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Toys for Bob


Full Skylanders Trap Team game hitting tablets too

Will even include a controller
Aug 12
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Skylanders Trap Team is heading to mobile devices as well! And like, the full actual game. Activision is claiming console-quality graphics, and it even comes with its own high performance controller. This is huge! This will a...
Skylanders photo

This is Skylanders Trap Team's Dark Edition

Skylanders will be all over San Diego Comic-Con
Jul 21
// Jordan Devore
$99 to get started with Skylanders Trap Team in style -- thank heavens I'm not a kid (or don't have children, for that matter) because I'd be all over this. Activision has opened pre-orders for the Trap Team Dark Edition, whi...

Skylanders Trap Team pre-orders will get you access to a bonus figure

Don't miss your chance to get her!
Jun 05
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Starting today, Skylanders fans that pre-order Trap Team will be given access to a bonus figure. New character Gearshift (pictured above) will be offered in limited supply, and this marks the first time fans will be able to b...

The next Skylanders borrows a little from the Pokemon series

Apr 23 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Skylanders Trap Team (3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Toys for Bob (last-gen) / Beenox (current-gen, 3DS)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 5, 2014MSRP: $74.99 (Game, Portal, figure, two Traps) The story sees Invader Zim Chaos trying to take over Skylands ... again. This time, however, he's going to enlist a group of villains trapped in a prison made out of Traptanium, the hardest material known to Skylanders. Chaos' plan works, sort of -- he's able to free the villains, but they all just escape instead of joining up with him. Enter the Trap Masters, the main draw of Trap Team. These Skylanders are bigger than normal core characters, but not as big as the Giants. The Trap Masters are skilled with all things Traptanium, and all their weapons are made out of the substance, shown off as see-through crystals in the game and the toys themselves. There's going to be around 50 new Skylanders, made up of a mix of these Trap Masters, new core characters, and reposed fan-favorite Skylanders. And of course all the previous Skylanders, Giants, and Swap Force heroes will work in Trap Team. Now here's the surprise, there's going to be over 40 playable villains as well that you'll have to physically capture, so to speak. "Pretty much the biggest thing we've done is this idea of constantly innovating," executive producer Jeff Poffenbarger told Destructoid. "Bringing toys to life was the first initial big innovation. We can certainly just continue to do that, but for us we asked ourselves 'What would even take that a step further?' We know we can bring toys to life ... but we also wanted to figure out how to reverse that magic. So you can bring toys to life, but how do we bring life to toys?" All of the escaped villains can be converted over to your team. Take them on, defeat them, and then capture them in a new special crystal toy. So yeah, kind of like Pokemon. Once an enemy has been defeated, players are told to insert a special crystal into the new version of the Portal of Power. It's actually a really cool effect, as the audio from the TV gets outputted into the Portal itself (and vice-versa) as they get sucked in and out of the adventure. Villains will also give you feedback, help, and advice from the Portal when not in use. One of the first major bosses is called Chompy Mage (pictured in the lead image), a crazy old guy who fights with a sock puppet on his hand (kind of like the Ventriloquist from the Batman series.) He can summon little tiny monsters, and later in the battle he'll transform into this giant jumpy gross monster thing. After he joins your team, all the power sets he used on you are now yours. While some villains are powerful in this way, there will be some with more passive abilities. One example shown was a mini-boss troll that can use a gun to freeze opponents. He can't really do damage, just freeze enemies. Those playing by themselves can actually hotswap between a Skylander and a villain with the press of the button to take advantage of this ability. Or say a parent can play as the ice troll to let their kid be more of the main star in the game. Traditional co-op with multiple Skylanders is still in the game too. So a cool concept, but here's where it gets kind of dumb. You can only save one villain into a Trap toy at a time. That I kind of don't have a problem with. You can at least store villains at a new hub location so you can swap villains in and out as desired into a crystal. The dumb part is that the Trap toys are all elemental based. So you can only store an ice based villain inside of an ice Trap toy, for example. My main concern is that this is going to get more expensive for fans than ever before. I'm just hoping the Trap Hero toys will include their respective Trap toy too. Plus these things are tiny compared to even the tiniest Skylander figure, and could potentially get lost really easily. Collectors be warned: There will be multiple variants of the Trap toys themselves as well. That said, you don't have to capture the villains, just like how you don't need all of the elemental types of Skylanders to beat the games. So what happens if you don't want to -- or just can't -- capture a villain after defeating them? Toys for Bob is still figuring that out, having kids and adults of all ages try out the game to find the best solution for everybody. Otherwise players can expect similar approaches to the mini-games, competitive multiplayer, the cross-platform saves, and the return of the jump mechanic from the past games. The visuals are just as gorgeous as ever, especially on the current generation of hardware. You know how you've always wished that the CG sequences from a game was what you were actually playing? That's Trap Team, essentially. The great visuals extend down to the toys themselves too, looking more detailed than ever. So yeah, Skylanders Trap Team. If you're a fan of the series, you already know you'll be picking this one up. I did want to make some special mentions of other playable characters before you leave. There's Chopper, a new core hero who's a little tiny T-rex with a helicopter rotor on its back. It can fly in the air and shoots swarms of missiles like it was straight out of Robotech. Then there's a duo team of villain trolls who control a walking chainsaw tank. Just let that visual sink into your head. Also SPOILERS Chaos himself is playable.
Skylanders Trap Team photo
Skylanders Trap Team has you capturing and reforming villains to your team
The developers at Toys For Bob are back in the saddle with Skylanders Trap Team, the next entry in their hit toys-meet-videogame franchise. This time the hook involves you capturing villains and enslaving brainwashing reform...


