Skylanders Trap Team Preview

Author
Ned Jordan
Date
9/16/2014
In Short
An inside look at Skylanders Trap Team: the portal, the traps, the villains, the game, and, of course, the new Skylanders.

There was a time in the when the Trap Master Skylanders mastered the power of Traptanium to imprison the greatest villains of Skylands in the Cloudcracker Prison, a fortress made entirely out of Traptanium. Since then the Skylanders have been able to concentrate their attention on foiling the plots of Kaos. However, Kaos has grown tired of one defeat after another and comes to the conclusion that he's going to need some help if he's ever going to win. He manages to destroy the Cloudcracker Prison with a massive explosion that sends shards of Traptanium falling to Earth in the form of small Traps, and in the process releases the worst villains in the history of Skylands. Once again the Skylanders will need the help of Portal Masters, not just to stop Kaos but to recapture the villains that have been released from the prison.

The Skylanders games have always been about bringing toys to life, but with Trap Team you can now bring life to toys. Defeat one of the major villains in the game, and you will be able to trap that villain with the new Traptanium Portal. To do so, simply place a trap of the same element as the villain into the portal's trap slot. You'll not only see the villain get sucked into a vortex on the screen and then 'pop' into the trap as it suddenly glows brightly, you'll hear it as well as the villain's voice will transition from your system speakers to a speaker embedded in the portal. But that's not the last that you'll hear from that villain. As you play the game, your trapped villain will continue to talk to you from the portal, making comments on your gameplay as if it was watching you the whole time from the trap.


Fire Trap


Your trapped villain is more than a color commentator on your gameplay, though. Each villain that you capture becomes a playable character that you can summon back from the trap to give your Skylander a short break. Each villain comes with a unique array of powerful attacks, but they can only return to the game for a short time. Once that time expires, your Skylander will take over again and it's back to the trap for the villain until the timer has a chance to recharge.

The Traptanium Portal does a great job of making you feel that your captured villains are really moving between your TV screen and your traps. The audio transition of the villains' voices from screen to portal and back again is seamless, and the trap will glow and pulsate along with the words your trapped villain utters each time it has something to say to you. It all feels so natural and immersive that it's surprising that making it that way actually required quite a bit of technical magic.


The Portal


The first challenge was getting the speaker into the portal in the first place. It had to be large enough to be heard clearly, placed close enough to the trap slot to make it appear that the sound is coming from the trap, and not ruin the aesthetics of the portal. This last requirement was particularly challenging because the new portal consists of a clear base surrounded by a glowing ring of light. With previous portals it didn't take too much thought to realize that the electronics working to bring Skylanders to life were sitting under the base, but the Traptanium Portal will have you wondering, 'how did they do that?' When a Skylander figure is placed on the portal's transparent center it almost looks like its floating within a halo of ever-changing lights, which makes The Traptanuim Portal look and feel more like a magical portal than any of those that have come before it.

The next challenge was not just to coordinate the villains' voices coming from the portal with the action on the screen, but to get the voices to the portal in the first place. Console makers across the board envisioned the USB ports on their consoles to be input-only interfaces, not output channels to be controlled by a game, so Toys for Bob's engineers found themselves in uncharted territory when all they wanted to do was send sound through a cable. And once that problem was solved (and solved and solved again on each console), there was the issue of ensuring that the sound comes out of the portal when it's supposed to because even a delay of a second or two would ruin the illusion of villains moving back and forth between the portal and the screen. Technical details aside, the hurdles were overcome with a lot of hard work and the results are so good that you would have never known that it required a feat of engineering if I hadn't let you know about it.


This villain is just asking to be trapped...


While we're talking portals, let me answer a few questions that may be on your mind. Yes, all of your current Skylanders collection will work with the new portal and game. No, you won't be able to use the new Skylanders with the older games, and that includes the traps and any villains that you may have trapped inside of them. Only one villain can be captured in a trap at a time, but you can store excess villains in the Villain Vault that you can access in the Skylanders Academy hub world and can swap them freely between traps and the vault. If you don't have a trap of the right element available when you defeat a villain, you'll be able to use that villain later when you have the right trap type available - you won't have to replay levels to pick up any villains you weren't able to trap the first time through. You'll also be able to take trapped villains to a friend's house and play with them there, even if your friend has a different type of console than you do. Finally, there are as many trap elements as Skylander elements, eight, and two traps come with the starter pack (three with the Limited Dark Edition), so to cover all of the elements you'll need to buy six more traps at a price of $5.99 each. Initially there will be only one variant of each trap of each element, but don't be surprised if new traps are released down the road. That should just about cover it, but if you still have questions leave them in the comment section at the end of this article and I'll try to answer them for you.

