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- Skylanders Imaginators
With Disney Infinity no longer in the toys-to-life genre now that Disney has retreated from the games business altogether, Skylanders remains as one of the surviving pillars of the genre along with Nintendo's amiibo figurines. Every year since 2011, the Skylanders franchise has built upon the original Spyro's Adventure, introducing Giants, Swap Force, Trap Team, and Superchargers, with developer Toys For Bob at the helm for most of them.
But this year, the developer is finally giving Skylanders fans something they've wanted from the very beginning: character creation. And if that doesn't entice you, well, maybe Crash Bandicoot as a guest Skylander will help whet your appetite (for Wumpa Fruits!).
As someone who can spend whole days creating wrestlers in the WWE 2K series, I was surprisingly impressed with the Skylander creation mode in the game, which I played at a private appointment with Activision. As my colleague Blake Peterson said, the options are robust enough to make a poop Skylander if you want.
By placing one of the creation crystals on top of the Portal of Power—there are ten crystals in all, each representing one of the ten elements in the series—you will head immediately into the creation mode where you can select the character's class, represented as constellations not far from the skill screen in Skyrim. Your character's various powers will depend on which class you choose, from among 10 options including Quickshot, Smasher, and Ninja, as well as the element of your chosen creation crystal.
But everything else can be changed, from the character's head, arms, tail, and eyes, to the voice, color scheme, musical theme, and even catchphrase. Most of the options will be locked until you find them in random chests spread throughout the game or win them as rewards from defeating bosses. Even with the limited selection in the early build I played, I still spent about 15 minutes pouring over the options, and ended up with an Undead Brawler with a metal rocker head, ninja clothing, a boxer's punching combination, and a winning catchphrase: “You're no match for…. MY SARCASM!!!”
As far as why you're able to craft a Skylander in the first place, the main baddie Kaos has unsealed an ancient power called Mind Magic that allows someone to think anything into existence. (I almost asked whether the game would be available on PSP so that I could enter Imagination Land.) Capable of imagining the most evil being he can think of, Kaos chooses to make, well, himself of course! But this doppelganger of Kaos soon believes that he is the most evil being in the universe, eventually leading to a Kaos vs. Kaos faceoff. And this, by the way, is why Kaos is available as a playable character.
But if none of that really interests you, Crash Bandicoot's guest appearance (as part of his 20th anniversary) may change your mind. First off, every non-created Skylander in Imaginators will be a sensei, including Crash and Dr. Neo Cortex, that will unlock new abilities and increase the level cap of characters by one. As a homage to Crash, the game comes with a recreation of Wumpa Island that still plays like Skylanders but replaces the normal coins with Wumpa Fruit and has you jumping on boxes and TNT. The island and its inhabitants have been plagued by an entity, perhaps another bandicoot, that has been dancing offbeat so terribly that it's sending totally bad vibes all throughout the island and it's up to your Skylander to make it stop.
Translated by his best friend Aku Aku, Crash has all of the goofy skills you would expect: his signature spin attack, a slide attack that ends with a flash kick, and a yo-yo special Sky-Chi attack. He can also spawn crates of TNT and, on randomly rare occasions, a crate that contains a special jetpack. Better yet, when playing as Crash, other characters like Spyro will approach you with different lines of dialogue. Even though I'm not a bonafide fan of Crash, his cool cameo made me want to be one.
Crash Bandicoot will come with the $100 Skylanders Imaginators Starter Pack, but there will other options to purchase the game without him. All of the past Skylanders figures will be compatible as usual, so you have plenty of room to mix and match your favorites in with the new. Skylanders Imaginators will drop on October 13, 2016.