Despite its somewhat insidious marketing it's actually a fairly solid game.
So the first Skylanders came out as sort of a "reimagining" of Spyro who at that point was shell of his PS1 self and was basically slapped into Activision's new toy collecting game for BRAND NAME RECOGNITION! Though Skylanders has almost nothing to do with Spyro and probably why his name was dropped from this one's title. Despite most gamers expecting Skylanders:Spyro's Adventure to fail miserably, it instead made tons of tons of money. So a sequel seemed inevitable.
I came into possession of Skylanders Giants through a friend who won it in a raffle but already has the PS3 so this one was handed off to me. First and foremost you do not need to buy all the figures to beat the story mode. You can beat it with the starter set and if you have the first game, the "Portal Master" set is cheaper containing just the game and Tree Rex. If you want to find all the items in story mode you only need one of each element which is means you'd need 5 figures in addition to the 3 that come with the starter pack. Also all Series 1 figures work with Giants. So in short there's no need to buy every single figure if all you plan to do is play through the story mode.
Anyway the story goes that Kaos aka the love child of Darth Maul and Mini Me as voiced by Invader Zim, was banished to Earth and turned into a toy however, he breaks free and manages to return to Skylands via the in store game display. CURSE YOU ACTIVISION!! Once back, he sets out to find the lost city of Arkus, an ancient place that is said to hold the item that can control an army of giant killer robots. So basically taking ideas from "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army." The NPCs from the first game return Flynn (voiced by Patrick Warburton) and Cali gather the Skylanders along with the newly found Giants and set out to stop Kaos once more. Honestly the story while not the deepest actually has some charm and humor to it and you meet some likeable characters along the way though Flynn will start to get annoying near the end but then again that might be part of his character.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. There's no jumping, just fighting and exploration. Thankfully the game has hard setting so if you're over the age of 8 playing this, might as well crank it up to hard. Certain types of characters can get to special places. You can just barrel though the stage or take the time to find all the hidden goodies. I do think the devs could've stepped up a bit more. I know it's a kids' game but they don't need to make it so blantantly obivious of what has to be done. I will say on hard setting the game actually does get fairly tough around the 4th level though some enemies feel a bit cheap. The addition of the giants mostly just leads to certain place that require one of the big guys to move something large or smash a wall but their larger size tends to make them slow so it's a trade off.
Aside from the story mode the game has a fair amount of content. The hub is Flynn's ship where you can participate in Battle Arenas and Heroic challenges and like Pokemon work on upgrading each Skylander. There's also multiplayer where two figures can be placed on the portal at once but sadly no online gameplay which is a shame because there's potential for a big online community and with other kids toys like Webkins, I think there was a missed opportunity.
If you can get past the whole "game that exists to sell you toys" aspect, it's not a horrible game. Not the deepest game but honestly its nice to see a developer besides Nintendo actually put some effort forth in making a decent game geared at kids.