What do you get when you combine action figure-like toys with video games? A cash cow, that's what. Activision has done with Skylanders what Nintendo should have done with the Pokemon franchise. Instead of having 2D playing cards, Activision's Skylanders franchise brings toy figures to life on the big screen. It's likely to consume the life of youngsters across the country and drive parents into near-bankruptcy (excuse the hyperbole).
Just like last year's Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, Skylanders Giants uses the "Portal of Power" to bring the toys to life. There are now over 40 action figures to choose from, including last year's game, which are thankfully completely compatible with Skylanders Giants. The toys carry the data with them even across games and platforms so all of your abilities and upgrades remain intact. The compatibility is both convenient and brilliant since it encourages people to remain loyal to the brand.
The Starter Pack, which comes with three Skylander action figures including one of the new Giants, is a hefty $74.99. Don't let that initial investment fool you, though. Your kids will undoubtedly want to collect many more Skylanders. Individually, they retail for between $9.99 for the basic new Skylanders to $14.99 for the Giants. You could easily end up spending over $100 -- which doesn't even account for the World of Warcraft-like "pets" that you can buy.
The Giants come in at twice the size of the original Skylander action figures. They offer not only a colossal size, but also more power than the smaller Skylanders. For instance, they can just smash a wall instead of placing a bomb near it or simply throw a boulder to make a bridge. It adds enough to the game to make it feel somewhat fresh. Meanwhile, the Skylanders Series 2 offer new abilities and upgrades.
Skylanders Giants is essentially the same game as last year's Spyro's Adventure except with better graphics and refined gameplay. It remains, at its heart, a kid-friendly action platformer that is great for younger audiences to play with a gamer parent. Disappointingly, it still only features two players, but being able to join a friend in action is still fun.
Aside from the story mode, there is also a "Battle Mode" where you can test your skills against a friend, earning extra coins and experience along the way. Like the story co-op you can only play with two people and it also doesn't have any online at all, but it's still a decent experience, especially for kids. Parents should definitely be playing this with their kids instead of Call of Duty and other violent games.
There's enough new in Skylanders Giants to make it a game that I would recommend to parents. You could simply buy the game and use an existing "Portal of Power" and action figures from Spyro's Adventure. All "Portal Owners Packs" come with a bonus Skylanders Giant action figure. If your kid has yet to make the plunge into Skylanders, just make sure that your bank account can support their soon-to-be addiction.