More trouble in Skylands.
Skylanders, the seemingly bottomless pit into which many a parent has thrown more money than makes sense just to keep their little ones quiet. It is not just parents who fall under the spell of the original Toys to Life franchise though, even I have been known to drop some cash on a new figure rather than put petrol in the car (I have a new toy, why would I need to drive anywhere?). Once again, parents lock away their wallets and I try to decide which organ I will sell for the latest desirable lumps of plastic, as Activision launch the newest version of Skylanders into the market place – Skylanders: Trap Team.
Each new edition of Skylanders brings with it new figures and a new gimmick. In the last offering, Swap Force, players were tempted with figures that could be split in half and swapped around, giving access in the game to new areas and mini games. This time around, it is all about the bad guys.
The gameplay within the actual game is pretty much the same as ever, which is no bad thing as it is hugely entertaining. The action adventure game plays like a third person dungeon crawler of sorts, with the player working their way through each level, fighting enemies and collecting loot, solving the occasional puzzle, before fighting a boss and heading back to the hub. Each of the levels contains different secret areas, which usually have to be unlocked by a Skylander of a particular element, and collectible items which completionists will likely bankrupt themselves trying to collect.
The character that a player uses is represented by a figure. When that figure is placed on the attached Portal of Power, the character will appear in the game and can be used. Should that character be knocked out, they will need to rest and another figure will have to be placed on the Portal, or the level will end and the player will have to start again from the beginning. This, and the elemental gateways that require a certain type of figure, forces players to have a variety of different figures in order to get the most from the game.
Fans of the franchise will most likely already have a nice collection that will serve them well. The starter pack for Trap Team includes two new figures, one of which is a new Trap Master type. As with the Swap Force characters, players have to go out and buy a selection of these new Trap Master figures in order to access the new Trap Master areas, but that is nothing new. As always, players will be able to upgrade their characters with new abilities as they level up, and the information is stored on the figure for use wherever the figure may be.
New to Trap Team is the incredibly good-looking, redesigned Portal of Power, or the Traptanium Portal as it is now known. Not only is this new portal slimmer and sexier than the previous versions, it brings with it additional functionality in the form of a small, hexagonal slot for placing elemental traps.
These traps form the big new gimmick for Trap Team, and yet another way for players to spend their money. The starter kit comes with two traps, but there are still plenty more to buy. The idea is that when the player defeats a certain baddie in the game, they can trap them by placing the corresponding elemental trap into the slot, and then use them in the game. The actual trapping gives way to perhaps the most magical moment of Trap Team, when the bad guy is “wooshed” into the trap and their voice starts coming through the speaker on the new Portal of Power.
Traps can capture more than one enemy, which is handy as there are a huge number of enemies to collect, but players can only have one active enemy in the trap at any one time. Whilst the trap is placed in the portal, little wisecracks will keep coming through the speaker to remind the player that they are there.
The press of a button will allow the player to swap to their captured baddie during gameplay, giving access to not only new abilities, but also redemption missions that only a particular bad guy can play. These missions are actually quite substantial and add yet more value to the game.
The story this time around involves the Doomraiders, a group of evil doers from a time in the past, who have escaped from prison and are wreaking havoc in Skylands. It is an entertaining tale, as you would expect from Skylanders, but it really is the bad guys that the player can trap that steal the show. They all have unique personalities which the player constantly gets to enjoy, thanks to the Portal speaker, and they are hugely varied. Despite the fact that they don’t actually have their own figures, they are far more interesting than the new Skylanders.
Let’s face it though, Skylanders is a money making machine. With the new Skylander figures to buy, the new traps that will be needed to access all of those baddies, and even new mini figures that I have yet to investigate, the jaded gamer will see this as nothing more than an intense money-grab. Sure, the game is brilliantly entertaining and a great laugh, but can it really warrant the massive investment in cash that will be needed to unlock the full game? Well, anyone who doesn’t have to worry about the bills will say yes.
Skylanders: Trap Team is great fun, and it doesn’t matter what you or I think about the overall cost of the game, kids around the world will ensure that it is a great success. Costs aside though, the game itself is really good and manages to drop in enough new concepts to make the game feel fresh and exciting. The starter pack may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the player will need, but it is a good place to start and compelling enough to form the beginning of a beautiful, if expensive, friendship between the player and Skylands.