Released just before Christmas 2011, the original Skylanders was a big hit but a strangely small game. With linear levels and limited room to explore away from the prescribed path, it often felt that more time had been spent perfecting the admittedly remarkable toys that sprang to life on-screen than was spent designing a truly inspiring world for them to roam around in. It was charming and fun, but in gameplay terms it seemed like a rough draft and it chafed awkwardly against the restrictions of choosing the Wii as its lead platform.
This makes Skylanders Giants one of those rare occasions where the games industry's obsession with annual iterations pays off. With the contact-based technology powering its plastic playthings well established, developer Toys For Bob has been freed up to open the curtains a little wider on its curious little world.
There are fewer levels than in the last game - 16 compared to 22 originally - but it still feels much larger, thanks to design that is no longer so keen to herd you down simple pathways. These levels sprawl in multiple directions and are filled with secret routes, hidden doorways and bonus areas. Sometimes there are secret areas lurking inside secret areas, and when you take into account the freedom to enter and explore many of the buildings you encounter along the way, it's far more fun to wander and poke around than it was before.