When Activision flew us out to LA to see the Call of Duty multiplayer reveal last week, Call of Duty wasn’t the only game on display. We also got to see a sneak peak of the brand-new Skylanders Swap Force on the PlayStation 4. The demo was fully playable, running at a crisp 60fps on the PlayStation 4’s hardware, and Activision was happy to show us several new Swap Force characters that have never been seen before as well as plenty of new gameplay elements that we can expect to see in the final version of the game.
The first new Skylander we saw was Rattle Shake, who, as you probably can guess, is a giant, anthropomorphic snake… and also a cowboy. Rattle Shake is absolutely ludicrous–all of his abilities use snakes. He can, for example, shoot snakes from his guns in a single or spread shot. He can also plant a turret called Deputy Snake that shoots venom at his opponents. He can also string up smaller snakes in a slingshot and fire them at enemies. When this snake hits an opponent, it will bounce off and immediately home in on another opponent like some sort of bizarre, snake-themed chain lightning. What makes Rattle Shake’s shots different, aside from the snake aesthetics, is that any time a snake comes in contact with an item or a coin, it can pick it up for Rattle Shake. Rattle Shake is an Undead-type Skylander… for some reason.
The next new Skylander we saw was Boom Jet, who is an Air-element Skylander that is basically a guy surfing on a rocket. Boom Jet can drop bombs, place turrets, call in air strikes, and take advantage of cover. In fact, most of his abilities seem to have a slight, cartoony Call of Duty -style theme to them.
Zoo Lou is a new Skylander of the Life element that summons spirit animals. This includes birds that fly at enemies to attack, a wolf that can sniff items and coins out, and a bucking board that increases Lou’s mobility. He also kind of looks like a rip-off of Kung-Fu Panda, and that’s awesome.
Grilla Drilla is a drill-themed monkey of the Life type. His attacks are all drill based. For example, say you throw a punch. You can then hold the button to cause his fist to start drilling, causing more damage over time. Grilla Drilla can also summon smaller monkeys to fight for him as well as plant explosive- and turret-based plants.
What is cool about all of these Swap Force characters is the fact that a lot of their attack abilities, previously attached to the upper halves of the figures only, have been moved to the lower halves. For example, many turret abilities are part of the lower half of the Skylander instead of the upper half. This way, you can truly mix and match your abilities, aside from simply putting a cool attack on a fast bottom.
Activision also went more in depth about how Swap Force figures will level up. The top half of a figure will determine that figure’s level, health, and coin bank. However, both the upper and lower half have their own independent abilities. So while both halves don’t level, you can continually swap upper halves of a Swap Force figure in order to have all the coins you need to upgrade one specific lower half.
Activision showed us some of the new movement abilities at work when we saw a “spin”-themed bonus stage. Here, the player was tasked with bouncing into boxes and gems in order to break them apart and reach the middle of a circular level. Unfortunately, they could also break away the edges of the level, making them fall off. It was a lot like a Sonic 1 bonus stage, and it was pretty cool. We also saw a speed-themed bonus level, which was essentially just a time-trial racing game. Any time you defeat one of these bonus levels, called Swap Challenges, you will unlock treasures for your game hub that will increase your stats. You can also challenge these Swap Zones multiple times, with new objectives and new rewards available to you on each revisit.
We got to see a little more of the game’s core levels as well. The snow stage that we were shown had a few interesting elements in it, including a contextual boss where the player had to throw snowmen via a catapult at a blimp. It was kind of like a short scorched-earth mini-game. There was also a sequence where you had to grind on rails, much like Sonic did in his 3D adventures. The character had to jump back and forth between rails, which in this case were made of rainbows, in order to collect coins and avoid obstacles.
The final bits of info that Activision gave us had to do with the Skylanders figures themselves. Older Skylanders figures will be repackaged in bundle packs along with Swap Force figures. This will allow you to get your hands on older figures, like the original Spyro. In addition, alternate versions of characters, such as Dark Spyro, will be offered in packs as well. These characters will have all the abilities of their normal counter parts but will have aesthetic differences that set them apart.
Skylanders Swap Force will release on October 13th for the PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii, and Xbox 360, and will release on PlayStation 4 on November 15th.