Join the Trap Team
First of all, the entire Skylanders idea is pure business genius. Toys for Bob has created a franchise so wildly successful that even the likes of Disney has emulated their coveted product. Think about it, Skylanders preys on the human need to collect things, it’s marketed to children but is playable by gamers of any age, and (the real hallmark of the series) it is truly fun to play. This combination has catapulted the success of the franchise into the gaming stratosphere, making it a mainstay of the yearly expected release schedule. But, as with any game series, Skylanders must be able to deliver new gameplay experiences in an ever expanding world, lest they fall by the wayside to newer and fresher IP’s.
There are many things about Skylanders: Trap Team that remain from its predecessors, following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. The core of the game is the “swapability” (is that a word?) of the characters that gives players the ability to play any level with any Skylander , creating seemingly endless possibilities for gameplay combinations in any given level. Though the game can be completed with the meager starter pack, there are areas within each level that require Skylanders of certain elements to unlock, so purchasing additional characters will be required to unlock the full potential of the game.
Essentially, if you have played any Skylanders title, you won’t find that any features have been removed from gameplay. Something Toys for Bob has unfailingly delivered on is the expansion of game features without sacrificing already established gameplay components, and Skylanders: Trap Team is no exception. This is a rare quality in the gaming world, with studios removing and/or tweaking features beyond recognition to suit development needs and production cycles. Along with an all new chapter in the Skylanders story, Trap Team delivers an all new game mechanic that changes how the game is played and (as you may have guessed by simply looking at the title) it has to do with trapping your foes.
Kaos is back and he is about to launch his evilest campaign of evil DoooOOooOoom! He is breaking the worst of the worst Skylands villains out of Cloudcracker Prison to become his evil army for the conquest of Skylands. But being a super-villain is hard and he’s unable to control the ravenous power-lust of his newly christened army. Let’s be honest, did he really expect an army of super-villains to not stab him in the back and try to seize power for themselves? They are villains after all.
As Skylanders it is your job to clean up Kaos’s latest mess and capture these fugitives to save Skylands from certain destruction. Using traps made of Traptanium, the Trapmaster of your choice traps their foes once they’ve been defeated. But you don’t just put them back in prison, these trapped villains can now be used in battle! Each with their own abilities, these villains can be used to help take back Skylands. Every trap you use to capture a foe essentially becomes that character, so you can switch between villains on the fly as long as you have enough traps. Each villain is only allowed out of his trap for a certain amount of time before he/she is returned, shown by a timer at the bottom of the screen.
This functionality into a Skylanders tag-team match, with one Skylander and one villain available to play at any given time with the touch of a button. But more importantly, this forces even more interactivity with the physical portal than any of the franchises previous titles. Not only will you need to change Skylanders frequently to complete different parts of the game, you will also need to switch available traps to capture new villains and use your favorites in battle.
This is the real genius of the Skylanders line, bringing the game out of the television and (quite literally) into your living room. By taking on the role of Portal Master you will be addressed as such by Eon and the other inhabitants of Skylands, embarking on a story that’s written as a backdrop to reality. Most games take place in a fantasy world that is completely restricted to the edges of your television screen, but Skylanders writes you into the story and addresses the existence of Skylanders figures in our world as a part of the prose. This is where the game remains to be truly unique, something not easily said about any game these days.
In addition to another interesting chapter in the Skylanders story mode, other gameplay modes fill out the game. Challenge, Versus, and Online play modes each add new ways to level up your characters and play with your friends. Challenges are basically waves of enemies for a Skylander to defeat, with a little tower defense worked in. You can build towers to help your Skylander survive and destroy the oncoming hordes and keeping them throughout the challenge yield additional rewards for your character. Versus mode pits Skylanders against each other in arenas to determine dominance, while online play is pretty much self-explanatory (hint: you play online with other people).
On the technical side, visuals are pretty much what I expected from a Skylanders title. The established style was created on the last generation of consoles and hasn’t changed much, so it looks more or less the same no matter what console you choose to play on, next-gen or not. However, the game performed admirably under heavy visual loads creating an experience uninterrupted by frame rate drops or janky model animations. Visually, the game simply lays a solid foundation, like a smooth canvas for the story to be painted on without interruption.
The soundscape only helps to solidify the foundation, adding in a plethora of comically (and individually) voiced characters and an ambient score that doesn’t detract from gameplay. The Traptanium portal also contains a speaker this time around and utilizes perfectly synced sound effects that fade from your TV and escalate on your portal when capturing or releasing a baddie. Villains also comment on your gameplay from the portal and add extra banter to help bring the game out of the television. Although, the speaker isn’t particularly high quality, so the voices coming through it do sound digitized and “toy-like.”
In the end, Skylanders: Trap Team is an exercise in evolution. Each game in the franchise has progressively added new gameplay elements that add to the overall experience, while keeping the functionality and features that made the game a success in the first place. Not to mention that every Skylander ever released is compatible with Trap Team . Yes, you can tear through the world with your completely leveled up Legendary Trigger Happy or your favorite Swap Force combination right from the start.
This game is gaming at its best if you can afford to track down the extra characters. Trap Team (along with any other Skylanders game) is fun for gamers of any age as long as you can put down that bloody shooter and play something more akin to the platformers of gaming past. But be warned, the Skylanders addiction is a tricky thing and your need to collect that final character can become quite costly. Bah, who cares? It’s only money right?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Visuals are solid but don’t make the next-gen leap. 3.8 Control
Simple controls are easy to learn and master, but never really expand into anything more. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Stellar voice work of a plethora of characters adds to the fun and comical feel. 4.5 Play Value
With so many characters to collect and play, there is plenty of game for any fan of the series. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|