Skylanders Imaginators Review
As you can imagine, the developers of the original Skylanders game, Toys for Bob, get a lot of suggestions for new Skylanders. The Skylander toys inspire kids to think of their own creations that they send to Toys for Bob in the hopes that their ideas will be turned into Skylanders figures in the next game in the series. This inspired Toys for Bob to give kids the power to do just that, create a Skylander and have the chance to play with it in the game.
Creating a Skylander still requires a figure of sorts that can be placed on the portal, and this comes in the form of the new Creation Crystals. Like Skylander figures, there are crystals for each of the game's ten elemental alignments and each crystal can hold a single player created Skylander. The crystals themselves are suspended within cylindrical containers that have tops and bases that reflect their elemental alignments. When you place one of these on the portal, the crystal itself will begin to glow and pulsate with life. And if this is the first time that you have that crystal on the portal then you will be taken to the Skylander's creation tool.
Before I get to that, though, let's talk a little bit about logistics. The portal that comes with the starter set is a throwback to the portal of a few years ago, and looks like the one that originally came with Swap Force. There's no slot for the traps of Trap Team or any of the embellishment that came with SuperChargers portal. I'm not implying that this is a bad thing, except maybe for the abandonment of the trap mechanic, and I do like that the swirling color glow of the portal is back after being absent in the SuperChargers portal. The upshot of all this is that you can wait until a standalone copy of the game is eventually released and use any of the portals from prior games with Imaginators, although it will probably be a wash anyway since the starter kit also comes with two Skylanders figures and a Creation Crystal.
Now back to the creation tool, which will launch automatically the first time that you put a new crystal on the portal. The first decision that you'll make is to choose a battle class for your new Skylander from the ten available. The class chosen will determine the Skylander's attack set and weapon type, and choices include Brawler, Ninja, and Bowslinger. While the game will allow you to change your mind on just about any aspect of your custom Skylander in the future, the battle class is the one choice that's permanent. Fortunately you can view a preview of what each class is like before committing to it.
Once that decision is made you will be given a lot of control over the look and personality of your Skylander. There are a large number of head, body, arm, and leg options to choose from, and as you play the game you'll be able to unlock even more of them. In addition, there are plenty of weapons and accessories to choose from, and you can even select your Skylander's voice and add effects to it, pick a catch phrase, and select its theme music. None of these choices are permanent, and at any time during the game you can bring up the editor to equip a new item or to completely change the look of your Skylander.
As you play the game you will find chests containing 'Imaginite' or earn chests by completing goals in the game's levels. When an Imaginite crystal is broken, you'll be awarded a new item for use in the creation tool. It's basically like opening blind packs, complete with four different rarity levels for the items that you find. You can also buy additional chests with Imaginite with IAP microtransactions, but the rate at which you collect chests in the game is plenty high enough to keep the temptation of buying additional chests manageable.
The steady stream of new parts, weapons, accessories, voices, and more that are earned while playing help the game tie in to the loot-driven draw of action-RPGS that it has only barely touched upon in prior games of the series. Players will find themselves endlessly checking out the latest gear they've found and tinkering with the look and loadout of their custom Skylander.
For all the customization work that you can do on your Skylander, the actual figure is still a glowing crystal sitting on the portal. For those of you who want more than that, Activision has released a mobile companion app for the game that allows you to transfer your character from the game to the app and then order a 3D printed figure of the character. This 3D figure is usable on the portal, so you can bring things full circle and use your creation as an actual Skylanders figure. You may want to wait until you've leveled-up your character and equipped it with some epic gear before capturing its look in a figure, though.
The custom Imaginators are not the only new series of Skylanders in Imaginators - the game introduces Sensei figures as well. These figures are larger than typical Skylanders figures, and to the probable delight of Trap Team fans also include some former villains like Wolfgang and Dr. Krankcase. Sensei figures are more powerful than typical Skylanders, and each one has the ability to unleash a super move, the Sky-Chi. They're more than just high-powered Skylanders, though. Each new Sensei that is placed on the portal will increase the level cap for all Imaginators by one. They also unlock access to special Sensei levels and grant Skylanders of the same Battle Class a new ultimate attack. As with previous Skylanders games you can enjoy the game without buying additional Sensei figures, but to experience the whole thing it's going to take additional figure purchases. You'll also want to coordinate your custom Skylanders' battle classes with the Sensei figures that you buy if you're not planning on picking up a Sensei for each class.
The game itself is still primarily battle-focused with light platform and puzzle gameplay thrown in to round things out. The battles are certainly fun - there's a very wide array of enemies in the game with a large variety of attack styles. On the easy difficulty settings younger gamers will be able to button-mash to their hearts' content, but the higher settings will require you to be smart about how you take on your foes.
The first Skylanders games had a variety of levels, but although they looked different they played pretty similarly to each other. In Imaginators there is a lot of variety to the gameplay, with puzzles, obstacles, and dangers unique to each level and in sync with the levels' themes. Each level has a number of goals, but accomplishing them all is not mandatory for completing the levels. You can replay any level at any time to look for the secrets that you missed the first time through or to complete all the goals to receive a full three-star rating for the level. The story that drives you through the primary levels is rather humorous as series bad guy Kaos is trying his hand at character creation, sending one goofy 'Doomlander' after another at the Skylanders. In a change from previous games, Skylanders appear in the game as NPCs, and you'll spend a lot of time interacting with characters the likes of Spyro and Stealth Elf.
In addition to the game's story levels, there are other levels that offer other styles of play. Racing levels let you use vehicle toys that you may have if you played SuperChargers, a battle arena will test your combat skills against waves of enemies (the running commentary by the arena announcers is wonderful), and there are game tables where you can try your hand at the strategy tile-based game Creation Clash. You can still play the racing levels without vehicle toys, but if you do have them you can use those vehicles in the races.
There's a lot to enjoy in Skylanders Imaginators, but the star of the show here are the custom Skylanders that you can create. There's a lot of power here to create a unique Skylander to your liking, and it's an evolutionary process as you upgrade and tweak your Imaginator throughout the course of the game. The Skylanders series is not showing any signs of slowing down, and Imaginators gives us a great new entry in the series.
Final Rating: 90% - Imaginators gives you the power to unleash your creativity and design your own Skylanders.