Skylanders: Imaginators review

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[Reviewed on PS4]

Skylanders has quietly become one of the most dependable series in the industry. For kids, it’s the gateway game, a twist on the classic Diablo formula that presents itself with a smile instead of a snarl. For parents, well, they can once again depend on it being engaging enough to empty out the bank account the wrong side of Christmas. But that’s Skylanders for you: another year, another gimmick, another cast of purchasable characters and, of course, another game that’s difficult to ignore.

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On the surface, Imaginators should be a fairly standard action-platformer, especially when held up against the imaginative SuperChargers and Trap Team offerings of years gone bye. Thankfully, returning developer Toys For Bob has imbued this year’s title with more RPG elements than ever before. We’re talking genre staples such as full character customisation, stat-based gear/weapons and even tiered loot drops. It’s less intensive than anything we are typically used to, but it’s there all the same.

As an adult, used to dealing with stats and loot drops from years of playing the likes of Diablo II to Destiny, it’ll seem so rudimentary you’ll struggle to see where the engagement lies. Play it with a kid, however, and you’ll see their eyes light up at the many degrees of interaction and customisation. So frequent are the loot drops that it’s easy to stop continuously while new body parts, catchphrases and weapons are switched in and out. The loot drop system is wildly unbalanced, with high-level gear dropping early enough that there’s very little reason to tinker with your character after just a handful of hours – but try explaining that to a kid.

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Six games into the Skylanders series and you’d expect to see fatigue set in. To see the creativity dry up and cynicism step in, the demand for your cash seeping into every one of the new game systems. But to Activision’s credit, once you’ve got yourself a Creation Crystal – a physical toy that allows you to digitally house one of your created-from-scratch Skylanders – you are relatively free to tinker, play and experiment to your heart’s content. Of course, with each Crystal only able to house one specific element (which will dictate your character’s class across broad genre archetypes), you’ll find that you made a fairly big gameplay decision before you’ve had a chance to really dig in to the play itself. Essentially, if you want to experience the game as different classes or feel that you made a mistake early on, you’ll need to get yourself another Creation Crystal.

But that’s Skylanders for you. This is a series that has always had you buy new toys to experience larger parts of the game, and Imaginators is simply the next evolution of that format.

7
A whimsical evolution of the beat ‘em up