Skylanders might have been marketed as a game for kids, but the addicting "gotta collect them all element" combined with fun and inventive gameplay have made it a staple in both adults and children’s gaming diet. We’re now on the fourth Skylanders game in the series, with the latest being called Skylanders Trap Team. This time it’s all about the villains, or at least, capturing them.
Once again you’ll be required to purchase a new portal to play the game, but thankfully, all of your existing Skylanders are still completely compatible. That said, still expect to shell out plenty of money if you want to get the entire Trap Team experience. This time you’ll be buying new "Trap Team" Skylanders and Elemental Gems to trap those villains in. There’s also new versions of classic Skylanders you can purchase.
Skylanders Trap Team adds a focus on the villains within the game. By putting special crystals in the new portal, players can trap several enemies (that matches the crystal’s element) from within the game to swap to at any time. This isn’t limited to just the major bosses, but dozens of enemies found within the levels themselves. Trapping an enemy will light up your kid’s eyes in amazement as the sound magically travels from the TV to the little portal (yay doppler effect) and lights up the crystal. You’ll hear the bad guy talk about being stuck in his new found prison and how he’s ready to repent his sins and work for the good guys. It’s pretty damn cute, and the random bouts of dialog during combat that come from your currently trapped enemy can be entertaining.
In terms of co-op play, the villains become a third character that either of the two players can switch into at any time. This works out well when you’re low on health, but further more, some of the characters have great co-op support abilities like healing, crowd control or Chill Bill’s freeze gun to stun enemies for your partner.
As we said in our E3 preview of the game, Skylanders Trap Team looks to have some of the most inventive characters to date. My personal favorite Broccoli Guy is a force to be reckoned with and great on co-op support, but there are other wild and random enemies like a giant puking pinata, a sheep with dual rocket launchers on its back and 50 foot slug that has an addiction to soda.
On the disappointing side are the new Trap Team Skylanders themselves, who only seem to be around to break magical crystals located in specific areas of the game to halt progression. They just aren’t as interesting as the Giants were when they were introduced, or as versatile as the Swap Force characters from the previous game. The other problem with the characters in Skylanders Trap Team is that the progression system feels really amped up, and maxing out your character takes no time at all.
This can happen for a few reasons. One of the changes in the game is all loot is shared; meaning all treasure pickups found within the game are earned by both players in co-op. The second is a side effect of a new game mode called Kaos’s Doom Challenge. This survival mode mixes tower defense with wave gameplay across ten maps. It’s quite a lot of fun, though it’s a little easy. Each of the ten maps have you starting up towers with Skylanders of the appropriate element and then taking on up to 10 waves of enemies while protecting a chest which houses a giant boss. Survive the waves, get treasure from the chest. Let the enemies break the chest? You’ll need to conquer the boss. But the problem is, the rate at which you earn gold and bonuses is incredibly rapid; every wave you’ll be collecting gold and XP. I took a level one character all the way to fourteen in just five missions - which took about an hour of play. Yup, you can basically grind your Skylanders up levels so you can own the town.
There’s a new main hub this time around too, a castle with a few different areas to explore. In the center is a vault which lets you switch different villains in and out of the traps you have to bring on missions, and you can even trap villains you might have missed because you didn’t have that elemental trap required to during the story. There’s also a really bizarre mini game that’s called a "rap battle" - it’s basically a quicktime event Guitar Hero clone with weird words. I don’t even know.
The story itself is fairly meaty and while most veterans of the series won’t find any area particularly difficult, the addition of different styles of platforming thanks to the jump ability and several mini-game like levels help keep a good variety and pacing throughout the campaign. Once again you’ll be blocked from certain areas if you don’t own Skylanders of the specific element or type, and you’ll be rewarded with bonuses for having trapped villains (there are optional mini stories for them) or Trap Team members in certain areas with bonus chests.
All in all Skylanders Trap Team is a solid and entertaining title for the series that builds on all of the previous games. The game looks great on the Xbox One and PS4 with colorful textures, as well as characters and environments that offer a lot of rich depth. The voice acting is superb as well, hearing your kid laugh at the cheesy one liners is always smile inducing, and of course many of them should make you laugh too. The Skylanders series continues to offer great co-op games for families with addicting and entertaining gameplay. I just wish it wasn’t such an expensive investment.