Skylanders: Spyroâs Adventure launched in 2011 to not a lot of initial fanfare...but went on (according to Activision) to become the top selling console and handheld video game worldwide for 2012. For one simple reason: kids love it! (And a lot of adults, too.)
It would be fair to say that many parents probably have a love/hate relationship with Skylanders though, because the spending of money doesnât stop after you walk whistling out the game store hand in hand with your beaming offspring.
Oh no, thatâs just the beginning. (Duhn duhn duhnnnnnn.)
Proof of this is the enormous stand of figurines that will have appeared in your game store in the last couple of weeks, containing row after row of yet more Skylanders to collect. Yes, thereâs new ones to buy, including Giant Skylanders, which are about twice the height of your previous figures. And some of these characters (including the Giant Tree Rex who comes in the starter pack) light up when you place them on the portal.
The good news though, is that if you played the first game, and own the figurines, you can buy the Giants Portal owners pack, which saves you buying another portal, and you can use the Skylanders you collected from the first game. They also hold all the saved information from the first game, so if your Skylander was levelled up and had a power enhancing hat in the first game, itâll be levelled up and wearing the hat in Giants, as that information is stored in the figurine, which in itself is actually pretty cool.
If youâre starting out, youâll need to buy the Giants Starter pack. And for those who donât know, the premise is pretty simple: you have a mini portal which plugs into your console, and you place one of the character figurines on it. (Note: the Starter pack you get with the game comes with 3 basic figurines.)
Placing the figurine on the portal means you switch to using that character in the game, pretty much instantly. Itâs a very effective way to spark kidsâ imaginations, and then get them thinking about which character is best to work their way through the the puzzles that face them. And it doesnât take long to figure out âoh, I need a very strong character to pull that heavy object across to me, and my dragon isnât going to cut it...maybe Iâll switch to my Giant.â All characters have quite distinct catchphrases, attacks and related sounds within the game.
Itâs fairly simple in terms of gameplay, with hints and tips coming thick and fast in the opening levels about how to play it. âTry looking over there. Youâll need the key first!â type dialog means youâll probably have to be looking out the window with the TV on mute to miss what youâre supposed to do. Thereâs lots of satisfying smashing of barrels, chairs, jars and other scenery items, as well as collecting of treasure. And whilst you do battle your way through waves of enemies, you do it in a totally blood and gore free way.
The story is also quite simple, and not too complicated. The Giants need to save the world, really. (Lamest Spoiler. Ever.) And the âbad guyâ Kaos is not too scary or offensive, and is more comical than anything else.
Publishers Activision have stuck closely to the winning formula that made the first title so very successful, and havenât really changed too much. One major addition is a new mini game, called Skystones. Itâs a simple tile game you play in-game, where you try to capture your opponents tiles by placing better ones next to theirs. Itâs very quick to pick up, and collecting the tiles from characters you meet as you move throughout the game is another satisfying way to visually see yourself progressing through, alongside your character levelling and artifact and treasure collecting.
Adults may find the linear nature (âGo this way!!), and blindingly obvious nature of the puzzles (âtry moving the crate first!!â) a little tiresome, but then this is definitely pitched at the younger members of the family. Thereâs very little in this game to find offensive, and kids will go crazy for all the cool new characters to learn and experience, and build on the fun that was had in the first title.