Game Title: Skylanders Imaginators
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 432 MB (Size of current patches)
Availability: Retail-Only (Europe, North America)
Battery Life: 3-4 hours
Game Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
There’s a funny thing about physical-only games in today’s gaming world. When the Nintendo Switch hit the world, a lot of people were talking about what games were available at launch. Zelda, of course. Fast RMX. I am Setsuna. But there was also a physical-only (Not available as a digital download) game that virtually no one talked about at all. And it was physical-only because it was a toys-to-life game, the newest entry in the Skylanders franchise.
I’ve actually wanted to try out the game for some time now, especially after they’d announced the Crash Bandicoot pack for this new game. Thanks to the fact that all figures are not platform-specific (ie Crash Bandicoot can be used in any version of the game) and the fact that the Switch Starter Pack is now under $40, I’m ready to give you a review.
Here’s my review of the Nintendo Switch release of Skylanders Imaginators!
If you’re new to the series, Skylanders is about Skylands, a world once inhabited by a powerful, ancient civilization. Now it is inhabited by heroes known as “Skylanders”, who have come to Skylands from many different worlds, mostly brand-new creations for the series but occasion other characters appear, like Spyro the Dragon from his series that originated on the original PlayStation.
When Spyro the Dragon and Stealth Elf are in the middle of a personal race around Skylands, the villain Kaos unlocks an ancient magic that uses the power of the mind to create matter. In response to Kaos’ plan to use Mind Magic to create an army of “Doomlanders” to take out the heroic Skylanders, Stealth Elf calls upon the “Portal Master” ie the Player, to bring in Sensei Skylanders to assist in taking down Kaos.
The story is really cute and the voice-acting really matches it. When I first heard the villain have the same English VA as Zim from the Invader Zim TV series, I knew it would be really enjoyable. From start to finish, the game really plays out like a cartoon you’d see on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, making it a great form of entertainment for the family.
Skylanders Imaginators is a toys-to-life game, but also a 3D action-platformer. To play, you essentially sync a character figure up and you’re able to use said character to go through the stages of the game, while fighting enemies, navigating platforms, and reaching boss fights. Very different from the sandbox nature of the Disney Infinity games.
First off, this is a Toys-to-Life game, which means you cannot play the game without Skylanders figures. When you go into the game, you must either scan a Skylanders Character figure or a Creation Crystal figure to play. On the nice end, all previous Skylanders from past games can be scanned into Imaginators. And the great thing about the Nintendo Switch version is that you don’t need a huge portal to carry around with you. You simply scan the figure with the Switch’s Amiibo NFC Reader on the Right Analog Stick.
On top of this, the portability is showcased by the fact that once you scan each character a few times, the game saves them in its memory, allowing you to freely switch back and forth without re-scanning the figure. This works for several figures, as I have all of the characters from the Starter Pack and Crash Bandicoot pack easily-available at any time when the figures aren’t around to be scanned.
Finally before getting to how the game works, let’s talk about the biggest new feature for the series: Character Creation. When a Creation Crystal is scanned (like the one that comes with the Starter Pack), you can create your own character based around the element of the crystal. You’re able to use unlocked body parts to customize your character, and there are a lot of different choices you can make. You’ve got basic parts, like Head, Chest, Arms, and Legs, but more advanced parts are available from Ears and Eyes to Backpacks and Job Classes.
Now that the new features are out of the way, how does the game work? You basically go from a Hub World to a Stage. When you’re in the Hub, you have different areas you can go to. There are Story Missions, Battle Arena for fighting enemies, The Arcade to play a card game that’s similar to Tetra Master from Final Fantasy IX, and unlockable content like the Crash Bandicoot-inspired Thumpin’ Wumba Islands. You basically just choose an area to go to and you enter it, be it a mission or just a small shop.
