Skylanders Trap Team Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox One
Following on from the hugely successful Skylanders Swapforce, and Giants before that, comes the now seemingly yearly iteration of the Skylanders franchise - this time there are traps!
Alternating in a similar fashion to the way Call of Duty developers used to through the all- powerful Activision it is Toys for Bob’s turn this year, then with Vicarious Visions being the team that brought us Swapforce last Christmas, and there are a few new tricks on display - not least of all the jump from old consoles to new, as well as new characters, new mechanics, the always constant drop of adult friendly humour and of course traps. In fairness to the developers this is all whilst still maintaining the core strategy of being on every platform ever created in time for Christmas...no mean feat.
Picking up where Swapforce ended (check out our Swapforce Review - ) our new Skylanders (or old ones if you still have them) are faced with a new foe, the Doom Raiders. These guys are the worst of the worst when it comes to cartoonish baddies and have been locked away safely in Cloudcracker prison. Sadly for our beloved heroes the always amusing Kaos has set them free and they are naturally intent on conquering all, including the much loved Skylands. To combat such comical evil we are introduced to a new breed of Skylander, the Trap Masters, utilising the expertly named Traptanium to recapture the Doom Raiders and send them back from whence they came.
The story sets up a ten hour long campaign which can be played in couch co-op and is, as with the other outings, a perfect entry level or gateway game for younglings or very casual gamers alike. The main campaign sees you taking control of either new or old Skylanders, depending on how many you held on to from the previous games, as you make your way through nineteen chapters of bright, breezy and not too difficult monster slaying or capturing. The gameplay itself hasn’t changed greatly from earlier iterations, you still work your way through some neatly designed (always themed), colourful levels with a gun in hand and the jump button - added to this are situational puzzles, actual lock puzzles, some on-rails shooting sections and a really nice Hearthstone type of effort called Skystones Smash. Side missions and random rooms litter your path so it’s quite easy to extend the already reasonably long campaign experience. Most are fun and easy enough, taking the form of a passive quest objective (collecting stuff) along the route you were about to take anyway.
As you progress you level up your current Skylander, as well as accruing the game’s currency as you go. The ability to purchase upgrades is still there and as loot is shared with your co-op partner for the first time, you will hit the level cap per character well before the end of the main campaign. As if all of this wasn’t enough, trinkets, silly hats and rare treasure can be found on all levels further providing passive boosts to your hero.
As with all previous Skylanders games though a considerable amount of contact is gated behind having the correct element character - not having a Skylander with the Earth element for example will mean you quite simply are unable to play this section. Fear not though, you can use your characters from older games right? Not so much. Quite a bit of content requires not only the right element but it’s the right element and the right type of Skylander. Keep your credit card ready to rock parents, if you want to see everything in this game.
The key additions to the franchise in this adventure come in the form of the new Skylanders, with their new abilities and the power to wield traptanium, but by far and away the best new feature is the traps themselves, plus what they bring to the party. A cynical man would say it is a gimmick put in place to sell yet more stuff to bullied parents and they would be right, however the pain is lessened somewhat as it works really well. The ability to trap your downed foes and then utilise them for brief periods during missions is a great addition. Add to this the characters themselves mock you from the portal itself - the actual audio emanating from the portal rather than the TV is always highly amusing, particularly in the heat of battle. Due to the variety of the characters you will find in your trap (one at a time, whilst all are held back in the jail at your main hub and can’t be swapped out between levels) this actually doesn’t seem to get old - this is as much to do with the writing and quality voice acting, as it is with the sheer variety. The only drawback to this new mechanic, for the parents at least, is that you need specific element type traps to capture each foe - more things to buy!
The writing remains top notch and as with all previous iterations; the ability to keep the parents chuckling while the kids oggle their Skylander is a very welcome treat. It’s rare that a movie, let alone a game, achieves this sort of balance and it’s fair to say that on top of the writing, mixing in all the other elements, it’s unusual that a game caters for some father-son (or mother-daughter ofcourse) co-operative play in such a pleasing manner.
Co-op is well executed, utilising a drop in, drop out function when the main player is in the hub world - just load up another profile, add a second character to the traptanium portal and bam, your guest is in the game with you. As ever with couch co-op games there are some clear design choices to be made, and people will always have their favourite, for example split screen, tethered or dynamic split screen. Skylanders sticks with its traditional formula and goes for the tethered option - this absolutely works within the confines of the level design as everything is tight, it’s not open world and only on the odd occasion will two players be zapped back together due to drifting, or more often jumping, too far apart. It’s a system that works really well and if you have a young one, Skylanders Trap Team is just a great game to enjoy with them.
Perhaps the most jarring thing about this latest iteration is how damn good it looks on the PS4 and we assume Xbox One is the same. Skylanders games have always been bright, colourful and wacky but they have absolutely never looked this good. Colours pop, character animations are smooth as silk and even the cutscenes look substantially better than on previous generation. As ever the art style along with the general sense of humour that has always been present in Skylanders titles is still here and working alongside the sometimes jarringly good visuals the experience really is a pleasure to play. The performance on the PS4 is flawless also, making the awful performance of this franchise’s main rival Disney Infinity 2.0, even more questionable. Comedy hats off to the team at Toys for Bob, they nailed this from a technical perspective.
Yes there is high cost to entry and an even higher one should you wish to experience everything on the disc but once you are on board what you will find is a very well crafted, fun, good looking experience which strikes the perfect balance between young, old, experienced and casual gamers alike. Arguably the best entry in a franchise which shows no signs of withering.