Every generation of childhood has had it’s own flavours of trendy fads and unfortunate cash cows for disapproving parents, who are bankrupting themselves to keep their children happy and up to date. Growing up in the 90s my parents had to empty their wallets for pokemon cards, baggy jeans and ‘mosher’ chains, whilst parents these days have the generous support from expensive consoles and annual releases to occupy their short attention spanned sprogs with. From working in retail, there was nothing funnier than crying parents and screaming children demanding the latest edition of a game, only to find out that everything they have bought previously is invalid and thus been ‘re-re-re released’ only stronger and they need to buy yet another starter pack because apparently this portal is even better than before, oh and if you thought the characters last time were expensive, then check out these ones! … In all honesty, the worst thing I have said in recent memory is “Let’s see what this Skylanders is all about”.
Skylanders: Trap Team is this years installment of the record breaking, multi million dollar action adventure franchise from Activision. Following on from the events in the brilliant ‘Swap Team’, antagonist Kaos blows up Cloudcracker Prison and releases the worst villains in all of Skylands. During the aftermath, the legendary Trap Master Skylanders decend back upon Skyland along with the Traptanium that was used to build the once impenetrable super prison. This latest addition sees you, (The Portal Master) take the newly created Traptanium Portal to save Skylands from the evil threat of it’s most heinous of baddies. Always pushing innovation with every release, as well as a new portal in your arsenal, players now have access to Traptanium Shards, which are used to capture some of the game’s villains, giving you the ability to swap between good guys and bad guys to help you win the war. Alongside new and upgraded characters of old, prospective Portal Masters are joined by a new class of ally, Trap Masters, who not only look bad ass but boast awesome abilities and strong attributes and are your front line of offence when taking down the game’s new trappable enemies. Posing as a children’s game about magical statues that come to life, Skylanders is actually a challenging, in-depth and beautifully crafted old school action platformer that appeals to not only young audiences, but fans of previous gen masterpieces like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Ratchet & Clank. Last year I thought I’d give the franchise a go and pick up Swap Force, vowing I’d play through it once and trade it in against “something better”, yet 12 months later I have 18 characters to my name and the Trap Team starter pack on my coffee table, I’ve still not found a richer more enjoyable action adventure title and I’m taking money out of my savings account to buy new heroes …
Opening the box I am presented with the largest portal to date as this time there is a nifty little speaker disguised as a prison cell with an odd shaped hole on top. The characters I am given come in the form of SnapShot, a water crocodile equipped with a magical sword crossbow thing and Food Fight, an narcissistic cabbage with a tomato bazooka from the ‘life’ attribute. Instead of the usual 3rd character found in past starter packs, I am this time given 2 traps, which when placed in the portal will capture or unleash a new powerful villain to play as. The 2 traps are water and life based, which is a little annoying as there is no variety in what attribute you can play as from the start of the game, if you want a tech or magic based skylander to help defeat a boss early on, well you’re a bit buggered. From the off I am gloriously welcomed back to the beautifully designed and vibrant Skylands that I remember, everything looks and feels familiar, which isn’t a negative by any means, why fix something that isn’t broken. Each ‘Skylanders’ title has had spectacular visuals with consistently sharp, colourful and magical locations & characters, causing it to be an instant pleasure to explore. Anyone that has played the previous games will be glad to hear their favourite characters make a roaring return to Skylands, in particular the self penned ‘greatest pilot that ever lived’ Flynn, voiced by Patrick Warburton, who is otherwise widely recognisable as voicing Joe Swanson in Family Guy. If you’re assuming that from hiring a comic actor such as Warburton that the game contains a good sense of humour, then you can rest assured that daft gags and sarcastic observations are common place throughout the game, especially with the incredible and highly entertaining array of voice actors that really bring the supporting cast to life.
