Most of us, kids and adults alike, have been dreaming up our own characters since we can remember. What some might not realize is the draw of many video games lies in the ability to customize your experience, whether that be by choosing your type of gameplay or changing the look of something. Skylanders Imaginators is a toys-to-life game that removes the dread of only playing with a few characters bought from the store and introduces the ability to create your own completely unique little creatures. Customize everything from looks, gear, and colors, to voice, silly voice effects, and even their individual catchphrase. Previous Skylanders were fun and had some customizability in choosing your character and some of the accessories they wear, but Imaginators really capitalizes on that and turns every character detail into an option for the player to decide upon.
Character Classes Provide Tons of Options
The new character classes really open up the options in this game. You can choose from Bazooker, Bowslinger, Brawler, Knight, Ninja, Quickshot, Sentinel, Smasher, Sorcerer, and Swashbuckler. Each of them has a completely unique fighting style and weapons. Having these options ensures that even if you choose the same element, appearance, and gear for two characters, the different battle classes will make gameplay with them completely different.
After picking a character class (fun in and of itself), you have a large selection of character heads, arms, torsos, legs, colors, voices, and voice effects to choose from. As you continue to play, you not only unlock many more of these, but you start unlocking better gear and equipment, auras, and catchphrases. I like to try and choose the most sarcastic or bizarre things to make my characters say, like “the forecast calls for my barbarian magnetism!” On the other hand, kids would love to create silly phrases using the very same options, because it’s my inner kid that jumps with excitement over each aspect of this game.
Imaginators includes even more ageless content for adults than the previous Skylanders titles have. The humor, the customization, and the wide variety of gameplay kept me entertained for quite a while. I personally love creating things, so each time character fatigue set in, I was able to pick up another blank imaginator crystal and create a new one. Beware, this does require purchasing the actual new creation crystals beyond the three included with the starter pack. These are cheaper than the usual Skylanders characters though, and I especially loved how each crystal has its own unique design, even among the same element type (water, undead, fire, etc.), and each crystal lights up with an LED inside that pulses when placed on the portal. It looks great and feels magical and unique, just like the character you choose to bring to life from it. It really feels like your own.
Familiar Yet New
The storyline of Imaginators has Kaos (yet again) trying to create his own minions of darkness, and trying to use the power of the Ancients to do it. You must stop him in a variety of ways, but the levels and gameplay mechanics feel a little more fresh and a little less repetitious this time around. You also get to visit your favorite characters from previous games in the franchise. I loved switching between fizz world and normal world by drinking potions — a la Alice in Wonderland — in Bubble Pop Fizz’s potion factory level, or the occasional appearance of an old favorite, the Skylanders sidescroller level, a welcome change of pace in the traditional gameplay.
If you think you’ll miss collecting the fun characters always offered with each new Skylanders title, Senseis fill that void. They are familiar characters that come together to teach your Imaginators the ways of battle. Each one grants their coordinating battle class’ a secret technique, complete with flashy cutscene upon unlocking it. You can only unlock the special skills at Sensei shrines scattered throughout the story levels, though. Each time you complete a level, you can easily replay it so that if you buy the character at a later time, access to any shrine is granted, as long you have the coordinating character to unlock it.
More Than Enough Fun
The game is huge. I imagine it’s to keep you coming back for more, and to offer smaller chunks of gameplay if kids can only handle so much at a time, or perhaps a family’s life can only hold so much gameplay at one time. There are so many mini games it felt like I found a new one in every other level. Minigames popping up so often made my Imaginators journey really fun, and besides constantly editing my characters, was the top factor in combating the potential staleness of gameplay that many uninitiated may assume a Skylanders game to have. Without them, the game would feel like a slow trek through similar level after level, with a different gameplay theme each time.
Don’t gloss over that slow part. I really don’t understand why Skylanders have always moved so painfully slowly. Because of this, Imaginators is yet another game in the Skylanders franchise where prizing any gear with a +speed stat over anything else is an absolute must. Do kids have patience for slow moving characters or something? I’m not sure the reasoning behind the slowness, but it grows highly frustrating rather quickly as I would prefer to spend more time actually fighting enemies and playing the minigames than trying to get from place to place.
Entertainment With Longevity
Imaginators feels like the next logical step in the franchise while still maintaining support for the massive library of characters from all previous games. It gives Skylanders the perfect way to survive as the era of kids using games to craft their own heroes, stories, and experiences is upon us. Skylanders has always managed to delight and surprise, but Imaginators struck me as something particularly special, scratching that creative itch that I always have. Instead of coming up with a gimmick, they put control in the players’ hands, and in interactive entertainment, that’s precisely who should have control.
Skylanders Imaginators review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.