You have a chance to name these three new Skylanders

Let's all go in together to name the dolphin one Max Scoville
Feb 25
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Frito-Lay and Activision are holding a little promotion to let fans name these three brand new Skylander characters that will appear in the next game coming out in 2014. There's just something so off about that dolphin creatu...
Skylanders photo

Skylanders Collection Vault brings new level of obsession

Prepare to see a whole new side of your Skylanders
Nov 30
// Wesley Ruscher
For those looking to get a tad more intimate with their favorite Skylanders, Activision has a new app, the Skylanders Collection Vault, currently available on the iOS App Store.  Perfect for managing one's Skylanders col...
Skylanders: Swap Force photo
Skylanders: Swap Force

Impressions: Skylanders: Swap Force (Xbox One and PS4)

Slightly more Pixar-y
Nov 27
// Chris Carter
Skylanders: Swap Force was one of my biggest surprises of the year. After two full iterations in such a short amount of time, I didn't think Vicarious Visions had it in them to make the strongest one yet. But here we are, and...

Review: Skylanders: Swap Force

Oct 14 // Chris Carter
Skylanders: Swap Force (3DS, PS3, PS4,  Wii, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Toys For Bob (PS3, 360) / Vicarious Visions (PS4, Xbox One) / n-Space (3DS)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 13, 2013 (PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 ) / November 15, 2013 (PS4, Xbox One) / November 2013 (3DS)MSRP: $74.99 (Starter Kit) Once again, Skylanders utilizes the "toy and game" concept, offering up a host of characters to use in-game so long as you own the physical figure. Since Swap Force uses new technology that incorporates figures with multiple pieces, you must buy a new Starter Kit to get the new "Portal of Power" base to beam the toys into the game. Yes it's a bummer, but once you dive into Swap Force you'll quickly forgive the inconvenience. For starters, the series received a huge visual upgrade that puts it on par with many animated theatrical films. While the jump from Spyro's Adventure to Giants wasn't massive enough to turn any heads, Swap Force sports some very high production values in multiple areas of the game, even on a console like the Xbox 360. Not only have old characters been overhauled to bring some more nuance to their animations, but the new characters look fantastic: especially the "Swap Force" members, which I'll get to momentarily. Skylanders also has a stellar voice cast to support said visuals, and pretty much everyone is at the top of their game yet again in Swap Force. Patrick Warburton effortlessly nails the goofy Flynn, and Steve Blum as one half of the anthropomorphic "Hip[po]Bros" is another welcome addition. Famous or not, the rest of the cast is stacked with delightful performances, like a talkative fish who does his best rendition of Steve Buscemi's "total silence" routine from Fargo. I really think at this point after seeing Swap Force in action, Activision could just hire Patrick Warburton and make a pretty entertaining kids show. So what's actually new? Quite a bit, actually. In Giants, the main gimmick involved having to use special "Giant" toys that were larger than most to barge through special barriers. It was highly inoffensive considering that the Starter Pack came with one, and that one Giant was all you really needed to access every bit of content. In Swap Force, many new toys feature detachable legs and upper bodies so that you can mix and match and form your own combinations. I ended up loving this part far more than I thought I would, for multiple reasons. Not only do the new Swap Force toys and in-game models have a ton of detail (Wash Buckler's squid legs are a highlight), but it also allows an unprecedented amount of customization as you search for your favorite playstyle. Immediately, I started experimenting with squid tentacles, snake coils, and chicken feet as I searched for my ideal Skylander, but had a blast the entire time -- especially since each part has its own upgrade path and unique abilities that carry over when you swap them. The key is that the Swap Force brigade isn't solely built around the "switch" gimmick, as a major emphasis has been put on their bottom halves -- which are used to drastically switch up your means of travel. Every Swap Force toy has a new means of getting