The Toys for Bob offices in Novato, California is the perfect setting to foster the imagination and creativity that goes into a game like Skylanders Giants. Situated in a refurbished military airport hanger, the high ceilings and minimal walls are accented by a tiki lounge theme that carries through the large space that roughly 100 employees call their home away from home.
These days it’s hard not to look any direction at Toys for Bob and not see something relating to their hit franchise, Skylanders. With the release of Skylanders Giants, the sequel to Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, just around the corner, there’s a host of new characters and orange packaging that can now call the unusual space home.
My visit to Toys for Bob earlier this week was comprised of two main components. First, we were taken around to some of the game’s leads including the animation director, sound director and sculptor. Second, I was able to spend at least an hour’s worth of hands on time playing on a fully unlocked retail Wii U version, and an Xbox 360 not-so-unlocked development version.
A lot of information came out during the brief time spent in the Skylanders Giants team leads. First I will share the highlights in bullet point form, then some images snapped around the offices, and finally more information in bullet point form gleaned from digging through the game’s menus. Lastly I’ll drop some quick impressions about playing the game but keep them brief considering our full review will be coming in less than two weeks time.
Here are some fun Skylanders Giants facts:
- Skylanders Giants was hinted at in one of the Spyro’s Adventure story scrolls so clearly Toys for Bob was thinking ahead. Can you guess which one?
- Toys for Bob spent one month building the Skylanders Giants prototype to share with Activision. It features Tree Rex and he looks almost identical to the final figure.
- The first animation test for Giants was a 300x scaled up version of a Spyro’s Adventure character in that game. Everything broke, which provided inspiration for what a Giant could do.
- Skylanders figure prototypes are made in a large variety of different and slightly tweaked poses/paint jobs to test and see which one is most durable, looks best, and works the best in the package.
- George Takai voices Drillex, who himself is a giant drill boss character that raps to dub-step. Drillex… Skrillex… get it?
- The size of the game is comparable to Spyro’s Adventure, though there are fewer chapters (16 total).
- The difficulty levels are Chompy Cuddler (Easy), Cyclops Crusher (Medium) and Heavy Hitter (Hard).
- Nightmare difficulty, unlocked when you complete the game in any other mode, is truly hard. “Every piece of food will count.”
- Toys for Bob employees have contests to see who can get furthest in Nightmare difficulty with only one or two Skylanders at their disposal.
- The game takes place in the past, when Giants battled the Arkeyans, and the present.
- All of the Skylanders have their own voices. For example, Thumpback sounds like an “angry Scottish sailor.”
- In the arena battles, crowds chant the name of the Skylander fighting.
- There are new musical transitions from room-to-room.
- A jukebox on Flynn’s new (old) ship lets Skylanders characters dance and sing a line set to different types of music.
- Audio is designed for Wii. When it’s the best it can be on Wii, it is then ported to the other versions.
- I asked two different Toys for Bob employees who their favorite character was. Both said Thumpback.
Now let’s look at some images. This first batch are packaging shots of Skylanders Giants figures. You have probably seen most of these on Ebay already. However, you probably haven’t seen the Toys R Us exclusive Skylanders Giants Legendary Skylanders three-pack or Bouncer Giant figure.
Some of the images can be clicked for larger versions. Please excuse the quality; the lighting was really dim.
Next up we have some images of loose Skylanders Giants characters.
This is a “wow” shot right here with all the rare variants.
Note the battle packs in the back.
Here are the Giants.
And now the fun stuff. Below are many variants and protoypes with the best one saved for last. Look closely at each picture for some figures that didn’t make the cut.
The next few images include some variants that should be making their way into stores over the course of the next 9 months or so. Spot a green Flashwing and white Whirlwind, amongst others. I’m not sure what the purple Double Trouble was for since it’s a Series 1 sculpt.
The translucent green Series 1 Gill Grunt was made for Microsoft.
And now my personal favorite image from the whole event. You are looking at a Kaos figure that was sculpted “for fun.” Will this figure be available later on the Skylanders Giants sales cycle? I can confirm it will not. However, I was told he could be in the third Skylanders game (you know it’s coming) and the way I was told makes me think he’s already on the drawing board.
Also check out the baby (Sidekicks?) versions of Eye Brawl and Thumpback.
My hands-on time with Skylanders Giants was spent mostly on the Wii version of the game. I started playing with the Swarm Giant Skylander and before long a half-hour had passed and I was still playing with him. I suspect this will happen with many of you; the Giants, though slower, are more dominant and fun to play with than their smaller counterparts.
During this hands-on time I also played with a level 1 Fright Rider, level 15 Chill, and level 1 Tree Rex. I also played with Legendary Bouncer on Xbox 360. For those wondering, Fright Rider has an advanced Soul Gem “A Real Drag” upgrade that lets his skeleton ostrich head burrow into the ground and take an enemy with it. The “Burrow Bomber” upgrade is an earlier version of this that burrows but does not take an enemy.
I’ll have full impressions of the game in my review but what I will say now about Skylanders Giants is that it has more to offer than Spyro’s Adventure and an even greater production value, polish and attention to detail, if you can imagine that. There’s no way Spyro’s Adventure fans will not fall in love with this game.
Here are the final bits of info gathered while playing the game and a handful of images I snapped while playing. That’s Tree Rex playing in the existing Empire of Ice adventure pack.
- Flynn’s ship is the game’s hub, much like Mario’s ship is in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
- There are 85 different hats in the game, and the Spyro’s Adventure hats work in the game
- There are 21 arena challenges
- The goal of the story is to recover the Iron Fist of Arkus. This plays into the 15th chapter.
- There are more things to collect and check off in each chapter including
- 1 Story Scroll per chapter
- Charms – earned in arena challenges or bought in stores
- Legendary ship parts
- Treasure chests
- Luck-O-Tron (more on that further down)
- Winged Sapphire (more on that, too)
- Flynn is still after Cali
- The Lock-O-Tron increases the chance to earn bonus experience from defeated enemies
- Winged Sapphires take 2% off the cost to upgrade
- The Xbox 360 version lets you open treasure chests by simply mashing on Y versus the old analog stick waggle
- There’s a mini-game on Flynn’s boat that lets you blast sheep attached to balloons. You have to shoot 30 total.
- A later level lets you fly the Arkeyan Copter, a spin-off of the Arkeyan robot chapter from the first game.