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Review: Skylanders Imaginators

by onNovember 29, 2016
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What started in 2011 as a side project in the Spyro universe is now probably the most popular interactive toy gaming franchise: Skylanders. The saga is a yearly release since the original version, bringing happiness to young (and older) gamers, but also intense damage to your wallet because of the large number of figurines to buy in order to complete the game in full. This year, it seems that this is more than ever the case because of a novelty that offers a new dimension to the adventure: the creation of new Skylanders types known as Imaginators!

In Skylanders Imaginators, the new adventure tells once again the tale of Skylanders protecting their world against Kaos evil plot for dominance. The ugly fellow has managed to find a way to invent the ultimate villain force called Doomlanders, who are supposed to annoy the Skylanders like never before, which pushed Portal Masters to create their own army to fight back called Imaginators. Kaos’ Doomlanders will serve as bosses throughout the ten story chapters of the main game, each time staged as a big fight in the middle of an arena. The first problem here is their lack of charisma, and while your very own Imaginators can be very varied, the Doomlanders are unfortunately boring Kaos evil puppets. The second one is that it takes a little less than ten hours to finish the main story, but fortunately there’s many challenges, mini games and additional side-missions, which could double the lifespan of the game.

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Indeed, once the main story is finished, many sidequests will be there waiting for you, in hope to extend the lifespan of the game, especially for older players. That includes a series of fighting arenas that offer some sort of horde mode where you need to face several waves of increasingly tougher enemies in order to obtain ever more interesting rewards but also previous Skylander game modes. For example, you’ll be able to race on air, sea and land with twelve Skylanders Superchargers circuits freely accessible and without even needing a Skylander vehicle figurine to activate, alongside all the modes such as Online Race, Single Race and Time Trial.

The major novelty of this game is of course creating your very own “hero” which are the Imaginators! The process is particularly simple and accessible via a dedicated menu, which activates as soon as you put an Imaginite Creation Crystal on the portal. Like most games that allow you to create your own character, you’ll get the ability to first pick your fighting style, then it’s a long list of appearance options such as picking a design for the head, chest, legs, etc. Anyway, so much to play around, and unlock throughout the story that the combinations are almost unique between players.

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To find accessories and weapons to boost your character specs, players must find or win Imaginite chests. When opening these, they act like loot boxes, which can offer four different levels of Imaginite: Common, Rare, Epic and Ultimate. The Common Imaginite – the most common – offers purely cosmetic objects that usually have no effect on boosting the power of your Imaginator. On the other hand, the other ranked loot can deeply boost attacking and defensive abilities, especially the Ultimate ones.

Each one of these Imaginators to become strong enough need to be trained by Sensei. What’s that? In a simple way, these are the greatest heroes of Skylands, such as the two Senseis available in the starter pack. The normal Skylander Imaginator starter pack comes with Master King Pen (Water element), a soldier who learned the art of war while he remained a prisoner of a cave for a whole winter, and the Golden Queen (Earth element), previously a villain in Skylanders Trap Team. To escape her prison, she redeemed herself and accepted to put her skills at the service of good. In total, Skylanders Imaginators welcomes 31 Senseis (including Kaos himself) who have similarities. Besides a rebranded packaging, the figurines are globally more stylized than the old Skylander games, and each Sensei has spectacular powers that is possible to buy and equip to your Imaginators during the adventure in exchange for collected gold coins.

Each Sensei lives in a realm that is dedicated to his element and which is located within the Skylands (these lands are divided into multiple island). There are ten Sensei kingdoms that logically correspond to the ten elements characterizing each Skylander (Water, Fire, Earth, etc), and sadly If the player does not have at least one of the Senseis corresponding to that realm, it won’t be possible for him to play that content. Too bad because each realm offers additional challenges, missions and, roughly, an extra hour or two of playing time.

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In my testing unit, I received the PlayStation 4 starter package, which for a limited time includes Crash Bandicoot and Dr. Neo Cortex, alongside Master King Pen and Golden Queen, as well as a creative crystal and, of course, a portal to place the figures and bring them to life in the game. Other than just having two extra Senseis, as soon as you put Crash or Neo on the portal, you’ll activate the additional “Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands”, which is an additional playable chapter in the game, which is themed after the original Crash Bandicoot game released on the original PlayStation in 1996. The adventure even uses iconic aesthetic codes as well as gameplay mechanic of the Crash Bandicoot, such as the camera angles, the chase sequence, the platforming system, etc.

Now it’s time to tackle the difficult selling point of any Skylanders game, especially for parents or players that are saving up for these games every year: the cost. The catch is the same as every year since certain areas of the game (in this case the Sensei realms) require to have a specific figure to access them. On this point, no surprise but it’s with the Imaginite chests that Skylanders now tap into digital DLCs which can be bought in the same concept as Call of Duty Infinite Warfare Supply Drops. Sure it’s an easier way to get more goods, but it can get quite pricey to get everything, with prices ranging from 2$ to 10$ depending on the amount of loot and their rarity found in each Imaginite chest.

In reality, the most problematic in history is the presence of creation crystals. At the base, a creative crystal offers to save its Imaginator character created, a little like the traps of Skylanders Trap Team that allowed to capture a monster. Except that here a crystal of creation corresponds to a very particular element (Fire, Water, Earth …) and can accommodate only one character. Thus, the Fire creation crystal, often present in the boot pack, can only save one type of Imaginator from the Fire element. Worse: once the combat class is determined, it is impossible to change it. The result ends up that if you want to create an Imaginator of each of the ten classes, you will have to acquire ten of these Imaginite crystals which can reach up to 80$ more to pay on top of your game, regardless of getting the other 8 element Senseis.

Skylanders Imaginators was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 Crash Bandicoot Starter Pack of the game provided by Activision. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii U in retail stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published

What we liked

• Create your own Skylander
• Online coop and competitive multiplayer
• Quality of the Sensei figurines
• Imaginite chests can be fun
• A ton of very nice mini-games (shooters, puzzle, fights...)
• All Skylanders Superchargers races freely accessible without the need for a vehicle

What is not fun

• New microtransactions can be painful for parents
• Imaginite crystals can only store one creation
• Too short of a story and a less interesting one
• Doomlanders bosses are just boring

Editor Rating
 
Concept
7.8

 
Graphics
8.2

 
Sound
7.4

 
Playability
7.2

 
Entertainment
7.0

 
Replay Value
5.0

Final Score
7.1


Our final verdict
 

Skylanders Imaginators might be a solid concept on paper, but the end result is actually lacking in depth. Through this new episode, developers finally offer players a simple and very accessible tools to give free rein to their imagination and create characters from scratch. With the disappearance of Disney Infinity, family gaming entertainment opportunities are too few to miss, but sadly it's getting too expensive to enjoy the full experience, with now the inclusion of digital microtransactions. Parents and their wallets better be prepared for the damage this holiday season.

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