around, whether that's rocket boots, teleportation, a whirlwind, or wheels -- and they're all a ton of fun. My favorite new character ended up being "Magna Zone," which is the combination of the robotic enforcer of Magna Charge and the fiery rocket legs of Blast Zone. Depending on what leg parts you use new mini-games open up that use completely unique mechanics, like races, flight challenges, Donkey Kong Arcade-esque climbers, 2D platforming sections, and sidescrolling beat-'em-ups. I was pretty surprised at the insane amount of variety the developers packed in, and thankfully, none of it gets stale or overstays its welcome. The core game is just as fun as ever, as it's really easy to just jump in and start blasting or hacking away. Every character still has three base abilities, but nearly all of them have some sort of variation that vastly changes how it operates, like the ability to charge them up into a new attack by holding a button. On higher difficulties Swap Force can put up a decent fight, which is great news for those of you who don't want to just effortlessly make your way through a bunch of playgrounds. Mechanically, quite a bit is new as well in Swap Force, mostly because you finally jump! It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but the first two games did not feature jumping -- instead, players had to use "jump pads" to climb vertically. But given the new-found freedom to leap about, secrets are now more cleverly hidden, new puzzle opportunities arise, and the game just feels better in general as a result. Besides bounding, a concerted effort has been made to make co-op play more fun, which is great news for those of you with kids, or a spouse who enjoys the simplicity of the series. Loot and food are now shared (preventing one player from stealing everything), allowing both players to enjoy the game equally. But multiplayer extends beyond that, as now, everything you do -- even if it's a solo area -- allows the other player to interact in some way. Instead of the one-player puzzle boxes from Giants, co-op partners now have to solve a special multiplayer brain teaser. If there is an area that only accommodates one player, the other is given a power-up or special attack to unleash at their leisure to assist. The enhanced co-op is going to come in handy when you're tackling the most amount of content yet in a Skylanders game. In addition to the fairly hefty campaign, there are more collectibles than ever to find, tons of secrets, and a large amount of bonus missions. The Arena also returns, and it has a staggering amount of gametypes. Thankfully there's a bit of variety this time around, that ranges from PVP, to co-op, to a mix of the two (which is my personal favorite). Like Giants, you earn money and experience in the arena, encouraging everyone to at least try it. You can also raise your "Portal Master Rank" in addition to your Skylanders' actual levels to unlock more items, so you're in for a long ride if you want to get everything -- and it doesn't feel like a grind, because it's fun throughout. Swap Force also benefits from the fact that every past toy is compatible with the third generation. So at this point, you can pick up the previous two games on the cheap, and use pretty much every toy in the current game somewhere down the line. As always, the toy's abilities, appearance, and statistics are still kept in the figure itself -- so you can bring your collection to a friend's house, or even switch console generations without any issues strictly in terms of your character progress. If you were thinking that this was going to be an Activision cash grab, think again. So much heart and soul is consistently poured into the Skylanders franchise time and time again, and Swap Force is no exception. In fact, it's the best one yet.
Skylanders: Swap Force photo
The Skyland of Doctor Moreau
Skylanders has had a bit of an odd history. Initially, it launched under the auspices of the Spyro name, and made a very small splash in the market -- so small, that barely anyone knew what it was. Fast forward to six months ...

Skylanders in Japan photo
Skylanders in Japan

First Skylanders hits Japan in July, gets Wii U port

That's... weird
Jun 25
// Tony Ponce
We are so used to waiting insufferably long periods of time for Japanese games to be localized and brought out West that we often imagine Japan as this floating island of privilege and good fortune. How easily do we forget th...

