SDCC: Activision Captures a New Challenge With "Skylanders Trap Team"

Among the many games displayed at Comic-Con International 2014, one of the most intriguing was Activision's "Skylanders Trap Team." The fourth game in the publisher's successful "Skylanders" franchise, "Trap Team" puts a surprising Pokemon-like twist on the traditional toys-to-game formula. Using special traps, players can capture about 40 different bosses after defeating them and summon them as allies, leveling them up as they would a regular Skylander character.

Within the "Skylanders" mythos, the traps -- made from a magical element known as Traptanium -- are wielded by the Trap Masters, a new type of Skylander.

"Our trap masters are identifiable by their Traptanium weapons, which you can see -- the traps themselves are made of the exact same material," Activision's Glenn Oliver told CBR News during a special Comic-Con demo. "What's significant about the Trap Masters is that I can play and defeat villains with my normal Skylanders, but Trap Masters are the only ones that can interact with Traptanium itself. Traptanium effectively works like its own element."

Much like previous games in the "Skylanders" franchise, the gates made of Traptanium can only be shattered by a particular type of Skylander -- namely, the Trap Masters themselves. During the course of the demo, Oliver was able to showcase quite a few different aspects of the game, including villains summoned from the special traps that insert themselves into the new Portal of Power. Among the villains showcased were Painyatta, a piñata with an attitude problem; Shrednaught, two goblins riding a massive chainsaw tank; and Wolfgang, an actual evil-looking wolf.

"If I keep a character in that trap, just like a Skylander, I'll be able to upgrade his powers," Oliver said. "He gets more powerful as well and levels up. Although I can only have one villain in a trap at a time, I may be forced to make the decision of whether I want to put a new villain in my trap and therefore set free the one that I already have, or perhaps get another trap to put him in. If I haven't previously cleared this trap, then I'll have to make that decision."

However, it's important to note that the summoned villains are only allowed to come out as playable characters for a fixed amount of time. ("They're kind of on parole," Oliver said.) After time is up, the trap recharges until players are able to summon their trapped ally once again.

While there were quite a few Trap Masters demoed -- like air element character Gusto, who wields a Traptanium boomerang; or water element sniper Snap Shot -- one character we had the chance to see quite a bit of was Trap Master Gearshift, a tech element Skylander that has three different modes of combat right out of the box. The first uses her gear as a midrange attack as it floats around her torso. The second splits the gear in two, using them as sword. The final mode sees Gearshift throwing segments of the gear for long-range attacks.

The gameplay was pretty standard when it comes to the "Skylanders" franchise: defeat enemies, try and get through the level without dying. While the game does look great in HD, it didn't look or feel significantly different from the current-gen version of "Skylanders Swap Force" for PlayStation 5 and Xbox One. The biggest addition is definitely the Trap Masters -- who have a bonus in combat versus bosses -- and the traps themselves. However, the real innovation and draw for "Trap Team" will likely be the new Portal of Power. In addition to sporting clear plastic rather than the opaque versions of the past, the new Portal of Power features a trap slot to summon/capture villains, and a build-in speaker that allows trapped villains to speak to and comment on the player's actions.

"If I play the game, he's going to be commenting on what's happening in the game," Oliver said. "I don't necessarily have to pull him in and out to bring him in. It's a simple push of a button, and he's back in the environment."

The new gameplay elements are undeniably impressive -- and as always, players will be able to use all their old Skylander toys in the new game with a higher level cap. The figures have a high quality that fans are used to seeing from the "Skylanders" team, with the Dark versions available through pre-order looking particularly good.

Although the Portal of Power and the trap elements are strong additions to gameplay, only time will tell whether there's enough content in "Skylanders Trap Team" for longtime "Skylander" veterans to make the jump to another game. The mechanics are certainly impressive, and look incredibly fun, but this was only a piece of the puzzle. It's likely more information about the game will continue to release as "Trap Team's" October 5 release date draws closer.

"Skylanders Trap Team" hits stores October 5 for Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

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