The magic of Skylanders--at least for its young target audience--has always been in how it mixes the physical and the virtual. For a kid, it's exciting to have physical, quality figurines to play with in the real world, before taking virtual avatars of those same characters on adventures within a game. It's a recipe that has worked well with the previous Skylanders games, but for the next installment in the series, publisher Activision and developer Toys For Bob are adding a new element that, according to executive producer Jeff Poffenbarger, will help bring "life to toys."
And how will the new game--Skylanders Trap Team--bring life to inanimate objects? It will attempt to do it through the power of... speakers. Trap Team will come with a new physical portal (dubbed the Traptanium Portal) that has a built-in speaker that allows you to hear the voices of bosses you capture within the game. Once you've captured a boss, you can then use that boss as a fully playable character in your adventures, swapping between your Skylander and the boss at any time.
Poffenbarger demonstrated this new mechanic to me during a recent interview about Skylanders Trap Team. Using one of the new Skylander types being introduced in the game--the Portal Masters--he fought a boss named the chompy mage. Once defeated, the captured mage was "teleported" to the Traptanium Portal, and his audio dialogue, which had been booming from the television, was now coming out through the portal's tiny speaker (Chompy Mage complained about the cramped new place he found himself in). It was an interesting effect, and for the most part was a neat gimmick that helped with the illusion that a virtual creature was now somehow contained within the real-world portal. Kids will most likely love it.
Skylanders games, of course, are all about the companion toys, so there will be a new toy type that you'll need to buy to be able to capture in-game bosses. These new toys are called traps, and they need to be inserted into the portal to capture a defeated boss. Traps have elemental alignments, and you'll only be able to capture a boss using the appropriate elemental trap.
Skylanders Trap Team's starter pack will come with two traps (as well as one of the new Portal Masters, the new portal, and a regular-size Skylander), and Poffenbarger says you'll be able to complete the game with just the starter pack toys. Thankfully, Poffenbarger says an individual trap can hold multiple bosses, and as was the case with the earlier games, all previous toys will again be compatible for use with the new portal.
But if the experience of previous Skylanders games are anything to go by, relying on just the starter pack toys will mean there’ll be areas and missions you simply won’t be able to access. And with only two traps, you’ll only be able to get a fraction of the bosses that’s available in Trap Team. If you’re a huge Skylanders fan or a parent of one, then this hobby just became a little more expensive thanks to the addition of this new toy type.
Skylanders Trap Team will be released on October 5, 2014 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and 3DS.