Skylanders Trap Team takes character-driven action to ridiculous extremes

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Skylanders Trap Team takes character-driven action to ridiculous extremes
Today, I saw a monstrous piñata who spews candy and bludgeons his enemies with a gigantic lollipop, a tomato-blasting sentient artichoke who eats his own ammo to grow stronger, and an honest-to-god rock'n roll werewolf who shreds on a guitar and slides into his enemies on his knees, Pete Townshend-style.

Believe it or not, I have not yet contracted E3 Flu, and my brain is not currently being wracked by fever dreams. These characters are all part of Skylanders Trap Team's playable cast, and developer Toys for Bob is clearly ramping up the creativity for the latest entry in its toy-powered adventure game series with an army of ridiculous characters and outlandish settings.

[Image: Activision]
Though Trap Team's 60 Series 4 characters aim to steal the spotlight, the game's new trap-based gameplay mechanics mark a significant shift for the series. Using new trap toys that plug into a redesigned Portal of Power, players trap defeated enemies and summon them to fight by their side at their command.

Trapped enemies go into a vault, and players can bring their captives into levels to fight for good instead of evil. These new characters include rockstar werewolf Wolfgang, chainsaw-wielding death machine Shrednaught, and even series antagonist Kaos himself. There are more than 40 trappable villains in all, including eight end-of-level supervillains.

Enemies trapped in a player's vault can be summoned at will and let loose to wreak havoc for a limited amount of time before control returns to a core Skylander character. After a brief cooldown period, the trapped enemy can be summoned again. While load times broke up the action when switching characters in earlier Skylanders games, Trap Team players can swap instantly between their current Skylander and a trapped teammate, with no delay. Over time, players can access villain-specific quests and other character-based unlockable content.

Trap Team's gameplay shows a noticeable shift from the style introduced in last year's Vicarious Visions-developed Skylanders Swap Force. Series creator and Skylanders Giants developer Toys for Bob returns for Trap Force, and brings with it abandoned mechanics from earlier Skylanders games.

While players will continue to progress through each level by using their Skylanders' unique powers to defeat enemies while dodging environmental hazards, Toys for Bob is skewing gameplay toward the cerebral by bringing back the rotation-based door-unlocking minigames from the first two Skylanders games. These overhead-view minigames have seen a significant upgrade since Toys for Bob's last effort, and now feature trajectory-altering angled blocks, elemental tiles that affect movement, and multiple tiers for greater challenge than ever before.

The Skystones minigame from Skylanders Giants also makes a welcome reappearance, though it bears little resemblance to its last iteration. Gameplay in the revamped Skystones now takes cues from fellow Activision property Hearthstone, equipping players with collectible tiles that each boast their own properties, attacks, and buffs. It's a surprisingly ambitious addition to a series aimed at children, and should prove to be a deep and engaging diversion for parents and older co-op partners.

Other familiar series elements have also been overhauled. Trap Team's hub world is the largest the series has ever seen, offering a collection of music-based minigames and more hidden items than ever before. Speaking to Joystiq, Toys for Bob co-founder Paul Reiche confirmed that Trap Team's campaign levels are shorter than the sprawling stages featured in previous games, allowing for denser, more action-packed gameplay areas.

Players also have a number of new options during co-op sessions. Players can eat missed shots from the tomato-spewing character Food Fight for health, and golden lion Wildfire is equipped with a large ruby shield, making him an ideal support character.

While all existing Skylanders, Giants, and Swap Force characters are compatible with Toys for Bob's new game, Trap Force requires players to purchase a new toy-scanning Portal of Power in order to make its gameplay-defining trap mechanics accessible to everyone. The new Portal is distinct from earlier versions in looks and in functionality; figures appear to float atop its see-through base, and an included speaker gives a voice to villains trapped within.

Skylanders Trap Team will launch for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, and Wii U on October 5 in North America. A European release is set for October 10.
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