are four difficultly levels (the hardest must be unlocked by first beating the game once), and the high end provides plenty of challenge. In short, Giants isn't a cakewalk."
"It would be easy to overlook Skylanders: Giants as 'just a kids' game,' but to do so would be a disservice," Pavlacka argues. "Giants is one of those rare titles that offers something for everyone, whether you're a kid, a casual player or a hardcore gamer who has been playing for years. In the end, it's plenty of fun, and that's what really matters."
Game Informer's Andrew Reiner gives Skylanders Giants an 8 out of 10. "Since Spyro's Adventure covered the gamut of standard world types -- be it fire, snow, or haunted village -- most of Giants' level designs retread these themes," he observes. "And that's okay. If this were the fourth or fifth entry in the series, its charm may have worn off, but I had a blast playing this game even if it is painfully familiar most of the time."
"The biggest difference between the two entries is the addition of new Giant characters," Reiner writes. "These lumbering titans stand in at roughly twice the height of standard Skylanders, and can be summoned to lift boulders, smash through weak floorboards, run through walls, and pull gigantic chains."
These strengths come with a tradeoff, however. "When it comes to world exploration, the Giants are a little too slow, and are tight squeezes on narrow paths," Reiner warns. "As I looked for secrets, I would switch these sloths out for the faster dragon characters, but used them as much as I could in large-scale conflicts or against approaching swarms."
"Two unexpected joys came from Giants," Reiner continues. "One: The story. I didn't much care for the cinematics in Spyro's Adventure, but laughed frequently at the nicely penned humor in Giants. [...] My second unexpected joy was a new collectible card game. In most of the levels, you obtain new cards by purchasing them from vendors or beating rival card players in matches. I always like it when games put a collectible item like these cards to good use."
"Pending a retail disaster this year, I suspect another Skylanders sequel is already in development and slated for release next holiday," Reiner predicts. "Giants makes a good case for the fun and collectibility of this series, but also raises the warning flag for franchise fatigue."
Destructoid's Chris Carter rates Skylanders Giants at 8 out of 10. "Skylanders was one of the biggest surprises of 2011," he begins. "Now here we are in 2012 with the sequel, featuring even bigger Skylanders and even more toys. In light of this, I have bad news for you folks: it's time to break out your wallets again."
"The tone is completely lighthearted, at times cheesy, but not overly hilarious," Carter writes. "When it comes to gameplay, your experience will pretty much mirror any standard dungeon crawler you've tackled before. Obstacles range from simple puzzles to straight-up battles, and there's even a home base of operations with various merchants (like the Diablo series)."
Carter notes that backward compatibility is a welcome feature. "I'm happy to report that Activision and Toys For Bob did a solid job of serving both games," he says. "All Series 2 characters that were carried over from the first game will work if you plug them back into the original. All new Series 2 characters (i.e. Giants) will not work with the original game (which is to be expected)."
"After playing through both titles, it's clear that a lot of heart went into the franchise," Carter concludes. "This should please fans both young and old, provided you're willing to go in with an open mind and embrace the simplicity.
"Skylanders: Giants is a simple but incredibly enjoyable game, packed with content should you decide to explore every nook and cranny. Despite the fact that a lot of the characters are pay-walled behind what is essentially physical DLC, it's still perfectly serviceable even with just the characters in the standard package."