One More Time With Gusto
About a week ago, Activision invited us into New York to see more of their latest Skylanders project, Skylanders: Trap Team . We saw a brand new Skylander, a new level, the abilities of an old Skylander, and we learned more about how the game actually plays, more than we got to see at E3 at least.
One of the first new additions to the game is the ability to jump attack. You may remember that Skylanders: Swap Force was the first Skylanders game that gave you the ability to jump. While this was interesting, it wasn’t integral to gameplay. Now, the jump attack has allowed the team to vary up enemy behavior. Some enemies will hover above you and need to be taken down with the jump attack. In addition, many levels now have extended vertical elements aside from straightforward horizontal platforming. The design team seems to have listened to the fans and made jumping overall a more integral part of gameplay.
It’s also worth noting that not only trap masters can trap enemies. Every character can. As long as you have a plastic crystal with the corresponding element, every single boss in the game can be shoved in when defeated.
Trap Masters, however, will have certain advantages to fighting enemies that you can trap. For one, their traptanium weapons will glow whenever a trappable enemy is nearby. This will allow you to trap certain enemies that you didn’t even know counted as trap targets. Second of all, they do extra damage to enemies that can be trapped. Trap Masters will also learn abilities that will augment trapped enemies when you use them, extending their time on the field, increasing their power, and so forth. Unfortunately, it appears that you will not be able to actually level up your trapped enemies. They operate mostly like summons and special attacks and nothing more.
Trap Masters are the only Skylanders that can interact with Traptanium Crystals as well. These crystal deposits are littered all around the maps this time around, and are Trap Teams new bonus areas. By shattering crystals, you will get bonus items or find a secret area or even unlock a brand new villain to trap. Unfortunately, as we said before, only Trap Masters can shatter these crystals.
On top of these there are still the elemental gates from previous Skylanders and secret bonus areas that aren’t necessarily blocked by anything other than your ability to find them.
Something that is really cool is the way trapped enemy voice acting works. When you trap an enemy you see it falling down a vortex in your TV. As it falls into the trap, its voice fades from the TV screen to the plastic trap portal in front of you. Trapped enemies will frequently quip about things you do in the game, so long as you keep their trap crystal in the portal. It’s purely aesthetic, but it’s fun to hear these villains provide color commentary.
The new stage we were shown was basically the intro stage to the game. The Soda Springs Soda festival is being wrecked by a giant slug monster called The Gulper. All The Gulper wants is more soda because as he gulps down more and more he gets bigger and bigger, and throughout the stage you get to see him rampaging through the background, growing as he chugs barrel after barrel. Here you are introduced to all the basic controls of Skylanders , from attacking to jumping to even trapping your enemies.
What was refreshing, was that The Gulper wasn’t necessarily beaten by simply mashing the attack button. Instead, he was brought down through some light puzzle elements. At one point you were put before two barrels of soda, one of which was basically poison. By swapping the poison barrel with the regular barrel, you were able to take the Gulper out by luring him into drinking it. Then, you could trap The Gulper and have him do your bidding. Unfortunately, he was of a much smaller size when trapped.
The new Skylander that we were shown was Gusto, a large wind elemental style creature. All trap masters are slightly bigger than normal Skylanders, but not quite as big as Skylanders Giants. Gusto carried a gigantic boomerang around with him and swung it like a melee weapon in addition to throwing it. He can also summon many whirling gusts around him, inhale enemies Kirby style, blow enemies off the board, and more.
We also got to see Gearshift in use for the first time ever. Gearshift is a robot with a gigantic golden gear surrounding her. She can break the gear apart and use it as a pair of tonfa. However, if she keeps the gear together, she can ride it like a motorcycle or spin it like a hula hoop. She can also throw it and summon a bunch of mini-gears to scatter around the level, attacking enemies and bouncing off walls.
Overall, Trap Team is looking to be one heck of an interesting experience. It’s not quite as innovative as Swap Force was before it, but the trapping mechanics are really very interesting and the levels are quite fun to play. Somehow, the Skylanders team manages to keep finding ways of making this simple action game new and fun again.