Over the years we have seen many different Skylanders games, and with every new game Toys for Bob studios tries to innovate with the player’s experience. In the case of Skylanders Imaginators, it has done that and more by adding the ability to create your own Skylanders for the very first time. While this is the main focus of Skylanders Imaginators, it is also releasing a new line of sensei figures that aid your Imaginators and can be used as standalone Skylanders in the game. The game still uses the Toys-to-Life system that Skylander games are famous for, where you use actual figures on a portal to play the game, but to go along with the traditional figures they have introduced Creation Crystals. Creation Crystals take the place of the traditional Skylander figures and are placed on the portal to create your own Imaginators. Every Creation Crystal will be of a certain element, such as earth, fire, undead, or magic, which massively affects the attributes of the characters you create.
Toys for Bob has brilliantly put together a character creator that has just the right amount of customization options without going over the top and making the process confusing and long. You are able to create diverse characters through the use of the creator’s wide range of options; this allows the character to truly feel like your own creation, one that no one else has. When creating an Imaginator you have to choose its battle class, which determines what type of fighter it will be. All the battle classes, whether it be swashbuckler, knight, ninja or any of the many more, play very well with none seeming to have a clear disadvantage compared to the others. The creator has an amazing section dedicated to the voice and sound effects that your character will have, which gives your character a polished and complete feel to it. The ability to go back in to the creator at anytime to change anything about your character is fantastic, especially when combined with the ability to find chests in the game that add new items you can use to change the look of your character.
The game centers around Kaos creating Doomlanders to take over the Skylands and while the game’s story is enjoyable, it seemed to be a little disjointed at times. For example, the beginning of the game starts off at such a fast pace that you lose sight of what is happening to the characters and why it’s happening, which can leave players a little confused. While your character is praised throughout the game, they aren’t actually necessary at any time. The outcome of each level probably would be the same, except for maybe the last one, if none of your characters had been there at all. The story would even reach the same climax if your character had done nothing the whole time, so there’s no narrative satisfaction. While this may be a problem for some, most of the target age group won’t notice these problems and will find the game’s story to be funny and enjoyable all the way through. The characters in the game are still very entertaining; their dorky humor sets the tone of the game in a great way and all of the characters have a fun quirkiness to them, which is what people have come to expect from a Skylanders game.
The game’s 10 or so levels are quite fun to play through, each feeling unique and interesting with its own enemies and obstacles. The combat in the game feels incredibly smooth with each class’ attacks fitting perfectly no matter how you decided to shape and build your character. Most battles don’t offer much in the way of a challenge, but if you aren’t careful the fight can end badly for you rather quickly. The boss battles felt a little repetitive, as each were very similar in structure: you do some damage and the boss gets an upgrade, you do some more damage and the boss gets more enemies to disrupt your progress. This made the climax of each level a little unexciting and predictable.
The new Skylanders sensei figures aren’t required to play the game but there are definitely benefits to having them, each new sensei you have will raise the level cap for your Imaginators and give you an exclusive gear which can help make your character much more powerful. Each sensei has a class and an element attributed to them and supports Imaginators of the same type in the way of secret techniques. The new gong battles you can compete in as a sensei are a great addition and are probably the best example of an actual challenge in the game. The gong battles do require a sensei to access, but you don’t need a certain kind of sensei, so you’re able to access all gong battles as long as you have one sensei figure, which isn’t bad considering you get two figures in the starter pack.
The amount of exploring that you can do in Skylanders Imaginators is incredible. The game has hidden rooms and areas all over, which adds a wonderful feeling of adventure and mystery to the game. Whether you’re playing a level or walking around the M.A.P. aka the Mysterious Ancient Place, which is the game’s homeworld, there are always extra goodies you can find by blowing up a wall or following a rat down a hole. Sometimes things are hidden right next to you, but through the game’s great use of camera angles you don’t see them initially.
A lot of games require exploration to get the player to find hidden collectibles, but most of the time these collectibles add nothing to the player experience other than achievements. Fortunately, in Skylanders Imaginators, this isn’t the case. Every chest you collect gives you an item to use on your Skylander and by completing bonus goals, such as finding legendary selfie frames, you are rewarded with even more chests. While obtaining chests and customizing your character isn’t required to complete the game, the overall experience is fuller because of it.
The ability to create your own Skylanders adds a great new twist to the series. The new sensei figures are nice additions, and using them in the gong battles pose a refreshing challenge. Aspects of the story can be a little underwhelming but the target age group probably won't have any problem with it. While the Boss battles were repetitive and easy, the overall level design and experience is very enjoyable.