Over 100 million Skylanders toys have been sold so far

'The key to longterm success is breakthrough innovation.'
Feb 06
// Keith Swiader
Activision's Skylanders franchise surpassed $500 million in total revenue, with over 100 million toys sold throughout the U.S., the company announced at their Toy Fair 2013 press conference.  The franchise reached this m...
More Skylanders Giants photo
More Skylanders Giants

Two new Skylanders Giants enter the fray

Thumpback and Eye-Brawl
Jan 23
// Chris Carter
It feels like we've been waiting forever for new Skylanders Giants characters. The titular "Giants," who are rather large and expensive toys, are getting a staggered release schedule to increase demand. Here, near the end of ...

Merging toys and videogames with Skylanders

Oct 21 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Paul Reiche's obsession with monsters Paul Reiche believes that "in our DNA here at [Toys for Bob] is monsters, heroic adventure, and having fun with fantasy adventure." Given Paul's history with gaming, it makes sense, especially with the amount of games he's made with monsters in them. Paul's first taste into the realm of gaming and monsters began with Dungeons & Dragons during high school. His early success with D&D would soon see him working for TSR (the former Dungeons & Dragons publisher), where he helped develop multiple Dungeons & Dragons and Gamma World games. Paul's interest soon shifted to digital gaming, and growing up in Berkly gave him a chance to learn programming at the Lawrence Hall of Science. This proved most fortunate for him as he "happened to be in the right place, at the right time" for the dawn of videogames, making his first D&D-based videogame for the TRS 80 and Apple II. From there, he and Jon Freeman (co-founder of Epyx) formed Free Fall Associates, where they worked on some of the first games for Electronic Arts such as Archon and Mail Order Monsters, both which had you controlling monsters that fought each other. Paul eventually left Free Fall Associates to form his own company, Toys for Bob, with Fred Ford in 1989. It was just the two of them at the beginning, and the company's first title was Star Control. Paul focused on the design and fiction, while Fred handled the programming. Star Control would later be ported from the PC to the Sega Genesis, but Toys for Bob had to work around Sega's restriction and create an unauthorized version for the system. "Back at this time we were trying to break first party," Paul told me. "It didn't work, so we worked with reversed engineered material to create Star Control. It was the biggest cartridge [on the Genesis] at the time." Picture via Ars Technica, which has more on the unauthorized Genesis dev kit They then made Star Control II, and according to Paul, "To this day, we still have a dedicated fan base who want us to abandon Skylanders and just go back to working on it (laughs)." In 1994, Toys for Bob worked with Crystal Dynamics to make Pandemonium, The Horde, and The Unholy War, the latter two both being monster-focused as well. It was also at this time that they made Majokko Dai Sakusen: Little Witching Mischiefs, their weirdest game ever. Paul loved the SD Gundam series, so he went to Crystal Dynamic's head of studio at the time, Rob Dyer, in order to reach out to Bandai and get the rights. Somehow they ended up making the Little Witching Mischief instead, a game based on the Japanese anime from the 1960s. The game was only sold in Japan, and he's not sure how well the game did as their original contact at Bandai ended up quitting. He is looking for copies of the game still, as they only have one in their possession.   Their last title with Crystal Dynamics was 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue, for which they serendipitously looked at the original Spyro as the basic model in order to make a good kids game. Toys for Bob would go on to partner with Activision in the early 2000s and make Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure. The company was bought by Activision in 2005 and continued to make kid-focused titles such as Madagascar, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, and Madagascar 2. How the idea of Skylanders was born It was around 2008 when Paul noticed, "[T]he world started to change. The high-end licensed titles just weren't making enough money to really justify a great big studio in Northern California. So we ended up being asked come up with something new." Specifically, Activision had sent out a company-wide email asking if anyone had any good ideas that the they could patent. "I just kind of thought that was a funny email," Paul told me. "I said, 'Well, no one is going to answer this. Who would just send off their ideas into the void?' So I said, 'I will! It's a challenge.' "Whenever a studio is told that they know, 'okay, we better do this' (laughs). We want to remain in existence. So we sort of said, well, this is the first time in a long time we've been offered the opportunity to come up with our own game. "So one of the ideas I had, although I didn't know the precise technology underlining it, was this