Resurrecting the Spyro franchise, shooting it off in a completely different direction, and combining it with physical collectable toys turned out to be a masterstroke for Activision, and the franchise is now adored by millions of younger gamers around the world.
It might have also caused a lot of angst among parents around Christmas time when certain figurines were out of stock, but that's just one of the joys of parenthood.
Skylanders: Giants has more of an expansion feel than a full-blown sequel, but it looks meaty, and - importantly - is accompanied by a lot of new characters, and therefore figurines.
Giants was actually my first experience with the Skylanders world, and I was pleasantly surprised by how fast, seamless, and simply cool it felt to interact with the figurines and see my results in-game.
A quick recap on how this all works: Skylanders is a third-person action/adventure starring a menagerie of characters to play as. Similar to the Lego series, each character has a certain set of abilities that allow them to interact with the world around them in different ways.
To use a character, you need their (physical) figurine. The game comes with a Portal of Power, a kind of near-field communication device that you place figurines on.
The moment you do, the appropriate character pops up in the game and away you go. Swapping between different characters feels strangely cool when you're physically switching them around. Sure, it's a blatant money grab for a mechanic that could have easily been accomplished in-game, but it does add to the immersion.
Giants tasks you with saving the Skylands from, well, the same evil threat as before. After a surprisingly humorous intro sequence, I was thrown into a level where I could both get up to speed on the regular Skylanders, and check out what makes the giants unique.
The most obvious difference is their size: while not necessarily all that giant, they are certainly a lot bigger than the regular characters, and this brings a few gameplay changes: evil minions can be swatted away more easily, some puzzles can simply be smashed through, and different areas can be reached.
Cross-compatibility of all the characters is one of the big features of Giants: you'll be able to use both old and new figurines alike. I always liked that character stats and save files were stored in the figurine itself, something that continues with Giants. All characters can now be levelled up to 15 rather than 10, and everyone has been given a fresh lick of paint in terms of new abilities and upgrades.
Skylanders: Giants obviously won't be for everyone, but if you've got kids in your life, chances are they've either already fallen for this or are highly susceptible to doing so. It's a continuation of what made the Lego series so popular, albeit with a bigger cash-grab thrown in. On the other hand, the physical toys are of a surprisingly high build quality - Activision should at least be applauded slightly for not taking the easiest route there.
Look out for all the new toys and the new game in mid-October. All major platforms are supported, so if you've got a console under your TV, chances are you're in with a grin.By Tristan Clark