As outlined above, the game’s narrative revolves around you, the portal master, taking the mighty Trap Masters on a global man hunt to track down the infamous Doom Raiders, a band of the most villainous sods in all of Skyland. To achieve this, you are given new traps, that like your skylanders, can come in 8 different attributes (earth, fire, undead etc), and placing a specific trap into the portal allows you to capture your fallen enemies or play them into battle. Each trap is equipped with a recognisable chip that transposes onto the screen and once multiple villains have been trapped, the game cleverly remembers who has been assigned to each of your traps. When you’re not playing as your captured villains, they will constantly remind you of their existence by talking at you about their desire to help, or responding to something another character has said. Some playable villains are more annoying than others, whilst more often than not you’ll find yourself chuckling at the witty and enthusiastic quips of your fallen brothers, ‘Broccolli Guy’ in particular is my favourite to date. A good action adventure game isn’t without it’s side quests and Trap Team is the biggest addition to the franchise yet. When you’re not flying around the globe taking down Kaos and the Doom Raiders, you can compete in the ‘Battle Arena’, which gives you a number of tricky stipulated challengers to compete in, a kind of tower defence spin off with Kaos sending waves upon waves of enemies at you, and finally (my favourite) we have a bizarre Skylander’s Rip off of Guitar Hero, which sees you perform in a rap battle against the game’s most popular NPC, and a band of skeletons. There is an awful lot to get on with here if you’re looking for a challenge, adjusting the game’s difficulty alone makes it a much more enjoyable play, and the side story activities are even harder to master; it may look like a child’s game but it is far from being one.
Every year, Activision provide us with yet another reason why we simply must buy more characters and ultimately its because a percentage of the game is locked until you purchase a specific Skylander. This isn’t any different with Trap Team, where after forking out £60 for the game you expect to just crack on with it, only to find on the first chapter that 25% of that level isn’t playable, and unfortunately this trend will continue until the franchise packs in. The new obtainable villains in the game act as sub-bosses, which makes them much more difficult to defeat and are easily trapped when fighting with a Trap Master … but only having one to start with and watching them die is infuriating, so much so that within the first hour of playing I had to nip out and spend an additional £15 on Krypt King (the most badass of the new Trap Masters by the way). To coincide with the new Trap Masters, Activision have kindly released new ‘mini’ Skylanders, that are cheaper to buy however provide no real field advantage apart from having a smaller, weaker sidekick at your beckon call. In the same fashion as the previous Skylander titles, new ‘Adventure Packs’ are also available to buy, which give you an exclusive new character, stat boosters and an extra chapter to play. If 3 additional wallet emptiers weren’t enough, you’ll be saddened to hear that the new ‘Traps’ aren’t cheap to buy at £6-£8 each, and if you want to capture every possible villain, you’ll want to pick up at least 6 more, which to add to what you’ve already spent, is a gross amount of money just to play 100% of an already expensive game.
Skylanders: Trap Team is a highly enjoyable game but sadly also the most expensive one to date. Visually it’s gorgeous and once you start playing you can’t deny how well made the game is, which isn’t surprising considering how much money it rakes in every Christmas. With innovation being the drive behind each Skylanders release, Trap Team is the most creative so far, giving you not only a new way to play, but giving you an insight into the other side of the world’s coin; sometimes it’s cool to play as a baddie every now and then. With a fun and vibrant narrative mixed in with a huge array of challenging content, it’s a perfect adventure game for anyone of any age and any ability. If you can put behind spending over £100 to fully unlock the game’s potential, you’ll find a solid, magical adventure ahead of you that will keep you enthralled for hours. Most games these days have locked content that becomes accessible for a small fee, and for the 4th year of Activision’s massive cash cow we know what to expect each time we pick it up, yet with Trap Team there are far too many add-ons, gimmicks and new characters to play as, so much so that even more content of the game is unreachable without owning at least one of every type. One can presume we’ll be graced with yet another outing from the Skylanders gang next year but surely where can they go now? A fully playable game for half the price would be a good start, “Skylanders: Bargain Hunters” anyone?
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.