Skylanders: Trap Team, Gotta snatch ’em all - Games Weekly

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Skylanders: Trap Team, Gotta snatch ’em all

Considering That latecomers to the ‘Toys X Games’ party include giants such as Disney and Nintendo, you really have to hand it to Activision for managing to not only kickstart the entire movement off the back of a single character (Spyro, incredibly) but also for making over a billion dollars in the process.

This is a market that has been grown from effectively nothing the Spyro series was basically dead before this necromantic fundraiser and while it would be easy for the team to keep churning out new toys and accessories that serve no actual purpose except to the oddly persuasive screeching voice
from the back seat of a car, they just keep innovating. This year’s gimmick (and it is just that) might not be quite as smart as those of previous years, but we get the idea that it deals in a kind of magic that those somewhat younger than us might just buy into quite a lot more than we do.

Send your old Portals to the attic, then, because this year’s all-new Portal Of Power comes with some essential features that Trap Team is built around. For one, there’s the hexagonal slot into which Trap to tems can be placed the starter set comes with two and these are needed to capture boss enemies and make them playable. With no life bar, these guys instead stay out until their timer depletes and so relying upon them in anything resembling a challenging situation is not only possible but the best course of action.

Make the bad guys do all the hard work, then just run around as your primary Skylander, avoiding damage until the trapped baddies recharge and are ready to come back out. It’s an exploit that only the smartest younglings will reach on their own but an exploit nonetheless, and one that highlights the fact that while capturing creatures and using them in battle isn’t the worst idea ever (is it, Nintendo?), it could be handled a lot better than this.

The Portal’s speaker is way more effective than it has any right to be, however, and on those rare occasions when we hadn't used our captured boss for some time, hearing them plea for a chance to get back in the action from their confines in the Portal (the trap lights up as they speak and everything) was sometimes enough to twist our arms into calling them back in. It’s a novelty and one clearly designed to encourage the purchases of countless extra traps in order to freely switch between bosses without having to return to the hub area, but it has that same novelty that placing a toy on a plastic plinth and watching it come to life in game once did. It’s still there, to a degree. But with others now copying the format, bringing toys to life is no longer the show-stopping magic trick it once was, so fair play to Activision for finding new ways to keep the magic alive.
Gameplay wise, there’s not a great deal to report Skylanders is still to Diablowhat Duplo is to Lego and all of your old friends will still hold their levels and usefulness here. Well, to a degree. Where once any Skylander could open a gate of their element (with help, in the case of Swap Force), here only the new Trap Masters can unlock the doors that lead to new areas, challenges and hats. Older characters, now only useful in battle, feel somewhat redundant in the story mode (especially if already maxed out), but you’ll welcome their assistance in the extra modes arena battles grow pretty challenging by the time you hit the later stages, as does the new tower defence-inspired Kaos mode. You technically don’t need to fork out any more than the expense of the starter set to score the full set
of Trophies, but mad kudos to you if you manage to beat Kaos mode or the embarrassingly tough Nightmare difficulty without a little more moulded plastic assistance.

It’d be remiss to fail to mention how good the game looks on PS4, especially given its emphasis on the idea of bringing toys to life many figures actually look better on the screen than in real life, while non toy supporting characters even manage to approach CG movie standards at points. The vocal work is every bit as impressive, with Patrick Warburton (Joe from Family Guy) on point with the easy funnies and Richard ‘Invader Zim’ Horvitz on typically superb maniacal form as Kaos.

There are two very different demographics for Skylanders and if you aren't already wearing a young human tugging at your sleeves unti you buy Trap Team, you’re in the easier of the two. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable game but one whose trapping gimmick will resonate far better with young players than older ones. But given the series’ head start in the ‘Toys X Games’ market, that’s arguably enough for now. Next year, though, it might be a different matter..

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