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Review: Skylanders Imaginators

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Create-your-own

Just when I think they're out of ideas, they pull me back in.

Skylanders has been one of the most consistent series Activision has been pumping out in recent years. I mean, it has no business clearing that goal in a way, as the entire endeavor is designed around physical DLC unlocks in the form of toys. Yet, each development team manages to inject a healthy spoonful of charm inside of an accessible beat-'em-up formula.

Skylanders Imaginators has one of the least impressive stories yet, but one of the most endearing gimmicks.

Skylanders Imaginators (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)
Developer: Toys for Bob
Publisher: Activision
Released: October 16, 2016
MSRP: $74.99 (Starter pack, two characters, fire creation crystal, base, game)

When I previously discussed how the story took a backseat in Imaginators, I was actually witnessing some of the finer points of it. It's just...yea, Kaos is back, he's mad, and he found a way to magically craft evil versions (Doomlanders) of the "make-your-own" team gimmick that the game is built around. They really aren't even trying to come up with some excuse here, like giant Titan diversions that are intrinsically linked with the lore of all creation, or even shoving Kaos' parents out as the "real bad guys" -- what you see is what you get.

Yet, Toys for Bob is still able to make the whole thing so damn fun. Most of the time I forgot there was going to be an impending cutscene when I was playing through each stage, which is usually hosted by a likable and well-voiced character. There were multiple times where I was laughing out loud, and not in a "this is silly for children under 10" kind of way, but a universal, well-written Pixar way. I wouldn't go so far as to say that there's any double-entendre or particularly sharp wit involved with most of the dialogue, but the team manages to make even the most menial of characters, even the typically stupid Eruptor, adorable.

That also includes Crash and Cortex, two icons lost to the nether, which are respected here in Imaginators more than they have been in years. The most important stories are told through the gamut of animations that the character sport, as well as their robust movesets that incorporate basically everything Toys for Bob has learned in the past five years of making beat-'em-ups. Even if a fight or puzzle is on the easy side, as you're doing it with this cast, it makes perfect sense why Skylanders caught on.

There's also a ton of stuff to do given that nearly every toy released in the past half-decade works. There's higher difficulties and horde/arena challenges to tackle, a Super Mario World-esque hub to find secrets in, and of course, gear to find. Addicting, sweet gear, which now eclipses the mere hat phenomenon trope that past games hammered into the ground, and extends to weapons, multiple armor sets (with varying rarity levels), and creation tools like new catchphrases (I settled on "I'm crazy for hugs," by the way, with the creepiest avatar you could think of).

What I really don't like though is the focus on digital microtransactions, something the series has typically skirted away from in favor of peddling the toys. Players can opt to spend real cash on boxes (read: loot), which tie directly into the awesome creation system. It's not just out of place, it even feels predatory, especially when you know some kid is going to gamble away until he gets the piece he wants to complete his set. Having optional t-shirts, trading cards, and even 3D-printed figures is cool (and not to mention, rarely done outside of a few occasions), but I would have preferred if Activision stopped there.

Even with a few uninspired stages, Skylanders Imaginators manages to nail the childlike whimsy of the beat-'em-up genre so many of us grew up with. It's still a blast with friends, and even more-so now that you can share your creations and tweak them together. The series has shown signs of slowing down in recent years here and there, but it's not done yet.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Skylanders Imaginators reviewed by Chris Carter

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 


 


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