So, those of you who haven’t heard much about this game, might not know that the latest toys come to life offering isn’t content with just letting you develop and arm your Skylanders with all sorts of wacky skills and items.
No, this time around you can create your own Skylanders using the power of this stuff called ‘Imaginite’. Instead of merely offering you toy characters to plonk on your new portal (once again supplied with the game), this time around Skylanders Imaginators arms you with Imaginite based ‘Creation Crystals’, which you can use to make your own unique Skylanders. The crystals glow when placed on the toy portal and look a little like coloured egg timers. They come in different flavours, reflecting the core natural domains common to the series.
You also get a new type of character, the ‘Sensei’, to play with and you must head off into the gameworld and battle that persistent pest, Kaos. Naturally, the littlest big bad guy has a few fresh tricks up his sleeve too and has managed to use the same sort of magic that you now have access to, to conjure up unheard of foes, called Doomlanders.
There is plenty of intense combat and lots of cheesy one-liners from Kaos, with his deadpan sidekick Glumshanks still in tow. Plus, there is puzzle play aplenty, platforming action and racing too. What an absolute smorgasbord of ‘Skylandery greatness’, as Flynn, who has also returned, would say. There is a lot to like and much to do apart from the familiar cocktail of exploration and combat.
There is even rail riding challenges, a juke box you must tune to obtain gold, the odd spot where you can take ‘selfie’ images of your Skylanders for extra treasure, and a snail you must race for extra Imaginite crystals. It is like the developers reached a critical mass with a good group of mini games and then decided to double down and make even more, as the selection is superb.
All of these minigames have one very welcome reward. You get chests that, once opened, yield extra Imaginite. This substance can then be smashed and turns into cool bonus items. This system is quite different to the coin based reward dynamic we have been used to with previous games and to be honest it kind of makes the coins you do earn feel redundant. But hey it’s all treasure, so it is hard to complain.
One slight design change I personally don’t like, is the way you can so easily and instantly from anywhere open the ‘upgrade’ menu and purchase new powers. This cheapens the experience, as you can upgrade your characters as soon as you have the readies. Having to travel to an upgrade shrine during the game or schlep back to town like we had to in older games feels like a better design approach, as it means you treasure the upgrade process more.
That said, there are tons of upgrade options and it is still fun to pump your characters up, even if it is a little too easy to do so quickly.
If you thought the visuals in Superchargers were varied and colourful, you’ll be impressed by how much better Imaginators looks. The game is bursting with bright effects, colourful, varied architecture and wacky backdrops.
There are also new elements like Sensei Shrines that give you access to extremely desirable special attack moves. However, these moves are unique to a particular Sensei and can only be taught to an Imaginator ‘student’ from the same battle class. Thus, you are given motivation to buy all of the Sensei toys and Creation Crystals sold separately. This may not please everyone, especially those on a budget.
Also, using the Creation Crystal, the character creation aspect of the game is hugely satisfying with a massive array of classes, apparel options, voices, catchphrases, theme tunes and special attacks on offer.
Making your own characters and choosing how they look, how they sound and how they fight is immensely rewarding. There are some mighty oddball options too.
Watermelon shoulder pads and coconut helmets are just the start of how silly and creative you can be. It is slightly annoying how you must keep a particular character configuration once you have created it using a Crystal. These toys cannot be ‘reset’ like other Skylander figures.
That said, replacement crystals are only ten bucks and you can make an army of truly weird and wonderful warriors that reflect your own twisted ideas. Indeed as long as you buy into the need to purchase the toys there is a lot of (admittedly pricey) fun to be had building your collection.
Imaginators isn’t entirely perfect though. At times I did find the controls on the rail grinding sections lacked the precision required to easily leap from track to track. Also the racing bonus levels did see you occasionally get frustratingly stuck in the scenery.
However, for the most part the action is superb. The combat is chaotic with special moves and magical attacks firing off all over the place and as long as you keep moving and attacking you can generally do well even on the hardest difficulty level.
The way the Imaginators pushes the need to spend real world money to buy toys and other trinkets on you, with adverts that pop up during loading screens, is also a minor blemish.
Skylanders Imaginators manages to do the seemingly impossible. Not only does it breath life into a franchise that has always demanded fresh innovation with every release, but the game delivers fun for kids and older players alike. Imaginators adds new character customisation and creation dynamics to the already familiar formula of combat, exploration and puzzle solving.
If you are stuck for something to grab for a pre-teen gamer this Yuletide, and they don’t have the game already, Imaginators is a safe bet that will please most.
The Xbox One version of this game was used for the purpose of this review.