wireless communication through this portal where you have a character, and you would put it on the portal and the game would interpret it and that you can freely move the characters around. "And then they said, 'Oh, and by the way, would you like to work with the Spyro license?' We said, 'Yeah! That's a pretty cool license.'" Activision added that it can't just be a new Spyro game, though. It had to be a new kind of game, because for it to be successful in Activision's eyes, it not only has "to be the top kids game of the year, but it has to be in the top five games period of the year." An extremely tall order, but the timing couldn't have worked out better, as Paul saw it as a chance to combine his portal idea with Spyro. Paul and I-Wei Huang, character and toy director at Toys for Bob, went to Activision with a couple of illustrations to show off their idea, where they would make toys that would work with a piece of hardware that communicates with the game and create a real-world relationship. "The floor of what we needed to achieve was almost unachievable,” Paul explained. "Fortunately, they gave us some time to prototype, and we ended up coming up with this idea for Skylanders. "All through this idea, I kept asking myself, 'Am I smoking crack?' Because we literally had to craft everything by hand, go to Activision, show these crazy demos, and once we actually got to the point where we could put [a toy] on a portal, and it would come to life in the game, this sort of light bulb went on in everybody's head and we said, 'Okay, now we just got to make it good.'" Creating a toy company within a game company As we all know now, Paul and Toys for Bob's crazy idea worked. Penny Arcade immediately took to it, figures were selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay, and even Justin Bieber is a fan. Toys were selling out like crazy, especially around Christmas. Right now, there are so many Skylanders figures that if you were to put every one of them side by side, they would stretch out for 1500 miles. Paul further drove that point home by stating that there are more Skylanders toys than there are people in the United Kingdom! The series is successful now, but I couldn't help but wonder if Paul had any fears when developing the whole idea. "I think we were fortunate in that we didn't know what we didn't know. I think if we had known all of the things we were going to confront, we would have said it was impossible. But fortunately we didn't know, and so what we had was people who worked with us for many, many years. The guy who actually invented the portal technology [Robert Leyland], I've worked with him on and off for more than 30 years. Robert had done hobbyist electronics his whole life. We actually signed Electronic Arts development contract #1! A very obscure game about a murder on a zeppelin." Robert, I-Wei, and Paul went through a lot of different prototypes with the Portal itself, and even at one point made things out of dish drainers. Once the prototype was settled, they went to Red Octane, Activision's proper hardware group. "[Red Octane] had made all of the hardware for Guitar Hero, and then Guitar Hero had sort of found its natural level of success. And so they were ready and waiting to help us take a prototype and make it manufacturable. There's a whole proper physical engineering that we really didn't know about how to do it. We worked with a company called Creata, and they did the toy engineering for us. And then we worked with Red Octane and they did the Portal." While Red Octane was busy creating the Portal, Paul and the team focused on making the toys. "This time around, we sort of went from the Stone Age where I-Wei was crafting things with clay. I had made rubber monsters and plastic monsters as a hobby, that was my contribution to the hobbyist part. I was able to say, 'Well, I can show you how we can take your clay toy, make a mold and then we can cast a bunch of them.' 'Cause every time we would send a toy down to Activision for them to show somebody it would vanish." Paul joking speculates that some kid of an executive would end up with it. "So we started making our own little sweatshop here where we would, after work, cast all these toys and hand paint them. And then those would all vanish. So finally we ended up working with Creata, and they took our solid toys and showed us how they get broken apart." Paul described how the toys are broken down into a very complicated system so that they can be created with as much detail as possible, marveling at how "there's a whole science to how you break toys apart." It's a process that was well above what Toys for Bob could do on their own, so it was fortunate for them that Red Octane was seemingly lying in wait. As for Creata, that whole partnership came about thanks to a man named John Coyne. "We knew when we were getting into toys that we actually needed to have someone in the business who understood toys and had sold them before. So we found a guy named John Coyne, and he had worked at Spin Master, which was the company that launched Bakugan, and before that he had worked at Mattel, and he knew