Skylanders Giants
| Skylanders Giants

Skylanders Lost Islands on iOS is brilliant. It's a delightful freemium world-builder that plays about with the licence, rewards you tremendously, and throws a cheeky wink your way every so often thanks to a decent sense of humour.

If you want a portable Skylanders experience, that's the one to go for, as Skylanders Giants for 3DS is entirely skippable. It's a significantly compromised, stripped back pseudo-version of the home console adventure, and one that only Skylanders die-hards should bother looking into.

Slam Bam? No thank you, ma'am

If you've played the home console versions then you have a rough idea of what to expect: you take on the role of a Portal Master, with the power to control the eponymous creatures that you've no doubt seen by the entrance of your local video game retail outlet.

Set across several themed worlds - such as pirate, sand dune, jungle, and amusement park - this combat-focused platformer also incorporates RPG elements, so that your Skylanders level-up through play.

Beating up creepy insects, shamanistic priests, large trolls, and other ne'er-do-wells is tempered with basic platforming that hardly gives Mario a run for his money. Still, this is aimed at the younger end of the market, and the difficulty balance is well-judged. There's also a helpful trail of coins to guide you to the main objective for each level.

Along the way you need to complete both mandatory and optional tasks. Finding keys to open doors and defeating all enemies in an area are the most common of the mandatory ones, but for the completists there are loads of items to collect and secrets to find.

It's a shame that doing so always entails a tedious journey of meaningless plot points, some awkward camera-angles, and largely unsatisfying battles.

Enemy intelligence is routinely vacant - some won't attack you even when provoked, but when they do spark into life most will just charge at you relentlessly until you've killed them.

The trinkets you do find on your travels mostly come in the form of hats that you can place on your chosen Skylanders, making them look even more ridiculous than they already are. Get enough XP out of combat situations and you can unlock upgrades to your stats, and even new moves.

It's cool to play about with the extra abilities you're given, but sticking with what you know will get you through the game faster, so you barely use them.

While it's great to feel more powerful in games, if you focus on levelling up the same pair of Skylanders, pretty quickly you become an unstoppable force against all enemies - even bosses - sucking challenge from the game.

Lacking Punch, Pop and Fizz

Presentation is patchy, the game absolutely creaks. The worlds are vivid and detailed, and characters look like their toy counterparts and move well. Subtle incidental animations from them and the NPCs you interact with demonstrate that this is production from a top-notch design team.

But there's pop-in all over and the frame-rate is woeful, which significantly detracts from the experience. The audio side of things is equally mixed: yes, the background music is high quality orchestral adventure fare, but sound effects are repeated far too often.

Then there's that Portal tech, providing the unique selling point of Skylanders - the ability to bring toy models into your gameworld. If you want to take the game out and about with you, think again, or at least be prepared to take another large chunk of plastic with you on your journey in order to swap characters in and out.

The game also limits when you can access this physical portal to the interstices between levels, so you'll have to carefully consider who you take into the gameworld with you.

The technical implementation of portals is also a bit wonky: it takes far too long for characters to load into the game, and the process of doing so is often fraught by the 3DS being unable to locate (and communicate with) the portal.

One other downside (or upside, if you're a collector) is that you'll need to purchase more Skylanders figurines to see all the content on offer. Some areas can only be accessed by characters of certain elements - fire, magic, undead, and so on. Not having one means you miss out on massive chunks of content in the form of challenge rooms.

Unlike home platforms, portable consoles aren't lacking in family-friendly games, so Skylanders Giants really had to stand out to be a strong recommendation. As it is, it's a watered-down, half-experience of the real deal that only super-fans need consider buying.

Skylanders Giants

Truly unforgivable technical issues mask an otherwise run-of-the-mill action adventure game. The toys are cool and all, but the game containing them simply isn't
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.