A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Skylanders Imaginators is a toys-to-life action-adventure game where nonhuman characters fight each other. Players use fantasy characters -- birdmen, fiery sorceresses, ghostly knights, and more -- unlocked by placing a toy on a plastic portal connected to their consoles. Characters fighting to save Skylands from monsters use swords, magic, hammers, guns, and other weapons. Combat sequences are cartoonish in nature, and enemies simply fall to the ground and disappear when defeated. Parents should note that while the starter pack comes with a couple of Skylander figures and one Creation Crystal, more Skylanders are required to unlock access to various areas within the game, and more Creation Crystals are necessary to make the most of this game's key feature: the ability to design custom Skylanders from scratch. Kids will likely want to purchase several of these toys, which range in cost from $10 to $15. All previous Skylanders toys are supported, but they won't unlock any new content or let kids take advantage of the game's creative potential.
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What's it about?
SKYLANDERS IMAGINATORS whisks players back to the magical cloud-top kingdom of Skylands, where the evil (and often bumbling) lord Kaos is yet again scheming to become supreme ruler of the realm. This time out he's using something called Mind Magic to create powerful monsters dubbed Doomlanders. But portal masters -- that's Skylanders-speak for players -- can, for the first, time, create their own Skylanders, called Imaginators, to battle the Doomlanders by using a new toy called a Creation Crystal (one is included with the starter pack). Placing a Creation Crystal on the portal connected to your console opens up a character-creation module where players can completely customize their own Skylander, choosing from hundreds of editable pieces. They can also choose colors for each item, edit body size and muscles, create a name, choose voices (a mix of male and female), and even select theme music. Imaginators remain open to customization afterward, save for their element and battle class, which are permanent. Once completed, they function like any other Skylander, fighting, leveling up, and evolving in abilities through play. In addition to the Imaginators, there are also several traditional Skylander toys available (two come with the starter pack). These are a mix of new characters and villains from past games -- including Kaos himself -- each of whom has a special unlockable Sky-Chi super-move that causes devastating damage to nearby enemies.
Is it any good?
If you thought developer Toys for Bob didn’t have any more tricks up its sleeve for Activision's popular toys-to-life series, you thought wrong. Skylanders Imaginators is designed to unlock kids' creativity by allowing them to create the Skylander of their dreams. While it stops short of letting kids do things like create a face from scratch or have six legs instead of two, the customization options are nonetheless huge. It's unlikely any two kids will end up with the exact same Imaginator -- all the more so since they'll continue to unlock more body parts and gear throughout the game by completing objectives and beating bad guys. It's like a Skylanders game mixed with a looting game mixed with a role-playing game's character creator. The only downside is that kids will probably want to buy more toys than ever before -- especially since there's a clever synergy between the Imaginators and the more traditional Sensei Master figures. The more you have of the latter, the more powerful the former can become. Suffice it to say Skylanders Imaginators could end up a very expensive proposition for some families.
Beyond the new Imaginators and Sensei Master characters, the core play is polished, if not particularly inventive. Combat is refined and fluid, platforming sections are challenging yet accessible, and the familiar puzzles and card games fit seamlessly within the adventure. It still makes for a great couch co-op experience for a pair of players, with both involved equally in almost every activity (save character creation and customization). What's more, Toys for Bob smartly brought back Skylanders from past games -- Stealth Elf, Spyro, and more -- making them non-player characters who provide guidance and direction. Franchise fans are almost certain to enjoy seeing some of their favorite personalities in a new light and with a little more to say. At this point, it's hard to judge which of the Skylanders games is the best or most fun, but it's safe to say that Skylanders Imaginators maintains the series' high level of quality. It's also a great place for kids new to the series to jump in, but parents should be wary of the potential cost.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing to kids. Games such as Skylanders Imaginators require physical toys to play, but buying them all is expensive, so how do you and your kids decide which, if any, to buy? What factors into these decisions?
Talk about cooperative play. Do you like to play Skylanders Imaginators alone or with a friend? What are some of the advantages of playing with someone else? Are there any disadvantages?
- Platforms: Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $74.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Starter pack comes with two Skylander Sensei Master characters and one Creator Crystal. Additional Skylanders and Creator Crystals (necessary to unlock certain content) are sold separately for $15 and $10 each, respectively.)
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Activision
- Release date: October 17, 2016
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.