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Skylanders: Trap Team

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Toys for Bob
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Family/ RPG/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Skylanders: Trap Team is the fourth instalment of the original Toys-To-Life genre. This time, the Skylanders will get help from the most unexpected sources, their bad guys.

Visually speaking, the Skylanders series gets better with each iteration. Of course, the fact that this time around I was able to review it on an Xbox One doesn't hurt with the visual quality jump. Not only do the levels look more detailed, but the characters themselves have a cleaner look to them. I was especially impressed by the NPCs like Cali and Flynn. Oddly enough, the better look makes them feel more like molded plastic. If this belonged to any type of game other than Toys-To-Life, that would be a problem, but this just helps make the in-game characters feel more like the toys you are swapping out on the Portal.

As for Trap Team's audio, actors like Patrick Warburton, Sumalee Montano and Richard Steven Horvitz all reprise their respective roles, and the new voices to join the cast all sound great.

As usual, the game's background music helps to really set the various crazy settings that you will be going through, but I found the background music really stood out when you control a villain. Each trapped character has their own unique background music and regardless of the tunes playing for the level itself, that music will take over. While some of the music is silly (like Sheep Creep's banjo), others sound really good. I especially enjoyed Wolfgang's guitar-heavy rock sound as well as Pain Yatta's salsa mix. While the various comments the villains will shout at the player during the game do a lot to add personality to these characters, this added bit of music goes a lot farther.


Skylanders: Trap Team follows the same basic gameplay patterns set down by the previous games. You and your team of heroes are faced with a mission to stop the evil characters of Skylands from completing their next evil plot.

This time around, Kaos has broken the most ruthless criminals out of prison. To aid the Skylanders on the newest adventure, Trap Team introduces the Trap Masters (this game's version of Giants and Swap Force). These characters are larger than the average Skylander (about the same size as a Swappable character), and they have massive weapons made of "Traptanium," the strongest material in all of Skylands.

Oddly enough, while the new heroes this time around are the Trap Masters, they aren't really the unique bit of innovation introduced in Trap Team, and that actually leads to an odd issue, but more on that later. Instead, the real gimmick this time around is the ability to capture select enemies and store them in traps. When you trap a bad guy, they turn good and you can use them to fight off the rest of the evildoers in the Skylands. The trick is, you need the right kind of trap to actually use the bad guy you defeated. As a follower of this series might expect, those traps are, for the most part, element-based. So, in order to capture the Chill Bill, you need a water trap. For the ghostly executioner, Hood Sickle, you need an undead trap. The only real exception to this rule is a special Kaos trap needed after you once again take down the short Dark Portal Master.

Toys for Bob refers to the traps as essentially flipping the script on what they made so popular. Instead of the traps being a Toys-to-Life product, they are Life-to-Toys, and quite frankly, Trap Team does a solid job of selling that experience. When a foe is captured, the game wonderfully transitions the screaming character's voice from your main audio to the speaker on the new Portal of Power. As you run around the levels and hub world, the trapped character will make comments about the surroundings and will often reply to your Skylander's one-liners. What I found most amusing were the quips made after you read one of the story scrolls (this time around, they are all Flynn talking about how awesome he is).

While the villains themselves don't really level up or collect money (all pickups get funnelled to the side-lined Skylander you have on the Portal), they all have a mission you have to hunt for. These tend to fall into two categories. Some simply require that you bring the right character to the right place, while others take you out of the level to play a minigame under a time limit. These missions typically have you running all around a map trying to collect a certain number of objects, or hit a certain number of buttons, activate a certain number of switches or destroy a certain number of things. The reward for these missions is a new outfit for the villain and, at least in some cases, a bit more power behind their attacks.

At first look, the list of core figures (both Series 1 and reposes) doesn't seem to be a lot, that is until you realize that the Minis are essentially more reposes of classic characters. Coinciding with the first two Skylanders games, there were two Frito-Lay contests which resulted in what were then dubbed as Skylander Sidekicks. These little guys were smaller, cuter versions of the characters from the games, and when you put them on the Portal, they pretty much just followed your characters around, neither helping nor hurting your gameplay experience. Well, it seems that those Sidekicks were either an attempt to test the waters, or else someone realized that the hype over the cute figures was something that could be exploited. Now, each of those previously released Sidekicks, as well as new ones released for Trap Team, are full-featured characters, with the same attacks and leveling as their bigger siblings. It's actually because of that, that it is easy to think of these little guys as additional reposes, and with them, the count of figures introduced in this game comes to about the same as the past titles. Interestingly enough, putting one of the previously-named Sidekicks on the Portal marks these characters as "Series 1" versions. The result being the re-released versions (like Whisper Elf, for example) are dubbed "Series 2" while new Minis like Drobit, are still "Series 1."

