COLUMN: Aaron’s Backstage Pass: Skylanders Giants Wii U Review

Updated: 01/28/2013 11:31 AM KSTP.com By: Aaron Chalich

Last week I received a review copy of Activision’s Skylanders Giants for the Wii U and I am very impressed. I must say that it is very addicting and I have had a lot of fun with it.

For those of you that are not familiar with “Skylanders,” it’s a very unique game where you have a base (portal) that attaches to the front or back of your gaming system. Then you have little figures that you put on the base and they appear in the game. 

In the game you control that particular character and when they lose all of their energy or you want to switch to a different character, you just take it off of the base and put the new one on.  It literally takes seconds for the figures to appear in the game.

There are tons of different figures that you can buy and they are all unique and very detailed.  They all look amazing and are very unique. Each figure has different powers that can be used in the game and they can also access certain areas in some levels that other characters cannot get through.

There are eight types of characters and in order to find everything in the game you have to have one of the eight characters. The eight types of characters are; earth, technology, magic, water, fire, wind, undead and life.

The first “Skylanders” game came out a few years ago and there was a whole set of figures that you could buy to play with the game. You can use all of the figures and characters from the previous “Skylanders” game with “Skylanders Giants.” I really thought this was great, because if you had a lot of characters from the first game, you can still use them.

The main thing that is different with this set of figures is that there are giant figures. These figures are much bigger than the others and are more powerful. Personally I think they are so cool. I do want to get them all. 

There is a giant figure for all eight different elements. The starter comes with Tree Rex who is giant tree. The one character that I really want is called “Eye Brawl” and he is a robot with a giant eye. He looks so cool.

Whoever came up with this idea was a genius in my opinion, because kids are going to want to collect all of the characters and plus they will want to beat the game and find everything in it, so the will want all eight types of characters. The game comes with two normal sized characters and one giant. 

If you want more figures, you have to go out and buy them at a store. “Skylanders” are very popular and people are buying them like crazy. I remember when it first came out; it was very hard to find them in stores, because they were selling out of them. Now with the release of “Skylanders Giants” it the same thing, stores are still selling out of them. Every time I go to a store I check to see which “Skylanders” they have and the shelves are still bare.

The story of “Skylanders Giants” is that long ago there were giants and they were separated from the normal Skylanders. An evil character called “Kaos” has been turned into a toy and sent to Earth. The eventually wakes up and comes back to life. 

He creates a portal and goes back to Skylands. When he arrives he awakens a giant Skylander and takes control of him. He then learns of a hidden artifact that will give him control of all Giant Skylanders if he gains control of it.

A group of good Skylanders learn of Kaos’s evil plan and they sent out on an adventure to stop him before he gains control of the artifact. Along the way they meet a number of unique characters and giant Skylanders.

I really liked the story a lot and thought that it was very interesting. Kids will be able to understand it and get into it. The characters are all very likeable and even Kaos is pretty neat.

The graphics are amazing.  Everything is so detailed and the cut scenes are unbelievable. The characters and enemies are also very detailed. Every level has a different theme and a new set of characters and enemies that you encounter. The “Skylanders” in the game look great and are very detailed. They look exactly like the figures that you buy. The backgrounds and scenery are very stunning. The graphic designers did an amazing job with this game and they really paid attention to detail.

The controls were very easy to learn. You play with the gamepad or if you are playing with two players, the other player uses the Wiimote. Your move your character with the analog stick and push a few different buttons to attack. If you are playing with the Wiimote and are controlling a giant, you can lift rocks up by pushing the “c” button and then to throw it, you swing the Wiimote forward. 

Then if you have a key and need to unlock a door, you push the Wiimote forward and the key will go into the lock and unlock the door. I feel that just about anybody can pick this game up and play it. My five-year-old daughter played with me and she controlled the characters just as well as I can.

As you play the game, you come across many different items and puzzles you must solve. There are different hats that you can find which will increase your defense, strength or speed. There are also special power ups for different characters and also money that you can find. You use the money to buy different items such as more hats, arenas, and items that can restore your health.

You can also use the money to upgrade your character’s powers. There is a fairy on your ship that you can visit and she can upgrade your powers depending how much money you have to spend.

Every level has a ton of enemies that you must fight and when you defeat the enemies you gain experience points. Once your character has enough experience points, they can level up and this makes them stronger and more powerful. 

When you first start your game, you are on a flying ship. This plays a big role in “Skylander Giants” because this is the main hub of where you can do many different things. You can go to a shop and buy items, upgrade your character, play one of the many challenges, or play a game of Sky Stones.

Once you beat the challenges, you can unlock power ups for your characters such as hats or charms that increase your stats. 

Sky stones is a tile based game. There is a 3x3 board and you must place stone squares on the board.  Each of the sky stones has a unique picture on them and on each edge they have arrows. 

The object is to place your sky stone down and have more arrows touching your opponent’s stone.  If you do have more arrows, then you can take his stone. The player with the most sky stones in his possession is the winner. You have to play sky stones many times in order to get through certain area. It’s pretty easy to learn and you can buy sky stones at stores.

The Wii U gamepad displays your characters stats all the time and that is very helpful. You can also switch from your stats to another menu that shows the level objectives by just tapping an icon in the corner of the screen with the stylus. This menu shows you how many areas you discovered, how many hidden things are in the level and also what you need to do to pass the level. I thought this was great, because you had all of the information right there and you didn’t have to pause the game to see what you needed to do. I think a lot of people will also like this feature.

Speaking of the gamepad one really great feature is that you can play “Skylanders Giants” without having the television on. You just connect the base to the Wii U and when you start the game it asks you if you want to play with just the gamepad.

If you click yes, you can play right on the gamepad. This is still one of the coolest features of the Wii U in my opinion. The screen is so clear and it looks as good as if you were playing on your HD television. There is absolutely no difference. You can still change your characters anytime by putting them on the portal.

I played “Skylanders Giants” with my five-year-old daughter and she absolutely loved it. You can have two-players play at the same time and all you need to do is just set two characters on the base.

There is another mode in “Skylanders Giants” called “Battle mode.” You and a friend can play a few different games against other. There is one game where you have to fight each other and try to take away all of the other persons health. Another game which was pretty fun, is a football themed game.  You have to capture a ball and throw it into a goal. 

The person who scores the most points wins. There is another game where you have to be the first one to collect five coins. The last game is another fighting game where you need to knock the other player out of a ring. As you hit the other player a meter builds up and when it’s full you can do a special hit that sends the other person flying and hopefully out of the ring. 

There are different levels that you can choose to play in and you can buy more levels at stores in the main game. The battle mode was a lot of fun to play and I think kids will really like this feature, because they can see who has the best and strongest “Skylander.”

Overall, I really thing that Activision’s “Skylanders Giants” is an amazing game for many reasons.  There has never been a game like this before. This is the first game that has collectable figures that you can physically touch and also use them in the game. The story is well written and the graphics are amazing. Kids will be able to figure out the controls pretty easy and it’s a great game to play as a family. I really like how detailed the collectable figures are and I know that I plan on buying several of them.

Aaron Chalich is a columnist for KSTP.com blogging about the latest entertainment news.