Hands-Off Preview: Skylanders: Trap Team - How Activision is Innovating the Popular Franchise

By Tony Polanco

April 24, 2014

Activision held an event in Manhattan to announce the newest game in the Skylanders franchise, Trap Team. While at this event, I got to see why this latest installment in the series will be just as revolutionary as the original game, which was released back in 2011.

Skylanders‘ biggest innovation is the ability for kids to take their real life Skylander toys and bring them into the video game. Trap Team will take this idea and flip it by allowing kids to bring those same characters into the real world.

How does this work? After using a Trap Master to defeat an enemy, kids can place a crystal on a trap pad and suck the villain out of the game and into the crystal. They can then bring that villain into the game but as a good guy that they can use.

Why are all of these villains running rampant? The game’s main antagonist, who is appropriately named Kaos, destroyed the main prison which housed all of the bad guys. The prison was made out of an element called Traptanium and pieces of it were blown to Earth. These Traptanium crystals are the only things that can hold the bad guys so a group of Skylanders known as Trap Masters must use Traptanium forged equipment to capture them.

There was a hands-off demo shown during the main portion of the event and in the upstairs lounge. The demo was played on a PS4 and had the starter pack Trap Master called Snapshot going after a villain called the Chompy Mage. Snapshot walked around the gorgeous looking environment until he met his foe who had a funny looking hand puppet on his left arm.

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Silly looking as he was, the Chompy Mage was dangerous and he summoned “Chompies” to stop the Trap Master. After the battle began to lean in the Trap Master’s favor, the Chompy Mage transformed into a bigger and lava surrounded version of himself, but he was quickly dealt with.

After the Chompy mage was defeated, the person playing the demo placed a green crystal on the trap pad and then in-game you saw the Chompy Mage being sucked into a vortex. Afterwards, his voice could be heard in real life through the crystal. This particular crystal was green because that is the element that the Chompy Mage corresponds to.

After capturing the Mage, the player could switch back and forth between him and the Trap Master. All of the same moves that the Mage used against you were now at your disposal. The Chompy Mage uses a lot of fire attacks which were good for clearing out many enemies at once.

After this, the Trap Master used another villain called Chill Bill who had ice powers. In this portion of the demo, we were shown how to combine attacks. Chill Bill has the ability to freeze enemies which could then be shattered by the Trap Master. Switching between villain and Skylander is seamless so it was easy to freeze foes and then break them into pieces.

The demo then went on to show a Trap Master who was a lion with a big red shield take on a villain named the Shrednaught. This villain was actually two trolls who were controlling a big tank with a chainsaw on it. After defeating and capturing it, the Shrednaught (which needed to be captured with a tech element crystal) was used to clear the area of small minion type enemies.

While clearing out hordes of weak enemies is something that the Shrednaught excels at, it was horrible for long range battles so in the demo you see the Trap Master switching back and forth between him and the Shrednaught to deal with close and long range opponents.

I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about Skylanders but I was impressed by the entire demonstration. The idea of taking a video game and merging it with action figures is brilliant and it’s clearly worked well. The fact that this latest game isn’t just adding in new characters but instead actively trying to innovate is something which I commend.

Looking at it from a gamer’s perspective, or rather, MY gamer perspective, this looks like a really fun title to play. I know that it’s just for kids but this is a platforming game, which happens to be one of my favorite genres. Furthermore, this series is a spin-off of the Spyro the Dragon series which I absolutely loved and I could see that series’ DNA in this.

Even though this is an annual series, I like the fact that the developers aren’t just re-iterating the same game every year. Given the insane popularity of this franchise, it would have been easy to just toss in a bunch of new characters and call it a day. Instead of that, the team decided to create something that was just as groundbreaking as the first game. This “disruptive innovation” that the folks behind the game spoke about during the event is definitely evident with Trap Team.

Slylanders: Trap Team will be available on the 3DS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on October 5. The starter pack includes a trap master and the trap device.

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Tony Polanco

Tony has been a gamer ever since he came to the United States from the Dominican Republic when he was a kid. He's been a geek since he could draw his first breath and will be one until he draws his last. In addition to video games, Tony loves Comic Books, Anime, Science Fiction and Fantasy. If it's geeky then Tony is most likely into it.

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