Skylanders Imaginators (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Adam Riley 11.03.2017

Review for Skylanders Imaginators on Nintendo Switch

The Skylanders series has taken the world by storm, and last year's Imaginators was a critical hit, with some sectors of the gaming world saying it was by far the best of the Toys for Bob bunch. Unfortunately, though, it did not set the retail scene on fire like previous entries. At the launch of Nintendo Switch, though, it comes as the only toys-to-life release, and the first 3D platform adventure - two big pluses for increased sales, or at least that will be what Activision is hoping. Cubed3 decides to take another look at this stellar piece of entertainment to see how the Switch port holds up.

Skylanders Imaginators was covered in great detail back when it launched on Wii U in October 2016, and nothing has fundamentally changed with this Nintendo Switch port. Sure, it runs smoother and looks sharper than its Wii U iteration thanks to the increased hardware power - looking even better in docked mode than portable mode, it should be stated - but the platform adventure itself is as enjoyable as ever, with the journey itself remaining the same. The main focus is a player-made Skylander, crafted using an NFC-enabled 'Imaginator Crystal' that comes included in the retail Starter Pack, and then making use of the extensive in-game personalisation options to bring the being to life. The aim is to then take your creation and square up to the big bad, Kaos, and his Doomlander minions. There is no need for an intricate storyline, just a simple premise and plenty of entertaining action, and this is where Skylanders always delivers.

As with the Netflix show, the cast all have bustling personalities, and the script work is strong enough to make the paper-thin plot entertaining enough to keep things ticking along nicely. The meat, though, is without a doubt the smart platform action and enjoyable battling in the numerous stages on offer, accompanied by a rousing (user-selected) soundtrack that rises and falls in beat dependent on the amount of enemies being faced, kicking in fully when the action becomes a scrum-like affair, and then fading back into the background as the hustle and bustle die down. It may sound like a basic function, but it ramps up the atmosphere levels considerably, and makes exploring stages all the more enjoyable.

Screenshot for Skylanders Imaginators on Nintendo Switch

There are a plethora of chests to collect that contain special crystals of varying rarity and unlock new personality features (voice tone and effects, and what phrase combinations are spoken at key junctures in the story - "I am one with…the monkeys!" being just one of the strange mixes available), weapons, defensive items, and other treats (clothing and accessory extras to spruce up the character, for instance). It becomes highly addictive trying to grab them all, and with so much to find within the levels anyway, repeated visits are likely to happen to track down every secret possible. The same goes for the overworld map, as well, actually, which the Imaginator can wander around on, following key NPCs as they dish out advice on what to do next to progress the main story. Gamers will quickly start to stumble upon new portals to hidden lands, as well as even more objects of interest tucked away (hidden behind breakable walls, deep underground, and so on). Anyone looking at Super Mario Odyssey and thinking that 3D platform adventure is not coming soon enough, Skylanders Imaginators is a wonderful stop-gap, even if there are some niggles that hold it back from being the best of the best.

Oddly enough, for instance, some characters are extremely slow, and with the lack of a dash/run button, it can be quite painful to watch them saunter around with barely a care in the world, despite the fact that hordes of enemies are piling onto the screen, and they can fly around very quickly… Sometimes players will need to resort to equipping (or upgrading) a special move that launches the character forwards during the attack - creating a makeshift form of dashing, if you will. It is certainly not a deal breaker because of the way levels are carefully balanced between slower puzzle sections and intense battle arenas, but with the extremely laboured nature of some characters, it may lead to unnecessary frustration for those less patient gamers out there, slightly tarring what is otherwise a highly impressive platform adventure.

Screenshot for Skylanders Imaginators on Nintendo Switch

The lack of speed also ends up with some poorly timed jumping from platform to platform creeping in, as no pace can be triggered to help build up momentum before making important leaps, and, thus, the Skylander will be repeatedly respawned at the last platform it was on after every failed attempt. Fortunately, unlike how Link loses energy for dropping into an abyss in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that is not the case here, so annoyance levels are reduced somewhat. Also, thankfully, even with the lack of speed, it does not mar the adventure on the whole, rather it being a case of "Why not add in such an obvious function?" This is such an enjoyable Skylanders escapade, with excellent presentation on all levels and engaging fighting, exploring and action-based puzzling that it does indeed perfectly fill the void for an open platform adventure game of this ilk on Nintendo Switch.

However, there is another issue to contend with, and this may in fact have an effect on whether Switch owners dip their toes in or not. What is it that might keep some people away? The entire concept of toys-to-life in general! Yes, quite the sweeping statement and one that will have most long-term fans up in arms, but whereas established platforms gave players the chance to dip into all of the past entries, that is not possible for new Switch owners.

Screenshot for Skylanders Imaginators on Nintendo Switch

Toys for Bob has to be commended for attempting to once more make it so those that played previous Skylanders can use their accrued figurines in this new romp to unlock plenty of extras. However, there are some problems. First off, Trap Team and SuperChargers accessories (including the Nintendo exclusive duo of Donkey Kong and Bowser SuperChargers) are not compatible with this iteration, so anyone with a large selection of those will be disappointed. Secondly, it also means that there are whole sections of Imaginators unavailable to those who are complete newcomers to the series, jumping in on Switch for their first ever Skylanders experience. Having whole levels locked away, only accessible if more toys are purchased, means that to get the most out of this, deep investment into the entire series is required, and that will be a big ask for early Nintendo Switch adopters that already just splashed a lot of cash for the hardware and various controller accessories.

Again, this is just something of note, and not a major strike against what is a highly engaging piece of software. With the amount of content packed in for first-timers, it is nowhere near as bad a situation as it could have been but, still, the whole idea here is that this is the first ever Skylanders for Nintendo Switch, so it should not be presumed that older Skylanders fans will be signing up for this release of Imaginators. After all, they will likely have already bought it in the run-up to Christmas on their preferred format. Therefore, those getting this on Switch are more likely to be fresh blood when it comes to the series, and, thus, should not have to be faced with a barrage of "Only XYZ type of Skylander can open this portal!" as it can be quite disheartening to discover a new area, to then be told it is inaccessible.

Screenshot for Skylanders Imaginators on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For those wanting to scratch that 3D platform itch, and think that Super Mario Odyssey is too far off into the future, Skylanders Imaginators is the perfect remedy. Activision and Toys for Bob have once more delivered a highly entertaining adventure, filled with hidden goodies galore, and an amusing script, on top of an extremely solid platforming escapade. Newcomers may grow frustrated at the amount of content locked behind 'pay walls' ('toy' walls?) but the core story has enough meat to keep early Nintendo Switch adopters satiated; as for long-term fans with a large toy collection, this is superb.

Developer

Toys for Bob

Publisher

Activision Blizzard

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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