The Skylanders series has rather swiftly defined itself as a veritable mega-franchise, overlapping across toy and video game mediums and it’s easy to see why both sides have garnered appeal. Indeed, creative character designs and addictive RPG-lite gameplay have become what the series is renowned for, and this years Trap Team is no different. But with the franchise seemingly costing more and more each year, one has to ask does Trap Team go too far?
Identically structured to previous Skylanders games, Trap Team sees players hopping from level to level, completing story orientated missions. The story this time around takes a slightly different approach as Kaos decides to enlist the assistance of an elite group of imprisoned villians – the Doom Raiders – in his seemingly never ending quest to become supreme overlord of Skylands. It is of course, your job to prevent this from happening by ‘finding’ Skylanders in the real world to bring to life in-game, and fight against Kaos.
The Doom Raiders prove to be slightly more interesting than Kaos alone, as each have their own personality and this often influences the level design. For instance Dreamcatchers dream and horror themed levels offer a more liberal structure, almost as if they were constructed from within a dream. This variability helps with the games pacing, and keeps you wanting to see what the next level brings to the table.
Each of these Doom Raiders eventually makes for an interesting boss fight too and indeed these were the games highlight for us when playing through for the first time. Boss fights in Trap Team are engaging and challenging, each with very unique methods of trying to kill you. These are the utmost test of your platforming and combat abilities as you’re often tasked to dodge lasers, jump across platforms and kill minions all the while attempting to deplete the bosses health bar at the same time.
Alongside these bosses the game features a new system of ‘mini’ bosses, and this is where the games unique trap feature comes into play. Each of these mini-bosses offer a relatively short and honestly; underwhelming encounter. However once defeated they can be captured by placing one of your traps into the portal. Once trapped and inserted into your portal you can tag-in as this villian at any time during gameplay, a good means of keeping yourself alive during some of the more heated encounters and its fun to use each of their unique attacks.
These trapped bosses each have their own personality too, and they speak from your Skylanders portal as you play with them inserted. It’s a great touch and really brings the experience to life, strengthening the fictional connection between reality and the Skylanders universe. Furthermore, the game does a good job in offering a positive depiction of morality and consequence as each villian is given opportunity to atone for their wrong-doings through a mini-quest where they do something positive for the residents of Skylands. These quests can be rather boring however, as they have a tendency to feature very similar mechanics from one to another while presenting little to no challenge.
The story levels themselves are what you will likely sink the most time into, and offer a light hearted blend of combat and platforming orientated sections. For the most part this works relatively well, and the ability to jump introduced in Skylanders Swap Force returns to make combat scenarios more interesting as you can tactfully use the feature to dodge enemy attacks. The game does a good job interchanging between combat, puzzles and platforming to keep each level varied, and the litering of collectibles mean each level lasts a good portion of time, with plentiful replayability.
Despite these merits, Trap Team isn’t quite the game Swap Force was. Reverting back to many of the mechanics from the original Skylanders, and Skylanders Giants. Unfortunately this is to the games detriment, as many of these systems simply don’t work. For instance bounce pads are introduced more prominently as a manner of getting around the games story mode levels. This made sense in the original Skylanders as you weren’t able to jump, yet in Trap Team this becomes a nuisance when playing with two players, as these often cause both characters to reset to the previous platform unless you both hit the bounce pad at the same time.
Perhaps more irritating is the level of hand-holding present in this iteration. The game doesn’t trust you to do anything alone, every puzzle, every significant combat section, and every new area is preceded by a large portion of dialogue. It’s skippable of course, but its detrimental to the games pacing to have the camera pulled away from your characters onto an NPC for a captain-obvious explanation of a puzzle, or door and key segment.
Even from a young child’s perspective it will feel patronising at times. For instance the game features puzzles that have no room for error, and I don’t mean that they’re hard; I mean the game features block-pushing puzzles where it’s literally impossible to push the block in the incorrect direction. What purpose does this serve other than to waste someone’s time? no satisfaction can be garnered from a puzzle that could be solved by a goldfish, and it’s almost insulting to have to go through these segments long-after the core mechanics have been fully introduced.
Underneath these problems though is an undeniably fun action adventure game. Each Skylanders unique power set comes into play nicely during combat sections, with each feeling very district from another. Throughout the levels you can collect loot in order to upgrade their abilities further changing the character to your tastes. It’s easy to see why this is appealing, as each Skylander effectively makes the experience feel like an entirely different game and this lends itself to a bounty of replayability provided your willing to splash out a little more on the figurines.