Outside of the main Story levels, Skylanders: Trap Team brings back the Arena Battles (hosted by that brutish troll, Brock) and also introduces another Survival Mode that adds elements of Tower Defense to the mix. In this new mode, players are tasked with keeping Kaos' minions from getting to an evil Box of Doom. While the character's normal fighting skills will be very useful, the player can spend time between rounds building element-based turrets that will help with the defense. Each wave a turret survives, the stronger it gets, and you can help it reclaim some health simply by standing near it. Each level consists of a set number of waves to get through, and once you beat those waves, you unlock a new location with a new layout for your possible turrets.


Skylanders: Trap Team's main story has several possible difficulty settings ranging from Easy to Hard, and once you've beaten the game on any of those levels, Nightmare is unlocked. Staying consistent with past games, Nightmare is a tough trudge that will eat away at your figure collection. Thankfully, the other three settings are noticeably easier than Nightmare. Even in Hard, getting through the game's story isn't super difficult. Unlike my reviews of Skylanders: Giants and Skylanders: Swap Force, I tried sticking only to new toys this time around. In other words, I didn't pull out my Series 1 Flameslinger (which has been capped out for at least a game now) when things got into a bind. Keeping only to the toys that came in the box, plus the few that Activision sent along with this review (Sure Shot Shroomboom, Chopper, Wallop, Krypt King, several Minis and a trio of traps), I was able to work my way through the story without much issue.

I found the ability to call on the trapped characters became an asset, especially if I found my current character low on life. While you can switch to the bad guy at the tap of a button, they have a timer that starts counting down as soon as they are on the field. It's a long timer and takes extensive use to run out, but the timer is there. Also, instead of taking damage, it is their timer that takes a hit. When you swap back to your Skylander, their timer begins to refill so that they can be used again. While this doesn't help your Skylander get its health back, it does help you get past a possibly sticky point in the level without actually swapping characters - a plus if you are trying to get the "Don't Swap" objective that is attached to every level.

So while getting through the game's story isn't too difficult, where Skylander's toughness comes into play has always been the desire to collect everything (and not just the toys). Each level has several stars that can be collected by completing objectives, and its getting all of those objectives marked off that can be difficult. Getting to the end of the level guarantees you one star, but the other stars are earned by completing the level in a certain amount of time, not dying, not switching characters, collecting all of the in-level collectibles, discovering all of the locations, capturing all of the villains the level has to offer, and even completing whatever villain challenges that level contains. Getting all of the stars for a level will take multiple run throughs, and quite frankly, at launch, won't be possible for most of the levels given which characters and Trap Masters will be on shelves that first day.

Game Mechanics:

I have a couple of minor complaints about Skylanders: Trap Team, and they really are minor, but I feel they need to be mentioned. One rather shocking revelation I had almost immediately was that the elemental gates scattered throughout each of the levels were now only open-able by Trap Master characters. In the past, these gates were open to any character of the right element. Even with the introduction of Swappable characters and dual-element gates, you could still open the gate if you happened to have a second player and a pair of Skylanders of the right elements. The game wouldn't really limit you if you happened to have the characters from past games that were the right elements. This change threw me for a loop, and as I played more, I got the feeling that I knew why this new restriction was added. Unlike in Swap Force, the new specialty characters don't really have something that makes them stand out. The closest Trap Masters have to areas that are for them alone (outside of the restricted Element Gates, that is), are areas blocked by Traptanium shards that only the Trap Masters can break through. I couldn't help but think of the Feats of Strength segments in Giants each time I came across these areas. Part of me seriously wonders if the developers realized that, outside of looking cool and packing a bigger punch, there wasn't all that much of a need for Trap Masters, so they locked down the Element Gates to force the users to play with them more. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this, because it worked and I found myself using the Trap Master characters much more than the cores (and more than I used Giants with their game), but it still feels like a step backwards after the Swap Zones of the last game.

The only other real issue I had with Trap Team that changed the feel and mechanics of the game more than I thought it would, was that the speaker in my Portal of Power went out after a few days of use. At first, it just felt a little odd not having the voices of the bad guys talking back to me while I played. It wasn't until I got a replacement Portal in that I realized just how much that aspect of the Life-to-Toys feature really helped to sell the experience. At first, I wasn't going to mention the messed up speaker issue, but there comes a point in the game's story when that speaker actually becomes important, and between that point and how much the game feels different without it, I felt that it became important enough to mention here.

I like Skylanders. I can't hide that fact. I've been hooked on them since Spyro's Adventure first hit the shelves and the collector's bug bit me. I see a lot of areas where Trap Team has improved upon its predecessors, and the inclusion of trapping your enemies so you can play as them really adds a new level to the gameplay experience. I think I still consider Swap Force to be the best of this series so far, but I think that has a lot to do with how well the Swappable characters were utilized in the game. That being said, I still recommend Trap Team. It's both a good continuation of the series and a good starting off point for anyone just now jumping into the fray.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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