collectable toy lines. "So he helped introduce us to people in the traditional toy world. A lot of them said this is impossible. No one's ever, out of the blue, made 32 toys and sold them in Toys 'R' Us." Paul was grilled about the idea, being asked by people what isle they would sell the product in. To which Paul simply stated, "The aisle with space ... ?" It's not as simple as that, of course. "In Toys 'R' Us, there's an aisle for boys' 8-10 action figures, there's an aisle for girls, there's an aisle for this, etc. And we were like, 'It should sell everywhere! It should sell by the videogames, it should sell in the toys!' And they were just like, 'You can't do that!' "Fortunately, or unfortunately, there's been a decline in the age at which kids will continue to play with toys, particularly boys. They migrate to videogames cause videogames are so compelling. Toys 'R' Us was really excited that we found a way to reintroduce toys and make plastic toys more by adding this sort of intelligence into them and this communication, and then building this narrative about the toys moving between worlds. We showed it to them early on and they said, 'Wow, this is really cool.' So they worked with us as a partner, helping us, again, learn all the ropes of 'well, how do you move into this aisle?' "The world of retail is a whole really complicated business. We make videogames and we have partners at Activision that really help us and [one day] they said, 'We got the something shelf at Walmart!' And we were like, 'Cool! ... What is that?' And they said, 'This is the shelf that normally stocks ketchup and mayonnaise.' And we were like, 'Okay ... ' They said, 'No, you don't understand, this is the most coveted shelf at Walmart and you guys got it worldwide!' 'Cool! Mayonnaise and ketchup alright! We got it!' It's business. Because we have something people want to buy, we're getting a lot of support from the retailers." How the Skylanders are born The scope of how much quality control Toys for Bob have now wasn't made clear until I talked to I-Wei, who will draw, create loose sketches, make iterations, and then get a 3D model printed in full color. He told me, "Once we have this in our hand, that's when we go, 'Okay, is this a cool toy? Do we like it?'" I-Wei specifically showed me the many iterations of Bouncer, one of the new Giants characters. He first was this extremely fierce-looking robot with Gatling guns for hands. It reminded me of the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, in fact. Cool but not something suitable for the kids. From this initial design, Paul and I-Wei tried to mold the character. They were set on giving him some type of gun-like weapon, and while trying to think of specific examples, they both kept using their own hands as a gun. It's something everyone has done with their hands, so they applied that idea to Bouncer. From there they went through many different color designs and wheel designs, making sure that not only did he look cool from the front but also from the back and above, as that's what the player has to see in the game. I-Wei went through about a couple of dozen designs, from small to large changes, before settling on something on paper with Bouncer. For the next step, the team modeled the character out in full 3D within the game, animating it and making it strike different poses. Part of this process is to figure out the actual constraits for the toy, as they have to make sure that it both fits on the Portal alongside another toy as well as in its retail packaging. Next they get feedback from Creata and the manufacturing process. If the design can't be mass produced within the set limitations then the design has to get altered yet again. Then there's the painting process -- this is something Paul and I-Wei really obsess over, debating back and forth with each other. Automation is not part of the paint process, and every paint stroke costs money. They first go about making the toy look cool then scale back, typically with the color schemes, in order make the toys affordable. "If you compare [our toys] to what's on the shelf today in Toys 'R' Us or whatever around the same price range, this is a much higher quality 'cause we use so much more paint then anyone else," I-Wei tells me. "That's mostly because we care, first of all, about our characters. Originally, it was because we were ignorant. We weren't toy people, we just wanted cool toys. "When we got prototypes back, it's like, 'No, that looks like crap, you knew you need to paint this part, and let's try doing this and this.' The toy companies are trying to tell us, 'You know, you're like twice more than what you should be. It'd be fine just doing this.' No, we just want a cool toy," was I-Wei's blunt answer to the manufacturers. I-Wei pointed out a case filled with Skylanders figures across from him that all had something wrong with them. "We go through a lot of eyes, eyes are never painted right the first 10 times." Bouncer in particular took a few months from concept to final version to complete. That's just one figure, but they're creating a lot of different characters at the same