It's been a week now since the latest entry in the legendary 'toys-to-life' series, Skylanders: Trap Team hit the shelves, and we've been running up the walls with anticipation waiting for our copy to arrive. Following a similar path to the previous games, and coming with a brand new Portal of Power - a device that, when you place your plastic figures on it, conjures up the corresponding character in your game, ready to save the Skylands from the evil Kaos' latest scheme - it's a game we've been looking forward to for some time now, and a series that's long been one of our weaknesses.
Along with being fully compatible with every Skylander ever made (which is more than we could say for certain other toys-to-life games...), each new game also brings with it a new bunch of figures, both re-imagined old favourites and brand spanking new characters for you to peruse, with Trap Team boasting a line-up of over fifty new toys. And while we do like the tomato-slinging Food Fight, the bulldozing Valkyrie Head Rush and beefy blue boomerang guy Gusto, there's one subset of figures this year we really want - the Minis.
The latest to join the veritable ranks of the Skylanders, the Minis are pint-sized versions of a whole load of old favourites, done in a sort of 'chibi' style, with big eyes, oversized heads and a distinctly diminutive stature - in a word, cute. And in another, bankrupting.
More cute-as-heck cousins than outright copies of their older counterparts, each Mini appears as their teeny tiny selves in game, but are fully playable characters in their own right, able to dish out a beating, collect items, and earn experience like any other. Packing a similar punch to their bigger brothers, the Minis thankfully don't take a hit in the stats area either, coming complete with the same health, the same power, and unfortunately, the same upgradable move-set as their larger siblings. Personally, we would have liked at least a few Mini-exclusive moves thrown in there to make them seem more unique, rather than just scaled down versions of the big guys, to sweeten the deal a touch - but when they're this squee-inducing, we'll take what we can get.
Sold in double packs, the Minis can only be bought in pairs, with each bundle netting you two figures of the same elemental type. To make up for their diminutive stature, each pack will set you back roughly £14.99 - so about £7.50 per miniature. At the time of writing, only half of the sixteen announced Minis are available in stores, with the Life, Water, Fire and Air types noticeable by their absence. In fact, the only way to get your hands on a Life Mini at the moment is to buy the 3DS Trap Team Starter Pack, which comes with a copy of the game, a portal, a Gusto figure, and mini Tree Rex, Barkley. While they were scarcely seen in the run up to launch, the packs have started popping up now at most retailers, and can be found at GAME, Toys R Us, Amazon and Smyths Toys.
So, without further ado, here's a bit more information about each pack.
The Undead pack (Amazon link) contains mini versions of Eye Brawl and Hex, known as Eye Small and Hijinx respectively. Much like his giant counterpart, Eye Small can summon a herd of even more miniature eyeballs to do his bidding, and can even detach his head and fly it around the stage, zapping bad guys like a mobile turret. The dark elf necromancer Hijinx meanwhile can summon explosive skulls to rain down on her enemies, conjure a wall of bones to protect herself and her allies, and pelt her opponents with homing spectral energy balls. All in all, a pretty deadly combination of minis - and as an added bonus, Eye Small looks pretty good in the in-game Burberry hat.
Next up is the Earth pack (Amazon link), which contains the adorable duo of Bop and Terrabite, the littler versions of Spyro's Adventure faves Bash and Terrafin. While Bash is a fairly formidable rock dragon, his Mini counterpart Bop is perhaps one of the cutest of the lot, while also packing quite a punch with his mixture of deadly tail swipes and enemy-squashing boulder rolling. Terrabite meanwhile has plenty of brawling punching attacks, and his signature swimming underground move, which lets him avoid enemy attacks, biding his time and waiting for the perfect opportunity to unleash his mega belly flop attack. If that's not enough, he can also summon a swarm of even dinkier land-sharks to latch onto enemies too!
