Skylanders Imaginators - Crash Bandicoot Edition
- Street Date:
- October 16th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- October 12th, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- Toys For Bob
'Skylanders Imaginators - Crash Bandicoot Edition' (PS4) reviewed. Review time included local co-op, and time with the Skylanders Creator app on Android (LG G5). The 'Crash Bandicoot Edition' includes a game disc, wired USB Portal of Power, four Sensei figures, including Crash Bandicoot, Dr. Neo Cortex, Master King Pen, and Golden Queen, and a Fire Creation Crystal. This edition also includes the Crash inspired 'Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands' level. Review time was also spent with an extra half dozen new 'Skylanders Imaginators' Sensei figures and other Creation Crystals (as noted in the review) as well as some vehicles and figures from 'Skylander SuperChargers' (mainly for the racing mode). Also worth noting is that this game is scored in part with the help of my family.
Just when it seemed that the 'Skylanders' franchise might be out running out of tricks, Activision and developer Toys for Bob announced a new plateau in the toys-to-life genre, custom-made Skylanders. Stored in Creation Crystal toys (and in some special cases, playable cards, or even custom 3D printed figures) these 'Imaginator' characters are part of an ambitious new character creator.
Of course, no 'Skylanders' game would be complete without an in-game cast of heroes and villains to generate a robust game world for the physical toys to turn into video game fun and romp around. Likewise, as is typical with each release, 'Skylanders Imaginators' sees the debut of a new figure line, the Senseis. These large and powerful figures are billed as accomplished warriors who bring some special knowledge to the 'Imaginators.' Included in the Sensei ranks are even several former villains.
This year, Activision, Toys for Bob, and Vicarious Visions have put together a special edition of the game for the PS4 which includes Crash Bandicoot and Dr. Neo Cortex as playable Senseis. This guest appearance comes as part of the 20th anniversary of 'Crash,' and extends as far as including Aku Aku and Uka Uka in a special Crash-inspired level.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Year in and year out the 'Skylanders' games continue to deliver in a family-friendly, toy-collecting way. So if like me, you assumed that there would a potent (or a least dependable) 'Skylanders' title this year before it was even announced, I think that we were both right, and we were both wrong.
In ways I'll get into below, 'Imaginators' keeps the mega-franchise squarely in the lead in an important genre (family-friendly) and a unique category (toys-to-life). The specific 'Crash Edition' that I'm reviewing goes further and delivers in a way superior to most special editions, and I'll get to that as well.
But if you accept for the moment that 'Skylanders Imaginators' is a game packed with varied content and that the moment you add in a young or less game-savvy member of the family into the equation, really nothing beats it, then I can focus on what makes this game special beyond that.
So beyond the general 'Skylanders' effectiveness (and checklist of features), 'Skylanders Imaginators' excels via two new and terribly important areas. These two recognition-worthy items are directly related, but allow me to try to explain them individually.
First up, making 'Imaginators' is fun. It's fun the first time, and it's fun the tenth time. Normally, I basically gag whenever I get bogged down in a character creator. I sigh as I waste time trying to make something that looks half-descent and end up get locked into decisions made hastily while I really just want "to play" the game. Not so in 'Imaginators.' Whether I was crafting a fantasy powerhouse like my Swashbuckling iBurn, or ripping off a famous property with my Bazooker Turtle Time, I loved how I could quickly tie whatever my idea is together. Even when I threw a Creation Crystal on the Portal while determined just to make a character without caring, I ended up getting into the little fiction behind my creations. And like with other such passions, when I was playing co-op and I watched someone else make a character, I silently studied their moves, trying to guess what they would do next and where it would end up.
There are limitations, especially when it comes to certain details and before I had unlocked/collected more of the parts, but stepping back from one very specific choice always proved that that the overall capture of a decent idea was possible.
Basically, I could sit there and create characters for hours. And each one would, without hardly much effort, feel not simple unique from my other 'Imaginators' but personal to my aims. I never feared that other players would be making the same kind of characters as I was. There is way too much variety for that.
