Thursday, January 17, 2013

Skylanders: Giants (3DS) Review

It is Thursday on our week of new reviews, so that means we've arrived at the fourth review. It is for a handheld version of an ultra-popular and successful series of toys and games. It is Skylanders: Giants for the Nintendo 3DS.

They Might Be Giants... 
And Successful Ones At That

The Skylanders series fused two things together, the collectible aspect of buying figurines and video games, to create an addicting and brilliant idea. Combined, they created Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, and the rest, as they say, is history. It seemingly became a sensation overnight as kids and grown adults (not to hint that there is anything wrong with that) feverishly raided shelves for new figurines for their copies of the game. Now the Skylanders are back, and they have brought powerful Giants with them in Skylanders: Giants. While you may have read a lot about the home console versions of the game, the Nintendo 3DS version hasn't received as much press. Is the 3DS iteration of Skylanders: Giants a suitable substitute or complement for the console versions?

Skylanders: Giants has around 40 new figurines to add to the playing experience. They are brought to life into the game by setting a figure on the Portal of Power and pointing the Nintendo 3DS system's infrared sensor towards the portal. After some waiting the figure comes to life in the video game, able for you to play as them. There are 99 characters in all, some just enhanced versions of existing characters like legendary versions or Series Two versions of Series One Skylanders, and they all have different elements attached to them. Some are water, some fire, some life, some magic, some wind, etc. Each Skylander can gain experience levels through collecting coins and beating up baddies. With each level gained comes additional attack strength and health, as well as new or improved moves.

Pop Fizz is one of the three Skylanders
bundled in the Starter Pack.
While Skylanders: Giants on the home consoles is a beat 'em up with Gauntlet-esque elements to it, the Nintendo 3DS version is a different beast altogether. While it contains some of the aspects of the home console versions, Skylanders: Giants on the 3DS is a platformer at heart. In fact, the home console versions don't even have the ability to jump while with the 3DS version you'll be leaping across chasms and from platform to platform a lot while defeating foes. 

The new Giants Skylanders bring on the pain.
Each level in Skylanders: Giants has stars you can earn. These are done by performing tasks within each level. You automatically acquire one through completing a given level, but there are also timed challenges, where you must race to the end of the level before time runs out on you, and several mini-missions in the levels. These mini-missions can be activities like obliterating a specific amount of a certain enemy, opening a set number of treasure chests, collecting a certain amount of coins, and clearing elemental gates.

Jet Vac cleans up the battlefield.
In the game there are various areas that can only be accessed by one type of Skylander, whether it is a giant or an elemental type like fire or wind. These are the aforementioned elemental gates. Seeing as the Starter Pack for Skylanders: Giants only contains three Skylander figurines/characters, you need to at least buy figures of a different element to reach the areas that the Starter Pack figures can't gain access to. The elemental gates not only help you gain a star for the level, but they usually have a present at the end of their paths. These presents are different hats that can be worn by your Skylanders, and if you're like me, you'll want to get them all. Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a completionist!

With Chop Chop there are no bones about it.
One of the major and most noticeable problems with the Nintendo 3DS version of Skylanders: Giants is the recurring bouts of slowdown. It happens way too often and most of the time turns the game into a slide show rather than something consistent. During when you switch Skylanders? Yes. During when you level up? Yes. During when there is more than two enemies on screen at the same time? Yes. During the level overview where the camera pans around the upcoming level? You probably have caught on to the pattern by now. It is curious as to why the game's performance is so bad when the visuals don't seem to really push the 3DS hardware too terribly hard.

Despite the obvious and apparent performance issues that plague the 3DS version of Skylanders: Giants, I still found myself enjoying the game and never really finding myself dying because of slowdown. The platforming is responsive and feels right. If the performance issues were ironed out, the 3DS version of the game would be my favorite. As it is, Skylanders: Giants on the 3DS hardware is one with clear problems but still retains a level of fun that makes it a worthy addition to one's handheld library.

[SuperPhillip Says: 6.5/10]

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