Other companies might still be hopping on the “toys to life” bandwagon, but Toys for Bob and Activision are continuing to move the bar. That much was apparent from the closed-door previews of Skylanders: Trap Team at the Activision E3 booth, where the latest game in the money-making juggernaut showed off continued improvement in gameplay mechanics and presentation.
The big new idea is the addition of trappable villains stemming from an in-game story point. New Skylanders with special translucent weapons are the best equipped to take down these bosses and mini-bosses, but any character can potentially defeat one of these bad guys. Assuming you have a trap of the proper element, you can capture the villain you just beat and force him or her to fight for you.
More than just a gimmick, the traps actually make you feel like you’re taking the villans out of the game, as you can hear them speaking through the new portal (sorry parents!), which has a slot in the front to accommodate a trap. In-game, you can use the captured villain only until a timer which appears at the bottom of the screen runs out, at which time you need to wait until it refills before using that character again. You can also switch back to your Skylander instantly with just one button press, and the developers showed off several ways tag teaming in this manner could have synergistic benefits.
The designers really appeared to have a good time letting their imaginations run wild with the 40-plus villains. The demo showed a rock star werewolf with a guitar-based weapon, a giant pinata with a lollipop club who could also vomit candy, and a giant living piece of broccoli. New Skylanders include Food Fight, an artichoke with a tomato blaster that can grow its own ammo, and he’s just one of over 50 new characters. All previous figures will be compatible with the new portal, which should make many people and their wallets breathe sighs of relief. The only negative is that the traps are sold separately for a few bucks each.
Graphics got another boost, and an additional level of polish looked apparent on just about everything. There are even new mini-games for opening locks and a new version of Skystones called Skystone Smash.
Add it all up and it’s fair to assume the Skylanders juggernaut is just going to keep right on rolling. Toys for Bob could have coasted on the strength of the brand alone, but it appears they’ve challenged themselves to keep moving the franchise forward, and that’s a welcome sight.