Gamescom: Skylanders Giants preview
There are two possible reasons you know all about Skylanders - either the real-world creature collecting craze has embraced a young 'un in your general vicinity or you've been captivated by the game's family-friendly charms and uniquely addictive adventuring yourself. Either way, prepare to be Skylandered all over again as Skylanders Giants, the second game in the series, draws near.
Gotta catch 'em all!
If the phenomenally successful Skylanders has somehow managed to pass you by, here's what you need to know: it's a video game and a series of collectible toys, both parts working in deviously addictive tandem. A unique attachment - known as the Portal of Power - connects to your console and, by placing different toys on it, you head off on the game's expansive adventure using the unique powers imbued in the creature of your choice.
Bigger is better
The main hook in Skylanders Giants is pretty simple: this time, the hugely diverse regular Skylanders critters are joined by eight over-sized, super-powerful Giants to protect. In game terms, the Giants of Skyland are the floating world's earliest inhabitants. In the actual, physical real world, they're immediately appealing, mega-sized collectibles almost three times the size of their regular counterparts.
Reach for the skies
Joining the Giants - of which you've probably already seen wasp-like Swarm - are eight new regular characters, one from each of the game's elemental classes and 24 'Series 2' creatures. These are reposed Skylanders from the original set, including rare and discontinued characters no longer available. If you're wondering how your wallet will take the strain, don't panic. Publisher Activision is issuing Skylanders Giants in Starter Pack form with a couple of creatures to get you started.
On the level
That's the toys out the way, but what of the new game? Well, as with the first game, Giants is a bright, breezy platform romp that's been refreshed and revitalised with a heap of new features. For instance, all Skylanders level caps have been raised from 10 to 15. That should give players all the excuses they need to get back into the game and stack up that XP. Luckily, there's plenty to see and do too as you pimp out your new and existing characters.
Puzzle it out
This time, there's an increased focus on light puzzling to accompany the bouncy platform action. We got a glimpse of this in a section set around the impenetrable entrance to main Skylanders baddie Kaos' castle. Following a taste of combat starring new self-replicating enemy Doppelganger and mushroom-tossing Skylander Shroomboom, the pace eased up for a spot of puzzling. Your task is to push blocks around and create platforms leading up to a secret castle entrance. It's hardly the most taxing challenge but perfectly pitched toward the game's younger fans - and for everyone else, puzzles do their job in keeping the pace fresh and interesting.
Speaking of difficulty, Skylanders Giants introduces three settings - easy, medium and hard - to suit players of all skills and all ages. What's more, it's possible to tailor the game's difficulty independently for each player in a co-operative game meaning it can be properly enjoyed by hardcore parents and juniors beginners alike. Player versus Player matches are equally customisable, with Giants and regular Skylanders able to battle against each other according to your every whim.
In your elements
However you play, the action unfolds in a richly designed world. Skylander's colourful cartoon landscape is littered with monsters to fight, collectables to find and secret areas ripe for exploration - with the greatest rewards reserved for those willing to travel off the beaten path. There's even greater visual and play variety in Giants too, with certain new areas only accessible by Skylanders from specific elemental groups. For instance, only Magic-based creatures like Spyro can access the starry, spacey world of the Ethereal Ballroom.
Stuff and things
That's not all though - Skylanders Giants packs in a heap of mini-games and activities. These include timed combat quests known as Heroic Challenges, plus an arena survival mode that's perfect for raking in gold and XP. You can still hunt for legendary treasures too, exploring the world of Skylands on the back of Flynn's flying ship which acts as an access point to Giants' many colourful locales.
Need a boost?
So far then, it looks like there's plenty to keep Skylanders fans busy, with a wealth of overhauled adventuring to enjoy. Skylanders Giants is set to arrive on October 19 in two different forms: the Booster Pack features the game and a Giant figure, while a suitably generous Starter Pack grants you a Giant, two regular Skylanders, a Portal of Power and the game itself. Expect to hear a lot more about Skylanders Giants very soon.
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