That brings up another thing. This is a toys-to-life game, and that brings this genre’s biggest gimmick. Areas are locked to certain character figures. Want Thumpin’ Wumba Islands? You have to go out and buy the Crash Bandicoot set and can’t get all of its collectibles without using both Crash Bandicoot and Neo Cortex as characters, so you can’t just scan a friend’s figure to unlock the level. You need to be able to own it. And there are a few other stages that require specific sets.
That also goes for all of the elemental stages. They’re optional, but they require a sensei character of a certain element. In the starter pack, you get an Earth elemental and Water elemental, which means you cannot enter the stages for Fire, Life, Undead, etc. That content is all locked until you enter it with a character of that element you’ve gone out and bought.
But that’s just to teach you about the genre. When you go into a stage, story or otherwise, you basically navigate platforms, fight off hordes of enemies, and solve puzzles in order to reach the end and beat the level. I really can’t think of anything to compare it to outside of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, as they fit into this genre so well and that’s probably also why Spyro is the main protagonist of the series in general and why Crash has been offered as a new playable character in Imaginators. Think of it like a 3D Crash game, but not branded as such.
Completing levels or just finding collectible chests rewards you with parts for custom characters. So, aside from story progression, you’re playing to make more advanced and powerful custom characters with whatever Creation Crystals you have. Kind of like this game’s alternative to Disney Infinity’s decorations you unlock.
As far as length goes, don’t expect a long game. For story completion, each game in the Skylanders series has been around 8-10 hours long. Solely going off the content in the Starter Pack, Base Game, and the Crash Bandicoot pack, the game took me around 12 hour to beat. Once the story is done, there’s not much to do but replay stages and train up other characters. Although it would probably be more like 20-30 hours with all character levels, that would be a lot more money gone because of them being tied to certain figures. If you just buy the game, about 10-12 hours until the story is done.
Controlling the game is pretty simple. Move around with the Left Analog Stick. The L and R triggers (as well as the ZL and ZR triggers) are used for taking screenshots of yourself in the stage and for using Ultimate Attacks when the gauge is all the way up. You can pause with the + button and the – button lets you customize your character’s skill tree.
Then the face buttons. You can use the B button to jump and the A button to slide, both for attacks and for dodging. X is used for secondary attacks and Y is used for melee attacks, which differ by character. To give an example, Crash Bandicoot throws exploding barrels with X and punches/spins with Y.
Not a bad control scheme, overall. Explained well and I had no problems getting used to it.
Graphics really depend on what mode you’re in. If you’re in Docked Mode / TV Mode, the game looks really great. The CG graphics look flawless and the gameplay graphics look nearly-so. If you’re in Handheld Mode, though, there’s a lot of blur to the game. If you recall what Snake Pass for the Switch looked like in Handheld Mode, you get the same effect. Not that it’s terrible and awful, but it’s really blurry when it shouldn’t be.
The rest I have little to no complaints about. Load Times can be a tad on the long side, but the game is smart enough that it loads stages while playing the pre-stage cutscenes, whether it’s a Story Mode stage or a Level Pack stage. The only downer about this is when you replay stages, you have to wait for it to load before you can skip the scene.
Performance is great as well. The fps is nice and smooth and never really drops at all.
So, this is a 3D Launch Title for the Nintendo Switch, so how are we doing on Battery Life? It’s better than Zelda, but far from the best the Switch has to offer. Here are the times I got from 100% to 0%:
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 07 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 15 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 28 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 45 minutes
This is a very weird amount of battery life. With most games, there’s a substantial increase from having brightness on max and on low, but here, it’s 20-30 minutes at best. Still, 3-4 hours isn’t terrible and you don’t ever need Wi-Fi for Skylanders, so it works.
In conclusion, Skylanders Imaginators is a fun action-platformer whether you have a Skylanders collection or are completely new to the series. Granted, 12 hours of game hardly justifies $40-60 of spending and the visuals are blurry in handheld mode, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of Toys-to-Life games, or just wanting another way to play as Crash Bandicoot outside of the PS4’s Remake Trilogy.