Are we all ready to submit to our new Skylander overlords? The franchise has taken the gaming and toy worlds by storm since its release last October. Using a simple technology (RFID chips), the ingenious folks at Toys for Bob merged the physical toy and video gaming worlds into one and delivered in a way nobody expected. Want to know how successful the series has been? You would be hard pressed to find figures on stores shelves today, 7 months later, and the whole movement doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
If you need proof that this train is still moving, look no further than the next installment in the series: Skylanders Giants, which will be launching this Fall as previously, announced on the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS. Although they weren’t announced with the initial unveil, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version will also be launching in the Fall. Toys for Bob is taking the smart-road in the development of the new chapter by taking the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” route and is determined to keep delivering the experience fans have grown to crave. The new game is a refinement on the established formula and includes a variety of new additions to the character roster to keep things fresh.
I had a chance to sit down with the Nintendo Wii version of the new game recently and think that 2012 is going to be just as big of a year for the franchise as 2011 was... and perhaps even more-so.
Feels like home
If you have played the original game, then you will feel right at home in Giants. The game looks and plays exactly like its predecessor. The Wii version in particular looks absolutely fantastic with visuals that are almost on par with the 360 and PS3 versions of the original game. The gameplay is exactly what fans have come to know and love: action and exploration with the ability to swap out your characters at will. It is an action game at heart and the goal is to explore and level your characters by defeating tons of enemies and completing levels.
There have been some superficial changes to the Skylanders world that fans will definitely enjoy. First off, the world has become a lot more interactive. The levels are crawling with hidden passages and rooms that beg for players to find them; the concept of exploration has never been more important in the series. Those who want to collect all of the various hats and hidden treasures will surely need to keep their eyes peeled and check every nook and cranny of the world.
The elemental areas of the game have been given a huge graphical overhaul. No longer will a simple sign dictate to you that you need a certain class of character to enter; it will be evident which areas are designed for the specific classes. Sections meant for the Undead class will be dark and dreary, covered with dark clouds spewing lightning and barren surfaces. The Life areas are lush with beautiful greenery and colorful flowers. The visual clues are now a dead giveaway long before the signage.
Everything old is new again
One of the biggest selling points for the new game is the fact that all of your existing characters will be completely compatible with Skylanders: Giants. Chop Chop, Spyro, Bash, and all the others will work from the start in the new game. Plus, assuming you maxed them all out to level 10 in the first game, you will have 5 new levels of experience to gain in the new adventure as the level cap has been raised to 15 this time around so there will be more to discover for your old friends.
Toys for Bob is also going to release new versions of all of the original characters in the form of a version 2 line of figures. All of the original characters will be included in this new line and feature new poses, new color schemes, and even a new top-level ability that you will have to work towards unlocking. If you had a problem with fighting off the urge to collect them all last year, it is about to get a whole lot worse.
Say hello to my
You can’t make a new Skylanders game without bringing along some new Skylanders for the adventure. The new game will introduce 20 new characters to the franchise. This includes 8 Giant characters, which is where the game gets its subtitle. The new additions span across the various elemental classes and have their own unique looks and abilities.
In addition to new in-game abilities, the actual figures themselves are evolving as well. Some of the new figures will incorporate a new light-core technology that will allow certain parts of the figures to light up when they are in the proximity of the Portal of Power. There aren’t any batteries or special bulbs needed for this so you never have to worry about them dying out. It doesn’t sound like much, but it looks incredibly cool when you see it in action.
As I mentioned, these new additions include a completely new breed of characters known as Giants. These gargantuan characters are about 3 times the size of a standard Skylander and use their girth to their advantage in addition to their elemental class’ powers. Although the Portal will be crowded, you can use 2 Giants simultaneously during gameplay just as you can 2 normal sized figures, or mix and match between the 2 sizes. You can use these behemoths to pluck trees and boulders out of the ground to hurl at enemies or use them to move entire sections of ground at will. Their power lies in their size and you will be glad you have them on your side in the new adventure.
We were shown a couple of the new Skylanders during our demonstration. Some of the new faces that you will be seeing this year include:
Jet-Vac (Air elemental character): A cool new addition to the roster who carries a vacuum on his back, which he can use to suck in loot and power ups from around the screen. Definitely a must have for those looking to get the edge in collecting loot in multiplayer games.
Pop Fizz (Magic elemental character): An insane alchemist who happens to love using his own potions as much as he loves making them. Pop Fizz has a unique Jekyll and Hyde aspect to him that involves him having different personalities depending on which potions he consumes.
Tree Rex (Giant Life elemental character): This guy is a massive, half-tree, half-elk looking creature. He also appears to be the “face” of the new game.
Bouncer (Giant Tech elemental character): Bouncer is a big robot on a wheel. He can quickly maneuver around the environment and is pretty much a mobile tank thanks to the variety of guns and cannons packed throughout his body.
If you thought that the craze was bad last year, I have a feeling that it is going to be 10-times worse this year. Both Activision and Toys know what to expect this year and will be doing everything in their power to ensure that the demand for the product is met this time. The long-story-short-version of all this is that Toys for Bob knows what they are doing with this franchise and they are going to prove it again this Holiday season. The game is simply a continuation and refinement of all that was good about the original; more of a good thing is what we want, right? I am sure that we will be learning plenty more about the game this week as E3 continues. Until then, start saving up your money now because Skylanders: Giants will be here in just a few short months.
Activision paid for travel and lodging expenses for this press event in Los Angeles, which included a presentation of the game.