The latest Skylanders game is about trying new things. The Skylanders Trap Team goal: make the characters come off the screen and interact with the real world. Trap Team achieves this with ingenious peripheral design that allows characters to interact with players. With the new Traptanium Portal, dozens of new, loveable characters, and tons of gameplay variety, Skylanders Trap Team is the best the series has seen yet.
The predictable story starts with the evil Kaos at the cusp of yet another master plan. This time he's blown up the Skylands version of a high-security prison, releasing the evil Doom Raiders: villains you can battle and collect with the new Traptainium Traps (purchased from your local toy store). While the easy-to-follow narrative has few surprises, the story introduces a variety of cleverly designed characters with unique, charming personalities that make you eager to add them to your collection.
Everything about the characters--from the toy design, to the flashy character blast screen, to the Skylanders' individual combat abilities--oozes personality. You can get a baby bionic T-Rex that has a helicopter rotor attached to his back, a boomerang-flinging genie, or a golden, fire-breathing lion, all of which are well crafted and attention-grabbing. Once you get your hands on them, you can really get the feeling of ownership over the characters by personalizing them with the customization options. You can send them into the game, level them up, outfit them with your favorite collectible hat, and give them a cute trinket (new collectible items) to wear. You could spend hours collecting items to personalize your Skylanders, and never regret a minute of it.
In addition to the new Trap Team and standard Skylanders figures, players can also collect the outspoken and hilarious Doom Raider villains by defeating them in one of the many entertaining boss battles. Once a villain has gotten a thorough beat down, placing a Traptainium Trap into a slot on the portal sucks the in-game character into the elemental trap--to which the character will talk out of a speaker in the portal and make humorous comments about what's happening on screen.
The illusion of the villain getting sucked into the trap, bouncing from the TV sound into the portal speaker, is an amazing effect. The quality of the portal's speaker is outstanding, never breaking the illusion with overblown crackles or pops. Just like bringing your figures to life on the portal, trapping a villain never gets old. I found myself swapping out trapped villains on the portal just to experience the brilliant sound design again and again.
As far as the gameplay goes, the core is the same ability spamming and RPG leveling of the previous Skylanders games, but there many more interesting activities outside of combat. As you battle minions, unlock new abilities, and capture the aforementioned escaped convicts, you come across NPCs that offer other activities. Dozens of minigames are dropped into levels that include the Magic-inspired Skystones card game, on-rails shooters, and even a 3D physics puzzle game that plays just like Angry Birds. Each minigame provides a welcome, fun distraction from the standard beat 'em up combat that never lingers too long.
But not all of the activities are all that entertaining. The new villain redemption quests aren't as varied as the other activities. Once you capture a Doom Raider, you can accept a short quest as the villain that provides some type of community service to Skylands. You could be requested to do things like deliver balloons to children, or sing a part in a quartet. While some of these missions are clever in their execution, most of the time you're stuck delivering item X to characters spread across a level for 5 to 10 minutes, which gets old quick. Then, when you're finished, the rewards don't always turn out to be worth the time.
On top of the story campaign, players can also jump into a tower defense-style horde mode called the Kaos Doom Challenge. While the mode provides a fun alternative to trekking through Skylands, taking part beefs up your characters incredibly quickly. On one hand, you have a great option to power up your lower-level characters for higher-level story missions, but having a fully-leveled character made some of the early story missions far too easy (even for a kids game). My level-capped, gold fire lion takes down Doom Raiders in a matter of seconds, which negates any challenge of the mini-boss battles.
Any part of Skylanders Trap Team can be played with a co-op buddy, which can be hit or miss. The two players are tethered together to prevent you from traveling too far apart, which can cause some problems. For the majority of the game, co-op is incredibly fun, but in some of the platforming minigames, one player falling off a platform can result in some awkward character resets. Sometimes that small mistake means both players lose progress. Also, glitches can become prevalent when characters start to fall off platforms or off cliffs. My co-op buddy once deactivated a bridge under my feet which left me endlessly falling down a pit. But even with the bugs, co-op is the best way to play the game.
Skylanders Trap Team give you more characters to collect, items to hunt down, and entertaining enemies to capture. Despite adhering closely to the series formula, Trap Team manages to toss in some surprising, well-executed features that will blow series fans' minds, no matter their age. Whether you get addicted to collecting the figures and in-game items, discovering the Doom Raiders through the story, or jumping into the multitude of minigames, Skylanders Trap Team is a blast.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.