Another year and another update to the Skylanders franchise, not something I was expecting early on in the year given that Infinity seemed to be dropping dead, Lego wasn’t flying off the shelves and Skylanders Superchargers, well, less said about that the better.
We could go into the whole Skylands is in trouble again now that Chaos has found another time bending way to be, er, nefarious. There’s not a lot of point in that really, it’s the same old thing just with a new gimmick. Last year the gimmick was vehicles, which on the face of it should have won the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. Only they didn’t, there was something annoying about Superchargers, maybe the fact that they had pretty much ignored everything Skylanders fans had worked for in Trap Team or maybe it was the lack of identity in the game that was a hodge-podge of ideas that never really gelled.
So, its 2016, Christmas is coming and its time to strap in for another run at saving Skylands. Imaginators is taking a new direction, it’s putting the player in charge of design and customisation. This is where Imaginators wins, big time.
The method could be challenged and be considered questionable, I can see why they did it. They stop asking you to buy new characters to gather on your shelf, they ask you to buy Crystals that let you customise your very own new Skylander. It’s a great tack and especially in an age where customisation is king. Place a new Crystal on your portal and the Imagination fires up, firstly selecting a skill alignment known as Battle Class by character type. Then pick some starting skills and run wild with heaps of customisation options, from the look through to giving your Skylander a squeaky voice. Its fun and the kids love it, especially the selfie mode where you can actually take some arty shots of you character, but the limit of stored pics fills up all too soon.
Crystals are a one-shot deal when it comes to creating a Skylander and that is pretty much picking the Battle Class, the combination of your Crystal’s Elemental Class alongside the Battle Class chosen should offer some variety if your pocket can explore the options. The style of the character is all yours to swap and change at will, which is a good thing because there is a limited amount of offer at the start, they do unlock pretty quickly once you start bashing thorough levels and completing challenges. This also opens up an RPG element to the Skylander Levelling as some item sets can only be worn at certain levels. Often those sets may not look as flash as you’d like, but they often serve up the best buffs and boosts.
Once you’ve tweaked your Skylander you’ll enjoy taking it into battle, smashing up loot and fighting bad guys. It really is nice to have that level of control over your character, however after creating a few new Skylanders something becomes obvious.
They are generally humanoid biped shapes, normal Skylanders of the previous 300 toys come in all shapes and sizes. Imaginators lets you tweak, spin and edit your characters, but its unlikely you’ll see an eagle torso with octopus legs. They are pretty much skins, admittedly pretty skins with some cool combinations, but still just skins at the end of the day.
The new range of Skylander figures to support Imaginators are dubbed as Sensei, they are the masters of your chosen Battle Class and to get the best out of your character its handy to have the matching Sensei on board, having King Pen and Golden Queen in the Starter Packs helps. Not only do Sensei have extra powerful attacks, built up and release from a Sky-Chi meter, but they also grant your Imaginator Skylander new skills, open up secret rooms, unlock weapons and increase the level cap for your Imaginator to rise to.
Furthermore in addition to the thirty odd characters available to collect, fan favourite Crash Bandicoot has joined the world of Skylands as a Sensei too. interesting choice, but the figure is nice.
Overall, Skylanders always does what it says on the tin. Its a clever move to offer Crystals and customisation rather than another wave of figures for parents to avidly collect, especially as they are priced very keenly in the pocket money area. As far as the new mechanic goes, it works well and offers more ways to play imaginatively, however Trap Team stands up as the best of the bunch from the last four years of iterations.