After inventing the toys-to-life genre with its first game, Skylanders became an annual phenomenon for the next several years before slumping with last year’s clumsily-conceived vehicle-themed entry, Skylanders SuperChargers. Now that imitators Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions have left an opening by not releasing sequels, there’s an opportunity for the franchise to reclaim its lead. And that’s just what Skylanders Imaginators does, going back to the series roots by putting co-op multiplayer at the forefront, and adding an exciting new twist by allowing players to design their own characters and doing what the series does best — capturing the imaginations of kids and young-at-heart older players.
Game: Skylanders Imaginators
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Toys for Bob
Release Date: October 13
Story has never been the strong point of Skylanders games, and that’s no different here. You can ignore the inconsequential cutscenes as you maul your way through bright, colorful levels, swapping out characters whenever one loses all its stamina. Continuous rubber-banded co-op can make some puzzles difficult, especially when you need to time jumps at the same time or get transported back to the beginning of the obstacle. Occasional frustrations, though, are nowhere near the drudgery that Superchargers forced on player two during driving sections, assigning them menial point-and-click tasks while player one did all the real work.
As players have come to expect over the years, all previous characters are playable in the current game, helping players feel confident that investments they make in buying new figures will continue to pay off in future releases. The create-a-character gimmick prompts you to buy new element-locked basis, which you place on the NFC portal and use to choose the class, face, body and weaponry to give the new hero. There’s a LittleBigPlanet-like collection-based metagame at play, with new skins popping up throughout the game as collectibles that give you more options when you hunker down on the creation tool.
One annoying point of emphasis of the Skylanders games has always been its focus on nagging you to buy more characters in order to access locked areas. Imaginators wastes no time in making your current collection of figures feel inadequate, walling off levels that can be unlocked by certain character types and letting you know in huge block letters that a different element would be stronger in whatever area you’re in. The ability to design your own characters takes away some of the need to go out and buy new figures, but you can still expect to spend dozens — if not hundreds — of dollars after the initial purchase if you want to round up a big enough collection of figures to see all the content.
While excellent, fresh entries — backed by well-known licenses — by its rivals made last year’s Skylanders entries seem dated and dull, a year has changed the landscape quite a bit. Lego Dimensions remains popular but committed to pricey story and character packs, and Disney has pulled the plug on Infinity altogether. Developer Toys for Bob has taken advantage of the opening by crafting the most polished and exciting entry in the series yet. As with previous Skylanders games, Imaginators is a game that hardcore gamers can easily skip, but the new game is an absolute essential for anyone looking for something to play along with inexperienced gamers, be it your own kid, a nephew or a significant other. You’ll find yourself laughing a times, you’ll celebrate together after taking down bosses and you’ll slam your controller on the floor at times. But you’ll keep wanting to come back for more, enraptured in the Imaginators spell.
Skylanders Imaginators Reviews Around The Web:
“Smartly builds on everything that’s come before it in the series.” –Digital Trends
“Skylanders still dominates.” –VentureBeat
“This year’s big change is the ability for players to create their own in-game Skylanders.” –Polygon
Skylanders Imaginators Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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