Skylanders: Trap Team Review: A unique adventure with a magical level of interaction

Version played: PlayStation 4

As the fourth main entry in the popular Skylanders series, Skylanders: Trap Team arrives at a time when Activision’s innovative concept of bringing ‘Toys to Life’ has already captured the hearts and imagination of children across the globe. Like a modern day equivalent of the World Cup Panini Sticker Album, it’s a franchise that preys on the completionists amongst us, though does so by offering something much more tangible, personal and interactive than a mere sticker and playground bragging rights.

For those new to the series, the concept of Skylanders revolves around real toy characters which can be used to unlock their corresponding in-game avatar. By placing a figurine on a USB portal that character then magically appears in-game sporting a range of powers that are as unique as its custom-built personality. Each Trap Team starter pack comes with two characters, but you can buy more figurines to enrich the experience and also use existing characters from previous games.

Despite the huge array of characters currently available to buy, as well as the addition of physical elemental traps in this latest edition, Trap Team keeps things relatively simple from the outset with a good versus bad storyline that is easy to identify with regardless of age. The tale revolves around a group of villainous creatures known as the Doom Raiders who were initially captured by an elite team of Skylanders and locked up in Cloudcracker Prison. In Trap Team, these bad guys have escaped and are causing mayhem so it’s up to the Skylanders to round them up and bring them back to justice. Though the story is basic, it’s brought to life in an entertaining way with an attractive, colourful game world filled with dozens of wacky characters who have a sense of humour that should appeal to children, as well as many of the adults that are likely to play Trap Team alongside their offspring.

Though Trap Team has some light RPG elements, with combat and defensive upgrades available to purchase for in-game gold, gameplay largely focuses on the action with Skylanders characters platforming their way around the game world taking down the bad guys with a range of weapons and powers. From grenade launchers that shoot out tomatoes to a haunted sword that slows down enemies, there’s a great deal of weapon variety and fun to be had as players swap different Skylander characters in-and-out-of the game and even step into the guise of those villains they trap via a handy hot-swap function.

Gameplay is infinitely rewarding throughout Story Mode with gold, treasure and neatly-wrapped present boxes awarded frequently for completing chapters, taking down enemies and smashing open everything in sight. These rewards can be spent between chapters at the Skylanders academy where you can buy trinkets and hats to upgrade abilities and customise your characters. With the likes of Food Fight’s artichoke traps, or Gusto’s ability to inhale enemies and spit them out, there’s fun to be had levelling up your characters and testing out their various abilities on the host of wacky enemies that you’ll face.

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From ‘mildly-irritating’ sheep with rockets strapped to their backs to Boris Blisterbottom who leaves a trail of fire wherever he goes, there’s a diverse cast of characters that never fail to surprise or entertain with their unique personalities and range of moves. Despite this, gameplay leans much more towards accessibility than challenge and I found that (aside from some mildly tough boss fights) I could largely rely on spamming the Square button to kill enemies. That level of simplicity also applies to the environment-based puzzles, such as moving around vine nuts to create bridges, which offers a different take on the tried-and-tested crate-shifting puzzles of many platform games, but offers little to task even the youngest of players. Nevertheless, Trap Team still manages to keep you hooked.

Part of its appeal is the attractive game world and the vast array of characters that you interact with, each of which is voiced superbly by a cast of actors who have clearly mastered the art of comedy timing. Gameplay is also broken up extremely well with mini-games such as Skystone Smash, a collectible strategy-based card game, and lock puzzles that need to be solved to open certain gates. There’s also the option to face single player arena battles and Kaos horde mode challenges which offer different ways of levelling up, as well as jumping into co-op play where players can alternate between Skylanders or villains. What really sets Trap Team apart from the crowd though is the interaction between the game and the figurines as you swap characters in and out to tackle certain situations or unlock elemental doors, and suck enemies into the USB trap portal after a battle.

Dubbed the Traptanium Portal, Trap Team’s new accessory is brilliant. While a ring of light – which matches the element colour of your Skylander – glows around the circular arena, a small hexagonal hole can be used to insert elemental traps (key-like objects) to capture enemies. A built-in speaker means that when enemies are trapped they appear to talk to you through the bars of a cell door on the portal, sometimes offering advice or criticism, or just generally saying something amusing. It never gets tiring seemingly sucking up a boss into the portal and then waiting for its muffled voice to magically emit from the speakers. My daughter was amazed.

Despite its brilliance at times, Skylanders: Trap Team isn’t devoid of faults. Though the graphics and character models are excellently produced, level design is fairly basic and the action can get a little repetitive. Combat also lacks the complexity and depth that is suggested by the mere fact that it employs a levelling and upgrade system – though younger players may well appreciate that. It can also get a little frustrating when you reach an area of the game that is locked and can only be opened if you have bought the right character type. I experienced this after less than 20 minutes into the game, and it was an irritation that often cropped up.

Nevertheless, Skylanders: Trap Team has turned out to be one of my favourite games of the year as it’s the first video game that I’ve been able to play and enjoy with my young daughter. Though the magic of Skylanders could easily have faded by now, Trap Team reignites it once more thanks to a new bunch of fun characters, a good range of powers and weapons, tons of loot and an ingenious new accessory. Though the potential cost of playing any Skylanders game is a bone of contention among some critics, the fun I’ve already had playing Trap Team with my own daughter has been invaluable and it speaks volumes that I’m already planning on which new characters to buy for Christmas.



The Final Word

A magical adventure filled with colourful characters and a level of interaction that sucks you right in, Skylanders: Trap Team is a unique experience that once tried won’t be forgotten.