What is Skylanders Imaginators?
Skylanders Imaginators is family friendly, co-op adventure game that mixes real-life toys with the virtual game world. Part of an unusual category of games known as "toys-to-life", the basic idea here is pretty simple: placing a real life Skylanders toy on the bundled USB base will let you play as that character in game - but Imaginators brings with it a special twist. Included in the Starter Pack is a brand new type of toy called a Creation Crystal, which, when placed on the base, will let you harness the power of "mind magic" to create your very own Skylander in-game, ready to take on the dastardly Kaos. With a full (and easy to use) creation tool to play with, once finished, your Skylander will be saved to the crystal, which can then be used like any other character.
The starter pack comes with everything you need to get going, bundling two brand new Sensei Skylanders (King Pen and Golden Queen) along with the USB portal, a copy of the game itself, and the all important (fire) Creation Crystal. Additional bundles are available which pack in extra figures (the Crash Pack, for example, bundles two more Senseis (Crash and Dr Neo Cortex), and unlocks an extra level in game) but all starter packs come with everything you need to play through the full adventure - in same console co-op - out of the box.
How do you play Skylanders Imaginators?
A drop-in, drop-out co-op adventure, if you've played any Skylanders games before, you'll be in familiar territory with Imaginators. With levels that offer a winning blend of exploration, bad guy bashing, and puzzle solving, you'll set off on a quest to stop the evil Kaos' plan to overthrow the Skylands, as he attempts to put an ancient "mind magic" to use to create an army of unstoppable Doomlanders.
With block-sliding puzzles to solve, oodles of collectables to be found, and hundreds of Imaginite chests to earn by completing and replaying levels - each of which unlocks a new part to use with your created Skylanders - there's plenty to keep you busy here long after you've finished playing through the story, too.
How easy is Skylanders Imaginators to pick up and play?
With simple controls, nothing in the way of complex button combinations to learn, and a fairly shallow learning curve, Skylanders Imaginators is a game designed to be easy for kids and adults alike to pick up and play. With four difficulty levels on offer, ranging from Beginner all the way up to Nightmare, you can tailor the challenge to suit your skills, with enemies on Beginner mode doing significantly less damage.
One of the more unusual parts of the Skylanders games is that each Skylander only gets one life in each level. Should you get defeated, your Skylander will have to "rest" for a while, and you'll have to either put a fresh Skylander on the base, or restart the level, at which point your Skylander can return. This only applies on a level by level basis - Skylanders defeated in one level can come back and play again in the next, or if you restart - but it does effectively limit your number of "lives" for each level to the amount of Skylanders you own. If you only own the starter pack, and you're playing in co-op, this essentially means you each have only one life in which to complete the level - if you die, you'll need either restart the level, or drop out, and let the other player carry on without you.
Luckily, your Skylanders will earn experience and level up as you play. Growing stronger the more you use them, with more health, and access to stronger attacks, it effectively means the game will get easier the longer you play it - at least, up to a point. Handily, additional Skylanders from the earlier games are cheap to pick up, so it's a great idea to arm yourself with a handful of earlier figures, if only for their extra lives!
With full voice acting throughout, and plenty of visual prompts, there's no need for a strong reading ability to be able to get in on the fun here, although the youngest of players will likely want to play alongside an older sibling (or parent!) so they have plenty of back up for the tougher levels! For the hard of hearing, we should note that the game doesn't feature subtitles during cutscenes.
As with many toys-to-life games, Skylanders Imaginators can be expanded by buying new figures, and new level packs, which will be released periodically over the course of the following year. The optional add-ons for Imaginators are the Senseis, the Creation Crystals and the Level Packs.
Senseis are a mixture of brand new Skylander characters, and reformed villains from Trap Team, making this the first time you've been able to own figures of the series' villains. Each Sensei has both a character class (Bowslinger, Ninja, Swashbuckler, etc) that affects the moves they can use during combat, and an elemental type. Playing as a Sensei will automatically unlock that element's special "Sensei world" - a brief, 10-15 minute level that only Senseis of that element can access.
Creation Crystals, meanwhile, are used to create your very own in-game Skylander. Each Crystal is of a certain element, and can hold only one created Skylander. Like Senseis, you can choose one of ten battle classes for your created Skylander - although it is important to note that once you've chosen a battle class, you won't be able to change it, and that Crystal will be locked so it can only create Skylanders of that battle class. As you collect new parts and effects, you can edit how your Skylander looks at any time, but the battle class is a permanent choice. If you want to create more Skylanders of different classes, you'll need to buy more Crystals.
Finally, Level Packs bundle a number of figures together, and additionally grant you access to a full length, brand new level, which can only be accessed using the Level Pack. These optional add-on levels aren't related to the main story, and are entirely optional ways to expand your adventure.
As with the other Skylanders games, there's very little in the way of mature content in Skylanders Imaginators. With nothing in the way of swearing or sex, perhaps the only thing of note is some very mild, cartoon style violence. Characters will use all sorts of weapons, from laser firing pistols to frying pans to attack enemies, with nothing in the way of realistic impacts, as foes simply flash red, before fading away when defeated.