We’ve come a long way since Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. Activision had dared to dream big, birthing the “toys-to-life” moniker and succeeded in capturing the minds of youngsters and adults alike with their breed of monstrous companions.
Skylands has always remained a magical world to explore, but it’s under threat this year. With rival Disney Infinity enlisting Marvel’s Super Heroes and Nintendo’s own amiibo making their approach, the publisher has had to look for a new angle to differentiate itself in competing for consumer attention.
Traptanium is their answer, budding Portal Masters discovering that the scheming Kaos has managed to free villains from Cloudcracker Prison in his tyrannical quest to rule Skylands. Equipped with the new Traptanium Portal, Traps and the support of burly Trap Masters, you will hunt the escapees down – in turn being granted the unique opportunity to play as such villains. Overthrown by The Golden Queen and her Doom Raiders after attempting to regain control, even Kaos will eventually side with the Skylanders as he looks to restore everything back to normality.
The broader experience remains largely the same, with players bursting their way through the 18 chapters that populate Story Mode – where you are posed with the usual combination of light platforming, puzzle and combat elements. But what makes this all the more special is the new Portal itself, replete with a built-in speaker. Villains will yelp from the device as they’re wrestled from the television screen into captivity, and while you are journeying across Skylands they will happily heckle and praise you in quick succession. It brings to life Toys for Bob’s carefully constructed world in an entirely inventive new way, and is sure to enchant younger players who will be left captivated by their humorous mumblings.
Swapped in at a mere button press, the villains are as equally varied as their Skylanders counterparts. Not entirely relied upon for combat scenarios, you will stumble on Skylands citizens that request their help in a smattering of side quests that will drain more hours of your gaming time. Whether catapulting Sheep Creep at flimsily built stone towers, or traversing simple platforming segments, these often lead to significant reward.
Lockmaster puzzles and the addictive Skylanders Smash make a glorious return, while there’s plenty to occupy you beyond witnessing the game’s dramatic conclusion. Hats and hidden collectibles aside, Toys for Bob serve up the wave-based Kaos Doom Challenge and Arenas to keep you occupied. One is Skylanders take on tower defense seeing you defend against enemies looking to whack the Mystery Box of Doom to pieces, whereas the other has you fighting hordes as environmental attacks threaten to sap your health bar away. These work well and are an enjoyable challenge, lending the chance to secure more experience and money to upgrade your assorted Skylanders.
The Starter Pack will equip you with Water-based Trap Master Snap Shot and Life-orientated core Skylander Food Fight, as well as Water and Life Traps. This is enough to carry you through the entirety of Skylanders Trap Team, although those looking to explore every nook and cranny will need to part with more cash. While all of the Skylanders that you may already own are all compatible with the Traptanium Portal, Elemental Gates can now only be opened by Trap Masters of the matching element. That similarly applies to the game’s 46 playable villains, which, while stored in a vault at the Skylander Academy when defeated, must be transferred into a Trap of their respective element to be used. An “Unknown Element” is also repeatedly referenced, suggesting that Activision will later expand Skylanders Trap Team with an entirely new line of toys.
With Trap Masters priced at £14.99 and separate Traps at £5.99, the only fear that you should have it for your wallet – especially if you’re a completionist. Still, the build quality remains exceptionally high – resplendent with their translucent Traptanium weaponry – and these new additions to the Skylanders roster are far less a perplexing inclusion than Swap Force’s interchangeable toys.
The Wii U GamePad isn’t heavily put to use, aside from Off-TV Play being used to display whichever critter you have housed within your chosen Trap. Poke them repeatedly on the touchscreen and they’ll react – grumbling in irritation – although there is only ever a single animation used for this.
Skylanders Trap Team is a resoundingly solid outing by Toys for Bob, silencing critics who were all too quick to toll the bell. With clear passion for the world that they have created, it results in being one of the bolder titles in the four-strong series – successfully reinventing itself, but leaving us with the question as to where do they go next from here?