From the Skylanders Creator app (and transferred using the amazing musical transfer method):
But where I'm saying that making characters in 'Imaginators' is so much fun, there is an important quality that really doesn't show itself during the creation process. I'd suggest that anyone interested download the 'Skylanders Creator' app on iOS and Android, and make something, but not only is the PS4 better in terms of controls, presentation, graphics, (not to mention collecting new parts that seem to be available everywhere), it contains the other part of the equation.
So let me go now to the second home run that 'Skylanders Imaginators' manages over its franchise brethren, and that would be the Battle Classes. The game has ten Battle Classes, and theses fighting styles may sound like just another toy-selling category, but they are more. The Battle Classes are, for the most part, excellent. What that means is that when making a character or playing as a Sensei, the chances are that the Battle Class of that character will be one that is wonderful to play with. I like getting close to enemies like a Brawler or a Knight, so it's not surprising that I like those classes. But the Bazooker class is different and awesome. (I can really rain down fire with Turtle Power.) Likewise, the Ninja class and the Sorcerer class were surprisingly great. The Swashbuckler, the Smasher, and the Sentinel were less of a surprise, but still awesome. Honestly, the only class that made me turn away was the Quickshot class.
These Battle Classes define how each 'Imaginator' and each Sensei feel, as they dictate their weapon and attack style, but then each class and then each sensei has different moves that can be unlocked and equipped (as well as the weapons and gear). Thus each of these, for the most part, feels great to start, and then, only gets better as the different moves are explored and that right combination (either for now or for long term) is found.
It's this second thing, the instant prowess in control and attack of each character that makes a new 'Imaginator' so smooth and alluring as a playable character. This is like coming through on the promise of making a character. It doesn't just look silly, or powerful, or inspired but something else cool, it operates and moves like something specified in a dream. (But with some floaty and stubby jumping to keep things game like.)
Discovering just what a character can do in terms of attack (or evade or summoning, growing giant, stealing souls, and whatnot) is such an obvious strength for game, but there is some subtlety as well. To really understand how a character will sound, what they will say, how they will look when framed in a Selfie moment, it takes playing with that character, upgrading that character, and taking it places.
Welcome to the M.A.P.
The rest of the game, the Skylander Academy, the uber-hub M.A.P., the Kaos Doomlander story, and the Sensei specific worlds- these are just trappings to give these wonderful characters a playground. It's a playground full of mini-games of varying quality and really packed full of bits to find. There are also the occasional character-locked pieces, the Sensei Battle Gongs and Shrines, but these are ancillary. The level design and boss encounters are fine. The game suffers from starting things at a gentle "too easy" degree for puzzles and secrets, and then slowly ramps it up. I basically hate the Grind challenges. Sky-stones is ok. The Battle Arena is great for getting in some furious combat and leveling characters. The Sensei worlds ought to be better.
None of this detracts from that new character feeling. But it's not even necessary to have new characters all the time. Levelled up and maxing out a single character is its own passion pursuit.
Thumpin' Wumpa Islands
This is the second time this year that I have had reason to play as Crash on the PS4, and I loved it. More important, though it comes with a significant price increase, this a better deal than the Nintendo guest star situation of last year. Both Crash and Dr. Neo Cortex are great characters to play. Their animations and moves are special and honorific. To be frank, the work done on the 'Thumpin' Wumpa Islands' level is practically superior to the game's core levels and certainly the Sensei levels.
There are events to be found and played that are specific to Crash and some for Dr. Neo Cortex as well. These are really fun, and like the rest of the level, challenging.
Crash and Dr. Neo Cortex are a Brawler and a Sorcerer respectively, which are the same classes as Master King Pen and Golden Queen. This is little annoying to get four figures but only two classes. Of course, Cortex and Golden Queen are quite different just as one example, and the elements are all different between the four Senseis.
It's nice that this stuff will make it to the other platforms. For me, this edition is the one to get.
