Skylanders Giants

Skylanders Giants

If you attend Gamescom as a gamer, it's true that you'll suffer endless queues for just five minutes with a game due out in two months.

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But it's also true you'll enjoy the spectacular side of the event - in the business area were press mix with developers and publishers, cold booths with plain walls and no statues, music, scenes or cosplayers await journalists for near-clinical "behind closed doors" video game presentations.

Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule. This year, one of them was Skylanders Giants, which, confirming its status as an important brand for Activision - and even overshadowing the likes of Black Ops 2 or Star Wars 1313 for booth space - welcomed us with this eye-catching setup:

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In Skylanders' land.
Skylanders Giants
The Dark Spyro army.
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The log-stools and two Giants in the same Portal of Power.
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Outside Skylanders Giants demo room (this isn't showfloor).

With those inviting log-stools, the comfortable artificial turf and the lemon and orange ice lolly walls welcoming us, we wandered in to learn the news about the Skylanders phenomenon for this year. Besides, we didn't want to piss off the titanic Giant who guarded the area by skipping the presentation...

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A truly gigantic Tree Rex (NOTE: this size won't be available).

During that presentation, Noah Kircher-Allen, product specialist, shared Toys for Bob and Activision's current strategy for repeating last year's Christmas success. It's not just trying to sell new figurines so kids want to collect them all once again, but also trying to improve a gameplay experience that looks incomplete in retrospective.

But let's don't forget that these new characters are the core of the new features. Eight enormous monsters join the roster of Skylanders that kids already knew. Both in the videogame and in its plastic toy form, they're more than twice the size of standard Skylanders. Following game's basic rules, each of the Giants belongs to one of the elemental character classes.

And what can you expect of a Skylander Giant in action? For example, we witnessed the power of Swarm, some sort of mutant bee, in-game. Similar to the actual insect, Swarm attacks from the air (it's his element), but just a few feet from the ground. On top of stomping over enemies with the strength of a giant, Swarm is able to shoot with his arms or to lift huge rock blocks for attacking or exploring purposes. This character shows Giants will be much more powerful, if a bit slower than normal Skylanders.

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Three Giant Skylanders in action.

Swarm's joined by seven other Giant Skylanders: Tree Rex, Bouncer, Crusher, Thumpback, Ninjini, Eye Brawl, Hot Head.

However, Giants aren't the only new monsters (and toys) to join this new adventure. Another protagonist of the presentation was Shroomboom, a normal-sized Skylander, but whose physical or virtual figure will only be supported by the new game. As he's mushroom-shaped, he's capable of rebounding, launching himself out of his slingshot, throwing toadstools or creating a mushroom force field. Shroomboom's element, obviously, is Life.

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Three standard Skylanders in action in Skylanders Giants.

Eight is also the number of new standard Skylanders to join Giant's party: Chill, Pop Fizz (Punch), Jet-Vac, Flashwing, Sprocket, Fright Rider, Hot Dog and our one-eyed friend Shroomboom.

This group of 16 new monsters to collect opens up new combat possibilities, as well as new exploration possibilities. The developers have had variety in mind as one of the main needs for the new game: there'll be new puzzles, more diverse environments, new explorable areas and ideas for stressing re-playability.

We're reminded that every game includes at least one of the Giants, whose power is needed for specific tasks, like breaking a wall or moving an entire island - so you're required to put them on the portal at the right moment. On top of that, portals have space for two Skylanders Giants in case two friends want to play cooperatively. In this regard, there are new mini-games and a new Horde-like mode, in which players face waves of enemies in search of treasures, challenges and experience points.

In Skylanders Giants enemies will be smarter and so the studio have up to three difficulty settings in place, so there's challenge for every audience / age (then add a unlockable legendary mode to the mix).

Lastly, Activision has an infallible ace up its sleeve for injecting new life to the old characters: up to 24 characters from the original Skylanders will reappear as a completely new toy. Each figure has a new pose, while in-game character presents new powers and an updated level cap. During the game demo, we saw the modernized Cinder in action.

Besides that, certain toys will take advantage of the new "Bright Lights" function, lighting themselves up when near the Portal of Power without any batteries (these also have new in-game features). And of course, every single Skylanders you might have collected for the first game will be compatible with Giants, keeping customization and stats.

After the presentation, John Coyne, Skylanders marketing vice president, gave us a few extra tidbits:

Skylanders Giants will hit the shelves next October the 19th, and you will be able to buy it with or without a portal. A Starter pack includes a Portal of Power, a Giant Skylander and two standard characters. Wii and PS3 receive wired portals now (so you save on batteries and it's "good for the environment"). Sadly, there wasn't any info on versions for the Wii U or Nintendo 3DS.

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