time, too. "I was really fortunate that I got to participate," Paul told me. "I-Wei and I decided early on that he and I would work together to do all the character designs. He's the artist, the illustrator, and the modeler. So really, the vision of the characters is very strongly in his hands. What I come into it is saying, I come from a D&D player head, I'm like, 'Okay, I have this giant tree guy, and he's going to be really strong.' I started clenching my fist, and I-Wei would go off and start sketching. "Sometimes, we'll get requests from the design department they'll say, 'Okay, we need a range guy, he's a fire range guy who's funny. Those are the things you guys have to work with.' But normally, I-Wei would bring me some sketches and I'll say, 'Oh my God, that guy's great. Now let's replace that crazy skull head with a furry little creature head,' and he would go do 40 variations on that. I-Wei sometimes just draws these crazy monsters, and I just get to play with them." Paul explains, "[I]t's this amazing new creative job, but by shifting and taking more responsibility over the look of it, what we're able to do is really increase the quality of the toys." The toys and game models in Giants are 1:1 this time around, something that wasn't the case for the first game as they didn't have certain technology at the time, specifically their gigantic 3D printer. Improvements have of course happened on the game itself too, as the team knows what they're doing better for the sequel. "This time around, we really knew what we wanted to achieve on both on the toys and on the game." Combat is better, there's a better presentation and more variety, and they even got some more Hollywood talent. Patrick Warburton is back as Flynn, Richard Horvitz is back as Kaos (who's basically Invader Zim here, I mean, come on). New to the cast is George Takei of Star Trek fame and Kevin "Hercules" Sorbo. Kevin actually reached out to Toys for Bob, asking if there was some way he could be part of the game so he could score some cool points with his kids that love the series. This is Crusher, a new Giants character voiced by Kevin Sorbo Dealing with pressure by focusing on quality Skylanders is now one of Activision's biggest sellers with the likes of Call of Duty. That adds new pressure to the humble studio, but it's "the kind of problem you want to have," Paul tells me. "You can't look at the dollars and the numbers or you'll go insane. You have to just focus on the things that you can control, which are quality. "There is tremendous pressure. We went from being nothing to being a half-billion dollar franchise. And of course [Activision] wants it to be more. We would love to do that too. We want more kids to enjoy our game. And success is good, it guarantees we continue to have jobs. The only way we can control it is quality, and that's what we focused on." This time around, "[Toys for Bob] went into the toys and said, you know last time the way we worked with the toy developers [and] the engineers was we would send them illustrations where we would send them in-game models and they would craft from 3D from the ground up. We would go back and forth with them many, many times trying to actually recreate the character that we created. "This time, we bought a 3D printer, and we did all of the new characters in hi-res and ZBrush ourselves. So we sent them, this is exactly how it should look. We had the 3D prints, so we could send them a solid object and say this is how it should be colored, and then we would go back and forth on the paint operations." The ultimate bar that Paul envisioned was reaching Nintendo heights. "When we started this project, we said, 'What do we need to achieve to make this work?' One of them was our game needs to stand up to Nintendo first-party titles. They're the gold standard of quality for our audience. "Nintendo has a way of tracking how many hours people are spending with what games. We just surpassed Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 in terms of average number of hours players play Skylanders. That was as good as we could of imagined. We want kids who are spending money on these toys to feel like it was really worth it. Not only in terms of how cool the toy is but that they got more play value. "I-Wei and I both have to evaluate stuff, and mine is 'Do I want to be this guy?' I-Wei's is 'Do I want to reach up on the shelf and buy this guy and convince mom to pay for it?' Without that, it's too cerebral because toys are way more emotional. Physical objects trigger different relationships than virtual ones. I think they're more emotional, and I think they're more deeper in your brain." Skylanders Giants is out today for the 3DS, PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360, and coming November 18 on the Wii U. Read up on our review  for all that's new and improved. [Special thanks to COIN-OP TV and Nintendo World Report for providing some of the photos. Go check out their video tours at Toys for Bob for more!]
Playing with toys photo
Just how are the toys made?
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Review: Skylanders Giants