And while I'm making my shopping list, I suggest trying to get hold of the Kaos Sensei figure. Kaos knows no element or battle class, but is just a blast to use. Master Chopscotch is probably my favorite figure, but I found that many of the Senseis who just looked ok to me actually played really great. Just know that aside from unlocking and picking moves, Sensei's aren't really customizable. They are finished products. (Each sensei also raises the Imaginator character level, and, by way of the Sensei Shrines can grant some great gear for the Imaginators.)
The game seems to lock the chosen Battle Class of each Creation Crystal, and that is a worry. (Other than the Battle Class, which is user chosen, and the element, players can endlessly change their Imaginators.) The Creations Crystals are an effective toy. With their stone under glass look (in plastic of course), they look a little ominous, and they pulse with light when on the portal. They are an interesting contrast with the statuesque Sensei figures. Not only should a single player expect to want more than one Creation Crystal, but different family members will also likely want their own. The flip side is that the particular elements don't seem to figure that much aside from the aesthetic and the parts set that is unlocked as a bonus.
Blue, Yellow, Purple, Green
When I played 'Skylanders Imaginators,' the game regularly awarded me with Imaginate chests, and through these I was constantly unlocking more stuff. Having new pieces makes for new character designs, but my point here is that the Imaginate Chest store, which sells RNG chests for real money, never seemed necessary for a moment.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Stop me if you've heard this before: the characters look better than the environments. In the hub worlds and big set pieces, this isn't a concern, but sometimes the disparity gives off a reminder that this is a multi-generation game. Where before I said that level design wasn't a strength, that sentiment carries over in the visual aspect. Many levels just repeat little doors or platform gaps and invisible gaps too often.
Meanwhile, the characters, including the Imaginators, Senseis, enemies, and friendly NPCs, look really good when the lighting is good. It's almost a shame that the combat gets so chaotic as the effects and animations are superb. The Selfie/photo mode, which is so quick and easy that I wish every game had it, just confirms this sense of well-executed detail and artistry.
Here again, the Crash level stand out. This is really DLC, or special edition DLC, which is often throwaway, but here I favor it.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The audio isn't just 'Skylanders' good, it's on another level thanks to the dictionary of Imaginator speech, which is customizable. Many of the series' great voices contribute here, though I think that the emphasis was changed in order to help establish the characters that are leading the 'Skylanders Academy' Netflix show. Basically, we need more Patrick Warburton and less Stealth Elf.
The music and sound effects for the 'Imaginators' were not as good as I hoped, and I wish I could have tweaked this more.
The Crash part of the sound design is almost bizarre, but in a good way. There's been some love with making a Crash/Skylanders crossover, and it shows.
Once more, I take the position that 'Skylanders Imaginators' is stellar and maybe even incomparable in terms of 2016. Making these characters and playing them in the game is something that has legs well beyond what a 'Skylanders' game normally offers. That is saying a lot.
Hidden away like a special feature is the entire cart-style racing mode. It's carried over from last year's 'Skylanders SuperChargers' and it includes local and online versus, plus offline CPU vs. This mode supports the vehicles, which can now be scanned in once and set aside, but even better for some, there are three 'Instant' digital versions of vehicles included with game (Car, Boat, and Jet). This mode is a huge feature for me as it lets players continue to enjoy the racing without needing to switch back to the older game, and it will make for a big influx of players. Plus, I can race using Imaginators, which is another major plus of having the custom characters.
I suspect that many may want to hold of last year's game and get their vehicles leveled up and customized. Just keep in mind that the racing can be quite challenging, and that the AI racers can be savage.
'Skylanders Imaginators - Crash Bandicoot Edition' is the rare special edition worth seeking out, at least for fans of 'Crash' and for the hardcore 'Skylanders' fans and families. The core game is a triumph of what can be done with a character creator that plays out in how the characters play as well as look and sound. I'd expect for anyone to want more Creation Crystals, but getting to share the game with the rest of the family is well worth the few rough spots.
- Offline Co-op
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