The Wii U version of this game is tops, but might not be the best for series troupers.
Skylanders Giants on Wii U is a gorgeous, feature-rich game that may just be best on Nintendo’s new system under the right circumstances. Giants is a better game than the original, and offers a ton of replay value bolstered by a wide cast of fun, varied characters. Vicarious Visions, who developed the original Skylanders game on 3DS, handled the port, and with the exception of a few logistical pratfalls, it’s the best version of the game.
For more minute details on Giants, read our review of the Wii version. For the purposes of this review, the focus is the features exclusives to the Wii U version. First off, Skylanders is in HD for the first time on a Nintendo platform, and looks gorgeous. The game’s winning art style shines through, as every character animates wonderfully and environments look fantastic. The Wii U version seems to run better than it does on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Simply, Giants is a well-done port on Wii U.
The GamePad is the only controller you can use for the first player, but that shouldn’t be an issue as the GamePad is a novel addition. You can switch to using just the GamePad easily, and the game loses nothing in the transition. Unfortunately, you remain tethered to the Wii U—the included Portal of Power is wired, and must be plugged into the system. Wireless portals from previous games work if you have them, but considering you can only buy Giants on Wii U in the full-blown Starter Kit (as opposed to the Portal Owner’s bundle on other systems that includes just the game and one new figure) with a wired portal, it’s a weighty restriction. Also, the GamePad’s range exceeded that of even the wireless portal (at least for me), further complicating the inclusion of Off-TV Play.
When playing on the TV, the GamePad functions as a second screen where you can check your level objectives and your character’s stats. It’s nothing spectacular, mostly just decreasing the need to go into menus during gameplay. The GamePad’s other functionality is used for the other aspects of the game, mostly the mini-games. For example, you solve the lock picking mini-game by tilting the controller instead of using an analog stick, and you can use the touch screen to place tiles in Skystones.
Skylanders Giants on Wii U is, based on the gameplay experience, a fantastic version of the game. As such, if you’ve been hesitant to dive in, Giants on Wii U is a fine entry point. However, the bundled wired portal inherently negates part of the appeal of the Wii U version. Even the wireless portal doesn’t have the range of the GamePad.
With no way for Skylanders veterans to dive into the Wii U version without buying the Starter Kit, the best bet may be to stick with whatever system you’ve been using and wait until the next year’s version to consider jumping to Wii U. Skylanders Giants is excellent, and the Wii U version is a fine port, but until the near-field communication technology on the GamePad is used in the game, this version is unfortunately hampered.