It wasnít long ago when I got my first look at the anticipated release of Skylanders: Giants, the sequel to last yearís hit holiday game, on the Xbox 360. Now Iíve been given the opportunity to take my little plastic friends on the go with my coverage of Skylanders: Giants on the Nintendo 3DS. Iíll be honest that when heading into this review I wasnít sure how the 3DS version would live up to my expectations like the console version did. Luckily it surpassed many of my concerns and offered an enjoyable experience with very few drawbacks.
The 3DS version of Skylanders: Giants may be presented on a smaller screen but itís no less of a big undertaking as its stationary counterparts. The story this time focuses on the return of a dreaded Giant pirate called Captain Frightbeard who will stop at nothing to hunt down the Chest of Exile all the while terrorizing the Skylands. Itís up to you, some old friends and a new lineup of Skylanders to stop him before itís too late. Oh and be sure to bring along all of your old favorites along too as they can experience this new adventure.
When I played the original game on PC, I knew that each version was a little different and this time is no exception. For instance, swapping out your Skylanders in-game is a lot harder than most people will probably be accustomed to. Players are only allowed to bring two Skylanders into a level at a time which completely eliminates the freedom of switching them out at a momentís notice. Now from a reasonable standpoint I understand that carrying around at least 10 of the little figurines and your portal around isnít exactly practical most of the time. However by limiting you to only two characters in a level you have to do a little planning ahead of time which can be annoying. There is also slightly longer delay when bringing Skylanders into your possession which causes some jarring animations.
This largely has to do with the elemental gates that have made a return in Skylanders: Giants. Luckily there is a summary of the challenges and elements required on the chapter select screen so making the appropriate choices is a little easier. I also like and miss the fact that they removed element modifier areas from the equation in this version. The only issue youíll probably have is remembering to keep a Giant as one of your two characters and that you probably have to complete each level multiple times as only 4 of the 8 elemental Giants have been released as of this review to get both gates in one pass.
That doesnít stop Skylanders: Giants however from being an enjoyable portable experience. This time around players get to use supersized characters in the form of Giants. These larger-than life Skylanders can gain access to special hidden locales by interacting with the environment, have much higher life bars and can lay down some serious pain. The giant Tree Rex comes with all versions of the Starter Packs but so far Crusher is my favorite so far. The only downside is that other than being the ďtanksĒ of the Skylands and opening up secret locations they definitely feel like they are less useful in this version then the console ones. I often would always switch back to a more nimble Skylander especially when navigating the often treacherous terrains considering the fact that you can actually fall off the level at any time.
While falling off the map only hurts you, getting defeated is always fatal. However Skylanders: Giants for the 3Ds does something that is actually quite nice given the deviceís limitations. If one of your characters goes down you can actually pay to have them revived right in the middle of the level with some of the treasure that youíve been collecting. Another deviance from the console versions is that they handle upgrading your abilities a little different. By gaining experience you will unlock abilities such as luck boost, raised health and attacks as you level up. They definitely simplified things quite a bit here which are for the best when on the go.
There is a ton of secrets to find throughout Skylanders: Giants which add even more playability than last time. One of the signature collection activities that has returned once again is to find presents that are hidden in off the beaten path areas that contain hats. Unlike the console versions however these fashion pieces are purely for show and replay value as they donít give you any stat bonuses in this version. There are also mission specific challenges like finding a set number of cupcakes that you have to get.
While the game offers a lot to do, one of the things that subtracts for the overall appeal for me is the graphics. I know that the 3Ds can showcase some pretty good imagery thanks to its power but character detail really takes in the 3Ds version. I wasnít exactly expecting console quality but when some of the enemies are somewhat distinguishable walking blobs you have to wonder how much time was spent on character design. I can say that it wasnít too hard to tell what enemies were what though having played another version of Skylanders: Giants already.
One area of Skylanders: Giants for the 3DS that really grabbed me however were the levels themselves. Iíve grown accustomed to looking in every corner for treasures and collectibles alike but this version takes things to a whole new level. There was one area in particular called the Sand Dune Seas that I really liked. There was enough treacherous platforming action in that area alone to impress me. The details to the environment complete with various twisting paths and floating platforms were quite good throughout my time in the Skylands.
One of the things that you really have to get used to on the 3DS though is the fairly regular camera shifts. The camera usually always pans around to give you the perspective of where youíre supposed to go so the intrepid explorer should always take those cues to look in the opposite directions. The 3D seen in this version really helps to add depth to the world and the characters you control though I usually had to turn it off during the loading screens and menus as it was often uncomfortable especially when youíre moving around.
During your trip through the Skylands again you will once again seek the aid of some familiar faces such as Cali and Flint whose voices are all reprised by their original voice actors. Unfortunately due to file size restraints the most you hear out of them is little a brief word or two as all story elements is told through written dialogue save for a few cut scenes. The music and sound effects donít suffer though as you are treated to a solid classic Skylanders score and accurate battle effects from your favorite Skylanders.
I have to say that while the 3DS version of Skylanders: Giants lacks some finesse in some areas itís still a worth addition to your 3DS collection. The story and level design are all nicely created and will offer the player a great platforming experience on the go. Better start collecting those figurines and pick up a Starter Pack or Portal Ownerís Pack of Skylanders: Giants for the 3DS today while you still can. This is once again the hottest toy this holiday season.