It's a tarp!
At my appointment, a single glance at all the translucent hammers on the table and the new Portal of Power now adorned with a speaker, and I was instantly curious about Skylanders Trap Team. Toys for Bob, the core developer behind the Skylanders franchise, has been brainstorming the next step in the evolution of its ridiculously successful series, and luckily, Executive Producer Jeffrey Poffenbarger was on deck to share what Trap Team is all about.
One of the main reasons the Skylanders concept is so appealing is that, through the figurines placed on top of the Portal of Power, the physical world is brought into the digital, providing an individualized sense of ownership of what would otherwise be just a well-painted toy. So Toys for Bob thought about how to make the design come full circle and bring the digital world back into the physical. For this, the developers have devised an interesting idea where players can imprison villains in the game with a trap element, thereby allowing players to use the them as the protagonists themselves.
The way the trap elements work with the redesigned Portal of Power is rather ingenious, but it's still in its conceptual stage. The context, though, is much further along: Chaos is once again concocting a devious plan to disrupt the peace of the Skylanders and, like the Joker in Batman, successfully breaks out the inmates of Cloudcracker Prison. In retaliation, the Trap Master guardians which represent the core figurines of Skylanders Trap Team must seek out the escapees and use their weapons made of crystallized "traptonium" to arrest them.
In one hands-off sequence, a crocodile humanoid named Snap Shot with a crystal blue sword and bow battled against the Chompy Mage, a crabby sorcerer wearing a green hand puppet. After defeating him and his minions of little chompies, the player can then place the green trap element into the Portal of Power to confine the crazed fool, who will spit out various lines of dialogue and commentary through the Portal's speaker. In turn, the player can actually play as the Chompy Mage by making sure the green trap element is active in the Portal and switching to him within the game. Even Chaos himself will become available as a playable character.
Though there are no plans to have the villains themselves be figurines, the eight trap elements can apprehend multiple prisoners and the player can swap between them through an in-game menu. Currently, each trap element can hold about five prisoners so you can expect to own around forty extra characters if you purchase all eight trap elements. Another local player can also play as the trapped villain, allowing for instant multiplayer sessions, though it's difficult to tell how this is going to work if there are two figurines and one trap element all active (swapping between characters might be a nightmare). Players can also bring their trapped villain of choice to their friend's Portal of Power, so it can get complicated figuring out who owns what, especially if you both have your own trap elements. So label them carefully, please.
As the build of Skylanders Trap Team shown was in post-Alpha, many kinks have yet to be hammered out. All of the figurines from past Skylanders titles will be compatible, and leveling them will be easier here, but it's uncertain whether the level cap will be raised. Unlike the heroes, villains don't have skill trees, in part to highlight the Trap Masters and other figurines like the helicopter dinosaur Chopper and the armored troll Wallop. But the exact balancing between heroes and villains hasn't been resolved; Chill Bill can freeze foes for the main hero to destroy, but the chainsaw tank Shrednaught looks to be just as powerful as a hero.
Whatever the case may be, we'll learn more about Skylanders Trap Team at E3 before its release on October 5th on PS4, XONE, Wii U, PS3, X360, and Wii. No handheld version has been announced thus far. The starter pack is currently slated for $74.99 and will include the game, Snap Shot, the tomato-throwing Food Fight, a Portal of Power, and the green and blue trap elements.