The Wii U version of Skylanders Giants doesn't look noticeably better or worse than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 version. It plays exactly the same as well — the Skylander toys are placed on the USB-connected portal, they come to life in the game, adventure ensues. For the Wii U version of Skylanders Giants, the Wii U control pad makes all the difference.
For one thing, the game is fully playable via on the control pad. Launch it, select the option to play on the controller's screen and the television or monitor goes blank, allowing player to indulge in some rather pretty portable portal mastery as long as they stay within range.
When the control pad is used in conjunction with a monitor, however, it changes the way I play in a small but significant way. While playing on the television the control pad displays the statistics of the Skylander currently in play.
Who cares about a stats screen? I certainly didn't while playing through the game on the Xbox 360. On that console the statistics were nestled within a menu, and I don't think I ever looked at them once. Even when selecting which collectible stat-enhancing headgear to wear, I just went with whatever looked nice.
Now that I have those statistics at my fingertips they suddenly matter a great deal more. Maybe Tree Rex would play better if I upped his Elemental Power at the cost of his Critical Hit — two stats that might-as-well not have existed for me at all before the Wii U version.
Tapping the button on the bottom left corner of the control pad screen swaps the stats for an objectives checklist, making it a bit easier to keep track of the items one collects and the dares one attempts to accomplish in order to completely clear each of the game's stages. Unfortunately the game skips over what might have been the most useful screen indicator — a timer counting down to the level's time-attack goal, an odd omission that makes the implementation feel rushed.
I was worried that ports of games released previously on other platforms would use the Wii U control pad as nothing more than a stats screen. Skylanders Giants proves that's not necessarily a bad thing.