Oct 18 // Chris Carter
Skylanders: Giants (3DS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Toys For Bob (Mac, PC, PS3, Wii, Wii U, 360) / n-Space (3DS)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 21, 2012 (3DS, Mac, PC, PS3, Wii, 360) / November 18, 2012 (Wii U)MSRP: $74.99 (Starter Kit) / $59.99 (Portal Owner Pack) As some of you may know, Skylanders incorporates physical toys -- lots of them! -- that you can pick up at your local brick and mortar store. Using a USB device called the "Portal of Power," you can digitize any number of the eight giants (read: big toys) or the 45+ smaller figures into your game. All the characters have a tiny microchip inside them that captures and saves their data, such as the amount of coins you have, your experience, and what Gamertag/ID they're registered to. Considering the main hook here is essentially peddling children's toys, I hope you aren't expecting a transcendent Machiavellian narrative of the subjugation of the proletariat. To be blunt, the setup is going to be really familiar with anyone who has ever watched a cartoon aimed at the 16-and-under group. After the day was saved in the first game, the premise is basically your typical "big bad villain returns" scenario. The eight giants, once thought to be a myth to the citizens of Skylands, have now come out of hiding to band with the rest of the Skylanders and do battle with the evil wizard Kaos. The tone is completely lighthearted, at times cheesy, but not overly hilarious. Just like the first game, it gets the job done. If you enjoy movies like the criminally under-appreciated The Emperor's New Groove, you'll have a good enough time in Skylands (especially so, as Patrick Warburton reprises his role from the first Skylanders, which is basically Kronk). [embed]236152:45413[/embed] When it comes to gameplay, your experience will pretty much mirror any standard dungeon crawler you've tackled before. Obstacles range from simple puzzles to straight-up battles, and there's even a home base of operations with various merchants (like the Diablo series). Giants themselves offer a new layer to the series, as they're required for traversing certain extra areas and obstacles, most of which are optional. They're large, they're lumbering, and as a result, most of them are slow, which may or may not suit your play style. That's totally fine, as the Skylanders series is built upon giving you the freedom to use just about anyone you want (keep in mind that you will need a Giant on-hand for at least a few required areas, even if you can play 99% of the campaign without them). As was the case with the previous game, the nuances of combat and exploration are going to be pretty basic, and since most characters don't jump, it probably couldn't even be considered a basic platformer. But it would be criminal to dismiss the game based on that premise, as there is a ton of depth here should you choose to dig further -- and what it does offer, it does very well. First, the optional challenge missions are back. They're still quasi-difficult and task you with various objectives like "destroy X amount of enemies in a certain amount of time," granting you bonuses should you succeed. These can be done very easily from the main ship at the beginning of every stage, and they're even easier to get sucked into as you try to complete them all. Challenges aren't the only thing that will test your mettle, however, as there's also a number of arenas to conquer, all of which net you some sort of reward. If you're feeling lonely, local multiplayer is thankfully supported by way of full two-player coop (for the entire campaign), and a fairly meaty versus mode that has a decent number of different game types to choose from. Add in hundreds of collectibles, a fully fledged Othello-like game called "Skystones," ability gems hidden in each level, stat-boosting hats (hats are all the rage these days, I'll tell ya), and optional in-game achievements that boost your stats and XP, and you have a full game that inherently gives as much back as you put in. If you're a completionist, you can level up your character to the increased cap of 15 (up from 10 in the first game). Earning XP and gold in multiplayer battles is also a nice touch (provided you have a local partner in crime, as there is sadly no online play support). This all works well and good within the contained Giants ecosystem, but what about prior adopters? As we all know, Activision isn't the most reliable of folks when it comes to backwards compatibility, so I'm sure a lot of you are concerned whether or not Giants will play nice with your old toys. Thankfully, I'm happy to report that Activision and Toys For Bob did a solid job of serving both games. Figuring out what works where is fairly simple: look at the bottom of your toy's base. If it's green, it's from the first game (Series 1), and if it's orange, it's from the second game (Series 2). All Series 2 characters that were carried over from the first game will work if you plug them back into the original. All new Series 2 characters (i.e. Giants) will not work with the original game (which is to be expected). These details are also clearly marked on the actual packaging for the toys. All of this works pretty effortlessly, even without a patch or title update of any kind. For instance, my wife and I were playing coop in Giants and she proceeded to upgrade and level-up a toy she had picked up a year ago. After going back to the original game later that day, all her stats, coins, and abilities/upgrades were still there. So if you're interested in picking up the first game on the cheap some day, you can reap the benefits of re-using select characters. In terms of length, there are 16 stages, each which take about 30 minutes the first time through, or 10 to 15 minutes for speedruns. If you're looking for more replayability beyond going back to the original game or buying more toys, Giants has you covered with all of the modes and extras I mentioned above. After playing through both titles, it's clear that a lot of heart went into the franchise. This should please fans both young and old, provided you're willing to go in with an open mind and embrace the simplicity. Skylanders: Giants is a simple but incredibly enjoyable game, packed with content should you decide to explore every nook and cranny. Despite the fact that a lot of the characters are pay-walled behind what is essentially physical DLC, it's still perfectly serviceable even with just the characters in the standard package.
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A look at all the biggest Skylanders Giants characters

Oct 05
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Here's a nice look at all eight of the new Giants characters in Skylanders Giants. This may be old news to hardcore fans frantically looking for any bits of news on toys, but for everyone else you can see just how cool they ...

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