Minis Spry and Mini Jini make up the Magic duo (Amazon link), as chibi versions of main dragon Spyro and female genie giant Ninjini respectively. Much like their older siblings, Spry defeats his enemies with fireballs and headbutts, while Mini Jini hacks her foes to pieces with dual blades or damages them with magical orbs - and when the going gets tough, she can hide herself away in her genie bottle, from which she can shoot rockets, put enemies into a trance or blast out in a deadly explosion. She's the virtual embodiment of phenomenal cosmic power in an itty bitty little figure.
Last, but by no means least, comes the Tech Pack (Amazon link), with everyone's favourite money-obsessed loon Trigger Happy, and the steampunk robo dragon thing, Drobot - in their Mini forms Trigger Snappy and Drobit. The 'gremlin with the golden gun', Trigger Snappy's move set mostly revolves around his dual (gold coin firing) pistols, with the addition of explosive golden safes and a massive golden machine gun that turn Trigger Happy into a handy turret. As for Drobit, while we wouldn't really class him as a particularly adorable Mini, given what the Toys For Bob folks had to work with, we don't think they did too badly, all things considered - after all, he does shoot laser beams from his eyes, and dice enemies to death with his spinning blades as they ricochet off all the walls.
These four packs make up the first 'wave' of Minis, with a second batch still to come - although when they'll show up in the shops is yet to be seen. The remaining figures are as follows, complete with suitably pun-tastic names:
- Barkley - Life type
Mini Tree Rex, a giant tree who can smash enemies beneath his fist, or run them over in a charge
- Breeze - Air type
Mini Whirlwind, a unicorn dragon that shoots rainbows to damage enemies and heal allies
- Gill Runt - Water type
Mini Gill Grunt, a gun-wielding fish thing who attacks with a mix of harpoons and jets of water
- Pet Vac - Air type
Mini Jet Vac, an eagle-like bird who attacks with bursts of air from his trusty Vac-Blaster
- Small Fry - Fire type
Mini Fryno, a fiery rhino with a temper to match, punching and molten motorcycling his way through enemies
- Thumpling - Water type
Mini Thumpback, a whale who attacks with a mix of anchor swings and belly flops
- Weerupter - Fire type
Mini Erupter, a lava monster who hurls balls of lava at enemies, before melting into a deadly lava pool
- Whisper Elf - Life type
Mini Stealth Elf, a fast and deadly female ninja who can distract enemies with decoys as she slashes with her dual blades
Seasoned Skylanders fans may recognise some of the Minis from games gone by, where various special promotions could net you exclusive, rare 'sidekick' figures, which would simply follow your 'main' Skylander around in the levels of the older games. The new Minis are essentially an evolution of that, and actually use the same figures - meaning if you were lucky enough to have any of the promotional sidekicks, those figures are now fully playable as Minis in the new game, and many of the Minis you buy now can be used as companions in the older titles. Only figures that previously existed as sidekicks are backwards compatible - so Whisper Elf, Terrabite, Gill Runt, Trigger Snappy, Barkley, Mini-Jini, Eye-Small or Thumpling will be able to go back in Skylanders time.
So far, so good, and so cute - in fact, one of the only real problems we have the Minis is the price. As we mentioned earlier, you can get the double packs from most retailers, such as GAME, Toys R Us and Smyth's Toys for about £14.99 each. Noticing the distinct lack of Minis on Amazon UK up until a few days ago, we accidentally stumbled across the US site, and found the same packs of Minis for $13.99. We're sadly used to retailers doing the straight dollars to pounds conversion by now - wrong as it may be - but adding a pound on to that? That's a new one. A quick Google later and we find that works out at a bargain £10.63 per pack (£8.69 + 20% VAT, which isn't included in the US prices).
And the worst part? Had they priced them at about £10 RRP for each double pack, we would have bought them all without a second thought, alongside a £50 Starter Pack, for getting on for £100. At £15 - a 50% increase on the US prices - it doesn't seem so much of an impulse buy, so we'll be biding our time for the deals.
Still, rant over, the Skylanders Minis are definitely the cutest way to play the latest game in the series. While only half of the 16 announced Minis are in stores at the moment (we're still holding out for a Mini Whirlwind, and Weerupter is seriously adorable), the first 8 figures are fairly easy to track down, even if £14.99 is towards the higher end of our price range.