Villains Steal The Show (And Become Playable) In Skylanders: Trap Team

by Mike Futter on Apr 23, 2014 at 01:00 PM

Skylanders fans (and their parents) already knew that there would be a new Skylanders game this year, but there are surprises even for veteran portal masters. Skylanders: Trap Team brings a new portal, new characters, and a way to control even the most dastardly of villains, including Kaos.

After a year off, franchise creators Toys for Bob are back at the helm. Since the studio created the series and launched the first game 27 months ago, Activision has sold through over $2 billion worth of Skylanders games and toys, making it the fastest third-party game to reach that mark and already placing it on the top 20 franchies of all time list.

Each year, there's a new hook. In the second year, it was the oversized giant and lightcore figures. Last year it was swap force characters that can be mixed and matched. This year introduces trap masters that have oversized crystalline weaponry and get a bonus against over 40 of Skylands' most wanted villains.

Once defeated, players can insert an elemental crystal into the new portal (yes, you'll need a new starter set this year) and pull the character out of the game. With a clever audio trick using a speaker in the portal, we were able to hear the villain get sucked from the game and into the crystal. Voiced lines come through the portal speaker as the crystal is lit in time to give the appearance of the trapped villain speaking. Once captured, the villains can be called upon to fight on your behalf as new characters.

The evildoers turned paragons bring with them the same abilities they used against the Skylanders. The Chompy Mage, for instance, is able to summon the small, biting critters or turn himself into a giant chimpy. We also saw Wolfgang, a rock and roll wolf and The Shrednaught, a walking chainsaw tank piloted by two trolls.

Trap team is an expansion of the "toys to life" formula pioneered by Toys for Bob. "This year, we're trying to bring life to toys," says Activision vice president of publishing Eric Hirshberg. Once in the game, villains function similarly to regular Skylanders, with a couple of small differences.

The villains are customizable, but they won't have the same progression system as the toy-based characters. You'll also be able to switch back and forth between your regular Skylander and the villain with a push of the button, giving you access to two different elements and power sets at once without moving figures on and off the portal.

The story is typically adroable, with evil mastermind Kaos (who is playable once you trap him) freeing the baddest of Skylands' bad guys from Cloud Cracker prison, sending the traptanium crystals and the trap masters to Earth (where you can buy them and bring them back to life, of course).

The trap mechanism is designed to keep the pioneering franchise ahead of the competition. "We now live in a world where kids expect all their toys to come to life," Toys for Bob studio head Paul Reiche says. "This idea that you can be trapping a genie in a bottle, a character from Skylands (particularly a villain), is a fantasy we wanted to realize. That's what drove the innovations inside the portal."

The new portal is a necessity, but Reiche says that it wasn't a decision made lightly. "We talked long and hard," he says. "If we're going to introduce a new design to the portal, it would have to be worth it. We spent a long time working on the audio hardware and making sure that sound as great as possible. The design of the portal, with the energy ring around it, illuminates the toys in a different way and allows us to use additional lighting for additional communication."

Skylanders: Trap Team is dated for Sunday, October 5. It will be available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii and 3DS. For more, check out 11 things you need to know about Skylanders: Trap Team.