What is Skylanders Imaginators?
Skylanders Imaginators is family friendly, co-op adventure game that mixes real-life toys with a 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 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 portal base, 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 get playing - in 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.
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 - although it is worth noting that the starter pack comes with everything you need to both see, and finish, the entire story. The optional add-ons this year are the Senseis, and Creation Crystals.
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 perform during combat, and an elemental type. Playing as a Sensei will automatically unlock their 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 Skylanders. Each Crystal can only hold one created Skylander, of one specific element, and one specific class, so although you can change how your created Skylander looks at any time, you'll need to buy more if you want to experiment with other classes.
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 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. This only applies on a level by level basis - Skylanders defeated in one level can come back and play again in the next - 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 to 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.
- When creating a Skylander, parents should be aware that choosing a character class for your Skylander is final, and will "lock" your crystal so it can only make characters of that class. You can change how your character looks as much as you want, but there's no way to wipe the crystal and start from scratch, making a character of a different class.
As with the other Skylanders games, there's little here for parent's to be concerned about. With nothing in the way of swearing or sex, perhaps the only thing to note is very mild, cartoon style violence. Characters will use all sorts of weapons, from laser firing pistols to frying pans to attack enemies, although there's nothing in the way of realistic impacts, as foes simply flash red, before fading away when defeated.