Skylanders Trap Team Review
The Skylanders phenomena took root in 2011 and hasn’t let up its powerful grasp on consumers and gamers alike thanks to the innovative “Toys to Life” concept, which allows physical collectibles to be transported into a video game to be played with virtually. Powerful brand owners like Disney took note of this license to print cash, and thanks to the success of the Skylanders franchise, the Disney Infinity franchise sprung up featuring very similar concepts, albeit with established Disney characters and properties. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say, so while the Skylanders now have competition, it’s still the franchise that created it all, which is why gamers shouldn’t be surprised that the latest entry, Skylanders Trap Team, further enhances what the series has offered players over the past three years.
In the latest Skylanders adventure players are tasked with bringing balance to the Skylands after Kaos frees the fabled Doom Raiders from their Traptanium prison. Due to the prison break the villains get back to their plans for world domination and gold hoarding, but little did they know that their former prison could be used against them to bring them to justice. The shards from the prison have been turned into Traptanium Traps, which are new to the Skylanders franchise, and plug directly into the portal base so you can capture the bad guys and make them do your bidding.
It’s up to you and your collection of Skylanders toys to use these traps to recapture all of the Doom Raiders and their henchmen, and use their own powers against them to achieve victory. Along the way you work with a very unlikely ally to take down the Doom Raiders one by one over eighteen campaign missions, which also feature many side quests and unlockables to find along the way. The story is reminiscent of what you’d see in a Saturday morning cartoon series, so it’s definitely intended for kids, but the narrative is also entertaining for adults making it an enjoyable experience to play with young gamers, or on your own. The visuals are clean and naturally cartoonish looking, but they won’t win any awards, especially on the next-gen consoles. The voice acting on the other hand is some of the best I’ve heard in 2014, and it’s amazing to hear so many different characters all have unique sounding voices and personalities, which definitely adds to the overall solid production value present in Skylanders Trap Team.
Trap Team features a surprisingly long campaign that can be lengthened if you own enough Skylander toys and traps to unlock the various side missions in each level. You definitely have to buy into the Skylanders franchise and invest in a few toys to be able to complete all of the campaign content, which is kind of a bummer if you’re on a budget, or a parent that simply can’t afford to buy another $15 toy for the kiddos, but you don’t necessarily need a huge collection to enjoy and complete Skylanders Trap Team. You just won’t be able to fully complete it without owning at least one of every trap, and one of every Skylander type.
The campaign gameplay is reminiscent of one of the recent Lego titles, so it’s not overly challenging, and can be played by gamers of all skill levels. Some of the puzzles offer a bit of a challenge, and thanks to the variety in villains, you will also encounter different flavors of boss battles, but rarely will your gamer skills be put to the test, which is quite fine in a game like Skylanders Trap Team. The controls are solid and the platforming is fun, and it’s also cool that you can use a plethora of Skylanders characters who each feature unique abilities that can be upgraded with coins as characters in the game. The characters are what make the game so much fun, and why the franchise is a smash hit with young collectors and toy lovers alike, as well as why this franchise can end up costing you an arm and a leg.
The campaign is full of content and gameplay, but it’s not the only mode available in the game. In addition to the campaign, players can also explore the Skylanders Academy, which has denizens to visit and secret areas to explore that play out like 2D platforming games from the past. Players can also play through the Kaos Doom Challenge mode, which is a hybrid of the tower defense genre and standard Trap Team gameplay. I found this mode to be one of my favorites, and it can get quite hectic as you approach the later levels that throw tons of enemies at you in short periods of time. There’s also a Battle Arena to test your fighting skills with certain modifiers or challenges added to the mix. Finally, if you’re into card games there’s a meta game called Skystones Smash, which is actually fun to play and strategize over.
Skylanders Trap Team’s newest innovation is the use of Traptanium Traps, which get inserted into the portal base to be used to trap the various villains that you’ll come across in the game. The traps are based on various elements and classifications such as earth, water, air, or magic, and look like totems or other objects such as a hammer. Depending on the type of trap it can be used to capture an enemy in the game, which in turn can be used as a playable character. Trapped villains can be swapped to with he LT button on the fly while playing, which gives Trap Team a tag team feel and a bit of strategy during the game’s eighteen main missions. Each villain has their own quest to complete, and depending on how you use them, the villains can be turned to the light side of the Trap.
Just like the Skylanders toys, trapped villains can be taken with you to be used with friends, so they’re not contained to just your playthrough. Unfortunately, just like the toys, you’re required to buy multiple traps if you want to fully unlock all of the content in Skylanders Trap Team, which can get very expensive, and considering the traps aren’t nearly as brilliant looking as the figures, it’s hard to want to invest money into them since they ultimately don’t add much to the game, and they surely don’t look cool enough to display with your other collectible toys. It would have been appreciated if the traps weren’t tied to elements, or if they could contain multiple villains to use, because it did feel like the new mechanic was created to encourage more dollars to be spent at the store, rather than to truly revolutionize the Skylanders gameplay formula.
If you’re a newcomer to the Skylanders franchise like myself, Skylanders Trap Team is a great place to start getting introduced to the franchise. It doesn’t take long at all to see why this franchise has become one of the most popular toy and video game series to be released in the past three years thanks to the awesome collectible figures and the easy-to-play-but-not-boring gameplay. Trap Team’s campaign is lengthy and sports all sorts of side quests and replayability. The additional gameplay modes help to change up the pace of the campaign and give players other ways to enjoy their figures and play with them in the game. The voice cast is easily one of the best assets of the game, which really helps to breath life into the world and its zany cast of characters. The new Traps are definitely gimmicky and feel like a bit of a cash grab, but you’re not forced to really use them, so if you’re fine with missing out on the villain quests, you can get buy without a heavy investment into Trap toys.
Skylanders Trap Team made me a fan of the franchise, so long time fans and parents looking to bond with their kids, or toy lovers looking to bring their collections to life, will not be disappointed with the latest helping of Skylanders lore.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided the Skylanders Trap Team starter pack for the PS4 from the publisher for the purposes of this review.