One of the games largest merits is the return of arenas, and new tower defense Kaos gauntlet mode. These operate outside of the games story and provide another means of playing with your toys. Each arena offers a good challenge with its own set of gimmicks and properties, and it’s great to get a more lengthy combat section to test out your Skylanders combat abilities. Functioning in a similar way Kaos’ arena lets you place turrets in order to defend a chest at the back of the screen. It’s a tower defence hybrid and it works really well.
It goes without saying that whether you like the Skylanders within this series will entirely depend on your personal preferences. There’s a varied new cast of characters and designs, but there will naturally be some you like more than others. Personally I didn’t like the aesthetic of the two characters in the starter pack, but the games backwards compatibility with previous toys allows you to play as your favourites from your adventures past. Overall there’s a huge number of characters you can play as in this iteration, and the fact that the game allows you to get even more out of your older toys is great.
Trap Teams addition in terms of toys are the ‘Trap Masters’. These Skylanders are an elite team that stopped and trapped the Doom Raiders before, so your encouraged to use these on your quest as they have access to specific areas and gates. While it’s easy to see why this feature is present, being forced to buy the more expensive trap-master characters to unlock every door in the game is a pain, and these alongside the addition of the traps themselves makes this by far the most expensive Skylanders title to date if you want to collect everything. Despite this, the characters do have pleasant designs, all featuring special transparent weapons which enable them to break traptanium crystals leading to secret areas. At times these weapons also glow when your fighting certain enemies, it’s a nice effect and adds a little to the sense that these are a new type of character.
It should also be noted that while it’s a shame to have to miss these elemental gates merely because you don’t own the correct elemental trap master, it neither prevents you from unlocking all of the games achievements, or cuts you off from that much more gameplay. These locked segments are brief and merely provide additional hats and treasures. Whilst it’s disappointing not to have access to these items, it in no way prevents the core experience from being enjoyable, and it’s easy to overlook if you’re not wanting to spend too much on the title.
In terms of the games aesthetics and technical performance Skylanders generally holds up quite well. Despite this, texture resolutions can be something of a mixed bag at times. One of the arenas in particular provides a sort of bird-nest environment, but the ground is textured so poorly that it’s just unpleasant to look at. However, these instances are more of an occasional miss-hap than a persistent problem and do little to detract from the experience. Overall the game presents itself with a well composed artstyle and it’s both a beautiful, and creative world that your Skylanders come to life in.
Unfortunately the game features loading screens this time around, whereas Swap Force managed to load its levels during its cutscenes. Loading pulls you from the experience and provides a constant reminder that it’s just a game, detracting from any potential immersive qualities. This is made worse by the fact that these loading screens are presented with huge black screens and some minimal concept art. It could have been done better to naturally integrate into the experience, although with that said these don’t last longer than 10 seconds so it’s easy to forgive.
Character models and animations have clearly been given a lot of love, with the aesthetics of the characters powers and even walk animations being entirely unique to themselves; it’s easy to see how you could justify purchasing a plethora of the little figurines. This attention to detail also makes the games narrative and premise more believable. Furthermore, in terms of stability we didn’t encounter any technical issues during our play-through of Skylanders Trap Team, and the framerate remained solid even during the most intense of boss fights.
Bad Ultimately Trap Team is another great entry in the franchise. While it doesn’t quite match the quality of Swap Force, it does a good job providing another entertaining and engaging world for Skylanders to come to life in. The adventure, while lighthearted manages to be enjoyable and keep you wanting to see what’s around the next corner. Story mode can be a little too assisted at times, preventing players from making their own mistakes, but for those looking for a challenge the arenas provide a huge body of content where you can put your Skylanders skills to the test. Overall Skylanders Trap Team is another great entry in the franchise, and worthwhile even if you don’t want to buy any toys beyond the starter pack. Skylanders Trap Team was reviewed on the XBOX ONE hardware platform and copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.
Ultimately Trap Team is another great entry in the franchise. While it doesn’t quite match the quality of Swap Force, it does a good job providing another entertaining and engaging world for Skylanders to come to life in. The adventure, while lighthearted manages to be enjoyable and keep you wanting to see what’s around the next corner. Story mode can be a little too assisted at times, preventing players from making their own mistakes, but for those looking for a challenge the arenas provide a huge body of content where you can put your Skylanders skills to the test. Overall Skylanders Trap Team is another great entry in the franchise, and worthwhile even if you don’t want to buy any toys beyond the starter pack.
Skylanders Trap Team was reviewed on the XBOX ONE hardware platform and copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.