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Hands-On at Gamescom by Stuart Andrews
We first tackled Trap Team at E3, but now Gamescom has given us a second look at the latest Skylanders. We won’t rehash what we covered there – you can see our first impressions below – but we now have a little more info, not to mention some more hands-on experience to share.
Our latest session took us through two areas, the early Soda Springs stage and the later Rainfish Riviera, the first a sunny fizzy-drink filled level dominated by a fiendish soda-guzzling boss, and the latter a pirate-packing harbour where you escort a crazed inventor on her search for her lost info-squid. Gameplay-wise, there’s still nothing that will be particularly new to fans of the series, but we have spotted a few new wrinkles, and taken a few more critters through the portal.
As you might recall, the new stars for Trap Team are the Trap Masters; tough, villain-hunting Skylanders with hard-hitting Traptanium weapons. We first got hands-on with BushWhack, a life element Trap Master in possession of a mighty axe (we mean this literally – he doesn’t play guitar in a metal band). He’s a dab hand at whacking enemies and smashing clumps of scenery to smithereens, and he’s also a good choice when you have to batter specific objectives, which turn out to be vulnerable only to Traptanium weaponry.
Better still is Head Rush, a Wagnerian Valkyrie of a Trap Master armed with Traptanium horns on her helmet and an ear-shattering operatic yodel. The team at Vicarious Visions were keen to emphasise that with her charge-heavy attacks she plays like no existing Skylander – a sign of their commitment to mix things up with the new game.
We also had our first glimpse of the minis; pint-sized sidekicks from the original Skylanders, now promoted to playable characters. You’ll be able to battle on with mini-figures of Spyro (Spry), Eye Brawl (Eye Small), Trigger Happy (Trigger Snappy) and a host of others, and through they’re smaller than the normal figures, the in-game characters remain as powerful and upgradable as their larger cousins. If they’re cheaper too we can expect them to be a hit – particularly with the parents whose wallets are being raided to keep the ranks building up.
Best of all, we’ve had more time to capture and play the new trappable villains. From rocket launcher-wielding sheep to brawling walruses and a pirate walrus armed with stretching, grappling chain hooks they’re an ornery and evil bunch, but happy to turn good once defeated and trapped.
We’re big fans of the way the trapping process gives kids a cool payoff for beating one of these varmints, complete with voices and lights from the brand-new portal. We’re also big fans of the way you can tag between heroes and villains mid-combat to launch combo attacks, dragging in a foe with Brawl and Chain’s swinging grappling hooks, then laying the smack down with BushWhack’s axe.
We’re even mildly intrigued by the new in-game card game, where you play a hand of heroes against a hand of villains, using your strength to wear down their health, hopefully before they can do likewise. It’s no Hearthstone, but it seems like a nice change from the norm.
Skylanders: Trap Team appears to have the heart and humour of the last game and the same addictive mechanics, yet it also has more variety in the playable characters and more interesting options for tackling the game. It’s up against some stiff competition this year with the Marvel-themed Disney Infinity 2.0, but if any team is ready to face off against The Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s this motley crew of heroes, minis, villains and lovable thugs.
E3 2014 Preview by Luke Johnson
Skylanders Trap Team is the fourth game in the toys-to-life series, and the first to reverse the process that sparked a new gaming genre.
As well as bringing toys to life, Trap Team sees Activision, and developer Toys for Bob, bring life to toys, with villainous characters now able to be ‘trapped’ within special crystal ‘Traps’. Once imprisoned, these characters are converted to the good side and can be thrown back into the game at will as new playable options.
Set in the same Skylanders universe as Giants and Skylanders Swap Force, Trap Team sees series villain Kaos return, having freed his band of wrong-doing cohorts from the infamous Cloudcracker Prison. You play as a combination of standard Skylanders and new Trap Masters – more powerful characters with a variety of ‘Traptanium’ weapons.
As well as adding a new dimension to the game, the ability to capture baddies has a wider purpose. Playing as these mischievous characters introduces new features and powers to your arsenal. What’s more, you can jump instantly between a Skylander and captured character, an addition that will help you overcome more challenging levels.
Based on our early play, we found this to be a slick process that really helps separate Trap Team from past Skylander offerings. There will be more than 40 villains available for capture at launch, including personal early highlights, Broccoli Guy and Pinyatta – a giant, candy spewing, colourful monster.
This new trapping feature does come with a catch, however. The introduction of these additional crystal Traps means a new Power Portal – the games character-enabling base station – is needed.
Although it does render your previous portal redundant, the Traptanium Portal does have a pretty cool party piece - its in-built speaker. This adds a new dimension to the game, with quippy one-liners and off-the-cuff comments often appearing to come from the ‘trapped’ villain, independent of the TV audio.
This need to buy a new Power Portal is likely to annoy parents already worn down by the pester power associated with the collectable toys, but Activision is keeping things relatively affordable. A £64.99 bundle package will be available from the game’s October 10 release date, pairing the game with not only the new speaker-packing portal, but a couple of Traps, a new Skylander and a Trap Master.
Pleasingly, all past Skylanders toys, from all three previous iterations of the game, will be compatible with Trap Team and the new Traptanium Portal.
As with past Skylanders games, all Trap Team characters are based around one of a number of elements. As such, a water villain can only be trapped within a water crystal. Again this means you will be forced to fork out additional cash to make use of the full gaming options.
On to gameplay, and Trap Team is more of what you would expect from a Skylanders title. Visuals are vibrant and detailed, with the cartoony characters all featuring intricate designs to match their quirky characters. Action is fast and fluid, with simple controls letting you smash, dodge and power you way past foes.
Most importantly, Trap Team has kept the Skylanders series’s sense of humour. Giving us a couple of laugh out loud moments during our brief playing time, the characters are sharp tongued and witty. The perfect combination for keeping gamers young and old entertained for hours.
Further extending the longevity of Trap Team, the game is filled with all manner of side missions and mini games. We only sampled a couple during our hands on but found they broke up play brilliantly, and helped keep the gameplay fresh.
From our hands-on time with the game at E3 2014, we picked up on a couple of irritating quirks. Switching between characters comes with the phrase “I’ll take it from here”, which quickly becomes an overheard drag. Some cut scenes also felt a little forced.
First Impressions from E3 2014
Skylanders Trap Team continues the series’ trademark humour and sleek gameplay, while adding core new features. The ability to trap, share and play with villains offers a whole new dimension to the game and brings a freshness that should see Skylanders stay on top in the toys-to-life market for at least another 12 months.
Read more: Disney Infinity review
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