Skylanders: Trap Team Review (PlayStation 4)
A brand new Skylanders game has arrived, accompanied by the myriad toys and accessories that will slowly (or quickly, depending on your addiction level), bleed your wallet dry. It might make it so that your existing Skylanders are rendered useless, but it just might be the best Skylanders yet.
In Skylanders: Trap Team, Kaos is reeling from being trounced in Swap Force and tries to hatch another scheme to take control of the Skylands. This time, he’s figured it’d be a good idea to release a host of villains called the Doom Raiders from what was thought to be an impregnable prison called Cloudcracker Prison, a building made of a rare material called Traptanium. The story has it that the Trap Masters of old used weapons crafted out of Traptanium in order to defeat and capture the Doom Raiders. After Kaos blows the whole thing up, he frees the Doom Raiders. As the Portal Master, you’re charged with helping the Trap Masters round up villains and defeat the Doom Raiders using traps made of Traptanium that are imbued with elemental powers. Just think of it as Pokemon, except catching bad guys and you’re using little, plastic totems that you stick into a Traptanium Portal instead of a Pokeball.
The base of operations is Skylanders: Trap Team is Skylanders Academy, a hub in which you’ll undertake quests to advance the story, upgrade your skills in order to make your Skylanders more powerful, purchase items, compete in mini-games, take on Kaos’ arena-based challenges and store your captured villains in the Villain Vault. It’s also where you can interact with characters like Flynn, voiced by the ever-so-familiar Patrick Warburton, and even Kaos himself, voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz of ‘Invader Zim’ and ‘The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy’ fame. Kaos has always been one of the best things about Skylanders, and Trap Team makes him even better by giving you the chance to capture him and control him via a special Kaos Trap included with the Dark Edition Starter Sets. Most villains also have a redemption quest hidden in some stages that will make them more powerful and turn them into evolved forms of themselves, which is pretty awesome.
In fact, the ability to capture villains and use them in the game is the coolest thing about Trap Team. The brand new Traptanium Portal includes a slot in the front in which you can stick one of the eight different types of traps. After you defeat a villain in the story mode, the option to trap the baddie will appear and you can stick a trap in the slot to transfer that villain into said trap. Of course, you have to match the villain’s element, so you might find yourself running out and buying whole sets of traps just to have enough to capture the villains you want. My recommendation? Stick with the Broccoli Guy. Not only does he sound like a cheesy stand-up comedian, but he’s got good mobility, an attack that can take out groups of foes without causing him to stand still and be vulnerable and he can lay down a spell that will recover health over time. Simply switch out, cast the healing spell and then switch back to your main Skylander and stand on the spell in order to survive most boss battles.
While strolling through the action-platforming heavy stages in the story mode, you might find that all of the enemies and puzzles are easy enough to dispatch or solve, but the same cannot be said of the bosses. They range from being incredibly easy to beat by employing a tank-and-spank tactic (just run up to the villain and keep hitting him until he goes down, even if your own health gets damaged), or somewhat really tough just because of how much they damage you, even if your Skylander is at an appropriate level. While it didn’t make anything especially difficult, it did raise an eyebrow or two when it came to trying to breeze through the game’s many chapters.
If you need a break from the action-platforming and figure-collecting madness, you can seek out non-player characters to engage in games of Skystones Smash, a simple card game in which you place down cards one at a time in three lanes on the playmat in order to have them go head-to-head with your opponents’. Each player starts with 10 health and the object is to bring your opponent’s health down to zero using cards with characters on them that feature health and attack totals. If you have a card that has four health and an attack power of three, then it will take four total damage from the opposing player’s card to defeat yours and to clear up the lane for damage to hit your health totals directly. It’s pretty much a simplified version of Magic the Gathering or any other type of collectible card game out there. It’s also one of the best ways to earn gold, so never pass up a chance to duel someone if you want to max out your Skylanders’ upgrades and purchase hats and trinkets.
While you can complete the game using just the contents of the Starter Set (a Traptanium Portal, the Snap Shot Trap Master, Food Fight Skylander, a Life Trap and a Water Trap), you’re going to want to purchase more Trap Masters and and Traps if you want to explore everything there is to see, especially since there are gates to hidden areas that can only be opened by Trap Masters of the corresponding elements. It’s just a shame that the Trap Masters, as cool as they are with their special Traptanium Weapons, have rendered the previous sets of Skylanders pretty much useless in Trap Team. The Trap Masters are more powerful in the game and the sculpts on their larger figures are more impressive too, especially since they’re wielding Traptanium weapons.
The controls are basic and allow for simple combination attacks, special moves that can involve holding a certain button down and jumping. There’s nothing really complex about them, although I do wish the developers would add a button to allow Skylanders to sprint. Skylanders move like molasses and, unless you can use a skill that zips you across the screen faster, it takes a little while to traverse the interesting and varied environments of Skylands. It’s a double-edged sword, since even though you’re going slow, it also means that you’re able to take in the sights of stages more. My personal favorite is a clockwork town that was full of gears, cranks and steam vents.
While there’s no getting past the fact that each stage basically serves as a “monster of the week” episode for a Saturday morning cartoon show (RIP), it makes it so that you can play Skylanders in short bursts and still get some fun out of it. I expected to go into the experience scoffing at the gameplay since I viewed it as a product only targeting younger children, but I found myself enamored with the goofy story, the bright settings, the fun characters and their great voice actors and the sheer fun of trapping a villain and finding out what it could do. My only problem now is that I’m running out of shelf space because I need more Trap Masters.
This review was based on a purchased retail copy of Skylanders: Trap Team (Starter Pack) for PlayStation 4.