It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since Activision unleashed the parental nightmare and shockingly successful Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Three sequels later, it’s clear the series is still going strong. Skylanders: Trap Team is the most ambitious yet, sporting a brand new portal and bevy of new characters to collect.
Trap Team is certainly the best the series has ever looked. Character details and level designs are excellent and the whole game has a near CG-movie-like appearance. The voice acting is an eclectic mix as usual. New voices are solidly done and we like any game that gives Patrick Warburton a regular gig. Warburton returns as Flynn, “the greatest pilot in all of Skylands”, with slightly less creepy innuendos and overtones this time around, but he’s no less of an affectionately outrageous buffoon.
As the name implies, trapping enemies is this year’s new gimmick. The Trap Team figures are almost as large as the giants, but Activision has added a new layer of commerce with the traps players also need to buy. There are multiple traps per element, in addition to the singular Kaos trap and “other” traps (for new, mysterious elemental creatures). When you’ve beaten one of the many trappable enemies, simply stick the right elemental trap into the trap slot of the new portal and it captures them.
Strictly speaking, you don’t have to trap these bad guys, but that would be missing out on the fun of using these clever villains. The main purpose of trapping enemies is to use them in lieu of regular Skylanders. Enemies don’t have health bars, and instead use a rechargeable timer. They’re frequently incredibly powerful and fun to use (especially Chompy Mage), so overall, it’s a great new addition to the series. The portal also has a speaker now and the trapped enemies like to talk, incessantly, which is sure to drive parents and some gamers nuts, but many of their one-liners are amusing.
Beyond that, Trap Team includes some of the best levels in the series. The most notable is a retro sci-fi map, which is more than slightly reminiscent of Ratchet & Clank. The game deftly mixes in a myriad of landscapes, and this diversity helps keep every level feeling fresh and interesting. All of Skylands is chock full of secrets to find as well. Aside from tons of treasure, every level offers multiples hidden chests, story scrolls, and special gems that give the new characters their final power.
The heavy emphasis on finding everything has always been the great charm of the series, and with Trap Team’s generally huge and well-designed maps, it’s a lot of fun to go back over older levels and pick them clean.
On the downside, there are elements that have bugged us from the original Spyro’s Adventure lingering four years later. Why is it still impossible to skip most of the irritating dialogue? Why can’t we pick multiple upgrades at once instead of constantly re-opening the upgrade menu? Trap Team has slightly better end boss battles than usual, but, again, this series Is notorious for some of the most underwhelming end bosses in gaming. It’s constantly recycling the same tricks, and long battles just get tedious—relying less on skill in some cases and more on having a large Skylanders collection.
Trap Team is also noticeably buggy. There were times when enemies were stuck in unreachable places or events simply failed to trigger, forcing a complete retry of the level (apparently, Toys for Bob hates mid-point saves as well). The camera is frequently problematic, especially with two players.
The real issue with almost all these problems is that none of them are new, but they’ve yet to be addressed in the slightest. Another complaint is that the elemental door-based side quests in every level are now Trap Team-figure specific, which is more than slightly annoying. Even in Swap Force, you could potentially unlock these segments with regular characters.
On a related note, the game doesn’t make use of any of the previous figure gimmicks. There are no goodies specific to Swap Force or Giant figures, although there are now enemy chests that can only be opened by trapped villains. Each trapped bad guy also has a side quest, though these tended to be incredibly short mini-games, as opposed to full-on side missions. We also would have liked to see some hidden stuff for the newly useful mini figures. There’s one hidden area in the hub world that sort of uses them, but it would have been nice to see a better use for the adorably tiny characters.
If someone who has never played these games asked us if they should buy Trap Team, we’d likely tell them to run away screaming. Skylanders is an endless money sink hole and Trap Team is even more so with the addition of the traps. On the other hand, if you’re already invested in the series, by all means, keep going. Skylanders: Trap Team is definitely fun, looks and sounds great, and offers up some clever new gimmicks on the old formula.
To read Jason's extend review of Skylanders Trap Team, pick up the Nov Issue of CGM.