The villains are as diverse a group as the Skylanders themselves. In fact, they have even more personality than the Skylanders because while the Skylanders all the strong, silent types (at least outside of their catchphrases) the villains are a talkative bunch, and it's hard not to get attached to some of them - good thing they become good guys after they're captured! Chef Pepper Jack is literally hot-headed as his head is made from a chili pepper, with the stem of the pepper giving him a goatee. Wolfgang is a werewolf who likes to rock, with his magical guitar unleashing musical attacks on foes as he jams. And then there's the Chompy Mage, an eccentric wizard, to say the least, who was raised by Chompies and whose best friend and constant companion is a Chompy hand puppet. In addition to these super villains (and there are more of them than these three, and rumor has it that you'll be able to capture Kaos himself at some point), there are a whole gaggle of regular villains that can be captured as well. They don't necessarily have as big of a personality as the super villains do, but they can be plenty of fun to control as well. I particularly like Hood Sickle, a ghostly shadow who has an entourage of ghosts trailing behind him, Pain-Yatta, who attacks enemies with an endless supply of candy, and Broccoli Guy. Who wouldn't love Broccoli Guy? (Trivia Time: Chompy Mage and Broccoli Guy are both voiced by Alex Ness of Toys for Bob, who also penned the story for Skylanders Trap Team) The goblin tech villains are great as well, as they sit behind the controls of deadly contraptions like the Shrednaught with its giant chainsaw blade and the Bruiser Cruiser, a steam-powered punching machine.


Chef Pepper Jack


It's easy to get excited by the traps and villains in the game, but Trap Team also introduces a new line of Skylanders called, appropriately enough, the Trap Team Skylanders. These are the masters of Traptanium, and as such each wields a weapon made of the translucent substance that is the same material used to make the traps. So far sixteen Trap Team Skylanders have been revealed, and given that the Air, Magic, and Undead elements are only represented by a single Trap Team Skylander at this point, you can probably guess which elements future Skylanders will represent. Here's the full list:

Air

Gusto

Earth

Fist Bump

Head Rush

Wallop

Fire

Kaboom

Torch

Wildfire

Life

Bushwhack

Food Fight

Magic

Deja Vu

Tech

Chopper

Gearshift

Jawbreaker

Undead

Krypt King

Water

Lob-Star

Snap Shot

So far I've been able to try three of these Skylanders out: Head Rush, Bushwhack, and Lob-Star. You can probably guess what they're like to play because the figures do a good job of capturing their specialties - Head Rush has several charging rush attacks that bowl over enemies, Bushwhack's large axe can sweep enemies away in a wide arc, and Lob-Star is a ranged attacker with an arsenal of throwing stars.

The levels in which I got to take those Trap Team Skylanders (and a few of their mini friends) on a test run show that just as much imagination has been put into crafting the levels as was put into character design. Chef Pepper Jack's zeppelin fortress is a flying kitchen with those familiar round pads that dot the Skylanders landscape replaced with stove burners, and it features a final showdown with Pepper Jack on an enormous grill complete with giant hamburgers. Timetown is a clock-obsessed town that takes its architectural cues from Bavarian cuckoo clocks. Puzzles in this level involve moving the right gears into the right spots to power platforms and open gateways. And you can bet that you'll be making plenty of timing-based jumps in this level as gears grind and pendulums swing back and forth.


Timetown


Sylanders Trap Team will introduce a new mode of play that can be enjoyed outside of the story levels, the Kaos Doom Challenge. This mode is a combination of tower defense and horde mode styles of play that will be familiar to anyone who's played Dungeon Defenders. Waves of monsters enter from the far end of the level and make their way to a treasure chest that you're guarding at the other. If they manage to break the locks on the chest, a large monster is released and you'll find yourself contending with a mini boss fight in the middle of everything else that's going on. Protect the chest, though, and it will cough up gems between each round. Between rounds you'll be able to place defensive towers on spots that are aligned to different elements (or place the element tower of your choice on wild card spots), the restriction being that you need a Skylander of that element to place a tower of the same element (I noticed a slot for a Giant Skylander to place a tower, but I didn't have one handy at the time and couldn't see what it did). The towers' powers depend on their element, so for example placing an Undead tower gives you a tower that slaps enemies with a skeletal hand. Towers that survive a round get automatically upgraded, so it's in your best interest to watch that they aren't destroyed while you're busy keeping your eye on the treasure chest. The towers are helpful, but it will really be up to your Skylander to stop most of the enemies. The Kaos Doom Challenge has ten levels which are each geared to Skylanders of a certain level range, so if you get a new Skylander you can play the lowest level to get that Skylander some experience and coins, but I wouldn't swap that Skylander in for a high level one in one of the more challenging levels.



If you're looking for a challenge that doesn't involve fighting enemies, you'll probably want to visit the Skylanders Academy's in-house band, The Skeletones. They'll invite you to sit in with them on a song, and the better you play, the more you'll get paid. This challenge is a rhythm-based game that's not unlike those in those plastic guitar games everyone used to play. As the notes scroll across the screen you'll need to hit the corresponding button on the controller when they hit the play line. There are six songs available, each from a different musical genre, and four difficulty levels that will ensure that everyone from beginners to thumb-masters will have fun jamming along with The Skeletones.

That's about all of the info that I have for you now. Hopefully it gives you some idea of what to expect from Skylanders Trap Team and has gotten you a little excited about returning to the Skylands on October 5th.

If you're interested in the tablet version of Skylanders Trap Team, you can learn more about it here.


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Transmitted: 11/30/2021 8:50:43 AM