If any game can kick-start the British economy, it's Skylanders: Giants. Swarms of children flit from toyshop to toyshop, stripping shelves in the search of every last figure. Giants adds 16 to the roster - eight of them double the size (and price) - as well as reposing 28 original characters to get us to shell out all over again. Ironically, the only person rich enough to buy the whole set is Activision's CEO and he likely gets them for free.
Talk dad into taking out a second mortgage and you can get down to the usual business of button-mashing around floating islands, stopping for the odd bit of crate-pushing or lock-picking and picking up your own weight in coins and stat-buffing hats. A fun new card game, Skystones, breaks up the endless loot cycle, but only briefly. For all the colourful character upgrades, combat is samey and flat, especially if you employ an overpowered giant.
The lumbering brutes are Giants' biggest innovation (the clue's in the title). Added bulk enables them to smash down walls and perform feats of strength - waggling the remote to lift rocks or yank chains - but the former can be achieved with bombs and the latter only grants access to hidden areas. Yes, hidden areas are a vital part of any loot 'em up's appeal, but it's a shame to see the headline feature relegated to a glorified key.
Step back and this is a game of glorified keys: Giants' levels are peppered with gates that open for elemental figures bought at extra cost. It may only take one toy to reach the end credits, but 100 per cent completion is reserved for families with deeper pockets. Backwards-compatibility with series one figures softens the blow for returning addicts, but the game still reeks of manipulative design to us.
The number of figure types proves confusing. Series one characters benefit from an increased level cap - from 10 to 15 - but their reposed series two counterparts get one exclusive 'Wow Pow' move and the option to shift between two branches of the skill tree. It makes older versions look slightly puny in comparison - a bit cruel, considering players have invested hours in them. Factor in 'lightcore' versions that illuminate when placed on the portal and offer a smart bomb move and you might end up buying one character three times over. Ker-ching!
Of course, much of this was said of Spyro's Adventure, and you lot had no qualms throwing coins at that. Fact is, there's an undeniable spark of wonder in popping a toy on a portal to warp it inside your TV. That's proper Willy Wonka stuff. And each toy boasts enough gimmicky individuality - we like the chap who gulps down potions to transform into a Mr Hyde version of himself - to warrant the few quid they cost. We still find them a bit charmless - 'Jet-Vac' won't be giving Pikachu any sleepless nights - but they're the heart of the game.
Our biggest gripe is how technically shoddy that game is. A cocktail of hazy textures, jaggy edges and framerate drops give the impression that not much love went into Giants. Considering kids are expected to invest all their pocket money in the game, shouldn't Activision show them some respect and employ a fraction of said cash to ensure a suitable layer of polish. Kids love this game; it's about time Activision did, too.