My kids and I have been enjoying playing the Skylanders games for a few years. Until getting some time with Imaginators (available for PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One/S), the latest release in Activision's franchise, I didn't realize what's been missing all this time.
Being able to create your own characters.
Each Skylanders title has a new twist to encourage players to get the new game. Trap Team introduced crystals in which players could trap villains. Superchargers brought vehicles into the mix.
With Imaginators, the gimmick is that players can create their own Skylanders to use in the game.
I've always had fun personalizing and customizing characters in the games I play, so it was a real joy to see my kids get so into creating their creatures. They've spent hours creating and modifying their own characters.
And the Imaginators interface for the customization is intuitive, and extensive. The personalization goes beyond selecting a head and a body. You select voices, catch phrases, all the gear and equipment.
In fact, Imaginators is the perfect training ground for the more complicated role-playing games that I expect my kids will be playing when they hit their teenage years.
There's a story here, and the gameplay is as varied as it usually is with Skylanders games, so you'll confront platforming sections and puzzles, and fight battles. There are minigames, too. And all of these experiences are as solid as you need them to be.
You can still use all the Skylanders figures you've been collecting before now. The roster is over 300 at this point. But, as with every Skylanders game, you'll find that you need to get some of the new stuff to get full enjoyment of it all.
Because really, Imaginators is about creating your own character to play.
Letting players create their own characters might seem counterintuitive, because encouraging the sale of toy components for the games—of traps and vehicles and characters, for example—is central to the business model of the toys-to-life games.
But in order to create a Skylander, players will have to purchase "Imaginite Creation Crystals" ($14). These can only be configured once, so after you've assigned a character class—there are 10 in all—you can't start over.
And you can also purchase Mystery Chests ($8), which give you random drops of characteristics, gear, and weapon to your character-creation library.
Imaginators also has Sensei characters (there are 31 in all, each costing $20), which provide skills and weapons for your creations to use. And for every Sensei you add to your game, your personal Skylanders get an increased level cap.
The starter pack is $90 and comes with the portal that connects to your console, two Sensei characters, and one Creation Crystal.