Each year the Skylanders team come up with some new innovations to sate the appetites of an enormous global army of fans and in 2014 they might have just pulled off the greatest yet.
The Skylanders shtick has always been to combine physical toys with a videogame, to encourage kids to collect the real-world equivalents in order to play as them in the virtual world. Now the tables have been turned as, while the new game in the franchise still allows the same with new and existing toys, it adds the ability to transfer characters that exist in the game world to physical objects on the outside.
Skylanders Trap Team adds an all new element to the game - Traptanium - which is used by some of the new Skylanders to power their weapons, but also by portal masters to "trap" vanquished villains in the real-world, via the new Traptanium Portal. It is done through inserting special elemental traps into a dedicated socket on the portal and represents the singularly most exciting thing to happen to the series since the beginning. Swap Force was clever, Trap Team is mind blowing.
You only get to trap villains when they have been beaten. When you've defeated them in game, if you have the right elemental trap in the portal you can send them through an on-screen black hole to the trap itself. And as they go their voices carry from the TV or home cinema sound system to the portal itself, giving the illusion that they are genuinely now inside the small trap. It sounds simple but boy is it effective.
When Pocket-lint was invited to a demo, we attended with some young Skylanders fans and we have to say that as soon as the trap started to talk and interact with the on-screen characters, all age differences dissipated. It is a magical experience.
In addition, while you have the trap loaded in the portal, the character inside will still interact during the game. And whenever you like, you can drag them back from the trap to the screen in order to play with them rather than your chosen Skylander. Yes folks, you can finally play as villains. Even Kaos.
And because the new portal is designed to house a Skylander and a trap, you can hot swap between them without having to physically switch them over. It works for co-op play too, where one person can play as the Skylander, the other a trapped villain.
As previously mentioned, there are different traps for different elements and you can only house one captured villain in each. However, as there are more than 40 villains in the game able to be captured, Activision doesn't expect you to own more than 40 traps. Therefore, the main user interface will know which villains you have trapped in the past and you can choose which between them are stored in your trap. If you want to swap them before the next gaming session, you can.
There will be more than 50 new playable Skylanders available too, including Trap Masters, new core Skylanders and some of the old classics in new poses. The new game and portal is backwards compatible so will work with all the old Skylanders from Spiro's Adventure, Giants and Swap Force too.
As for the game itself, we saw a few fights and a couple of levels, but not much. The pre-E3 demo was more to show us the new concept, with more involved gameplay sessions yet to come. You can jump as in Swap Force and it looks similar. It certainly has the same great sense of humour that will delight kids and adults alike.
We saw the game running on a PS4 and it looked very pretty indeed. And this was just an early build.
Skylanders Trap Team will be available from 5 October for Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, 3DS, Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. Pocket-lint will bring you more on the game itself during E3 in LA the second week of June.