Available On: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
Played On: Wii U
Skylanders introduces a new gimmick with each new generation, and this sixth game finally lets you build your own Skylander. Not only is this gimmick fun and rewarding, but the gameplay and character designs represent the best of what Skylanders can offer.
Building a Better Skylander
Series villain Kaos is up to no good once again. He’s trying to create an army of doomlanders using the same new Build Your Own mechanics that are added to Imaginators. The plot is familiar and forgettable. But the real treat is getting to see actual Skylanders on screen for the first time.
First generation Skylanders such as Spyro, Stealth Elf, and Jet-Vac take center stage for the first time, fully voiced and acting out fun scenes. This coincides with the upcoming Skylanders Academy Netflix show. It establishes the Skylanders with actual personalities outside of their battle cries.
Using your original Skylanders around those scenes can be a bit silly. But most likely you’ll want to use the new figures, and particularly the new Imaginator Crystals.
Each Imaginator Crystal, which costs as much as a small figure, can be custom built using in-game parts and gear. When first used, you must choose one of ten Battle Classes, an unfortunately permanent choice that encourages you to buy more Crystals.
The Battle Class determines your fighting style such as bow, dual swords, or throwing stars. Powers and abilities are drawn from your crystal’s element and chosen class to create a unique combo to suit your play style. You can also change parts and level up powers on the fly, a much appreciated convenience.
The custom body parts and gear are tied into every facet of the game. New mini-games, secrets, arena fights, and level star goals all reward Imaginite chests. Parts change the look of your Imaginator with an incredible amount of variety, from dinosaur skeletons to witches, ballerinas, aliens, robots, etc.
Gear and new weapons can also be equipped to augment your stats, further turning Skylanders into a loot-driven Action-RPG. It also makes the Imaginators far stronger than any regular Skylander. Assuming you enjoy creating your own Skylander, it’s a fantastic system as you constantly find and loot new parts.
Senseis and Villains
Ironically as much fun as playing with the Frankenstein’d Imaginators can be, the new figures are also some of the best I’ve ever seen. Half are reformed villains from Trap Team, now fully playable. The rest, called Senseis, are completely new. For the first time we don’t have any redesigned versions of old figures.
Each Sensei and Villain is equipped with a signature weapon that identifies their Battle Class. The new figures come in a wide variety with enjoyable animations and fun skills. ChopScotch is a short, skull-headed girl with a pony tail and a giant axe. Air Strike attacks with his trusty falcon. The Golden Queen fires scarabs out of her staff, and transforms into a giant boss-version for her ultimate skill.
For the first time ever in a Skylanders game, I never felt the urge to break out my old figures. And I own… a lot of figures.
Imaginators also succeeds in level design. Gone are the awkward racing segments of SuperChargers, replaced by a formula that’s been refined through several generations. Combat, platforming, exploration, and mini-games are in perfect balance. Levels range from stealing a giant airship to a trippy journey inside Pop Fizz’s Fizzland.
My favorite addition was a brand new overland map. The map includes elemental gates for each Sensei, as well as wandering enemies and hidden paths. It makes exploring and replaying levels much more enjoyable and engaging.
Skylanders: Imaginators is rated E for Everyone. Like previous games it contains Cartoon Violence and Comic Mischief on a similar scale to an action-packed Saturday Morning Cartoon. On the easiest setting young kids can still enjoy the button-mashing combat. Some sections have tricky and frustrating jump puzzles.
Skylanders: Imaginators is the first in the series that really feels comfortable in its own skin. The overland map and loot overhaul to support the new Imaginators are fantastic additions. Though I do worry about how this full makeover will be supported in future games. For now, Imaginators is the best Skylanders game yet.