Ah Activision, purveyors of fine video games for the discerning consumer. Or, if you have a small child obsessed with Skylanders, purveyors of small shiny plastic figures that empty a parent’s wallet faster than a cocaine habit.
With the release of Skylanders Trap Team in October 2014, it seems that the wallet emptying department at Activision had delivered a cracking idea: in addition to producing new figures, all of which must be purchased (according to my son), they would also create small plastic “Traps” that can be used to capture the enemies in the game. And of course, there would be different elements to these villains, and a corresponding trap must be used to enable them to be caught. I dread to think how much money I have spent buying these small figures, traps, level expansions and so on, in addition to buying the actual Skylanders games when they released. At the last count, my son had 229 Skylander figures, without a single duplicate, so even some basic adding up makes me want to go and have a lie down in a darkened room.
Anyway, back to the game in question. Kaos, the bumbling enemy of all the games so far, has managed to blow up Cloudcracker Prison, with his snappily named Evil Frequency Modulator of Evil Doom, and free the Doom Raiders, a gang of powerful villains who used to run the whole of Skylands. They were captured and imprisoned after a huge battle with the Trap Masters, an elite bunch of Skylanders. Sadly, as a result of Kaos and his amazing device, the Trap Masters were sent to Earth and trapped in the form of small plastic figures… Golden Queen, Wolfgang, Doctor Krankcase and the rest then tried to pick up right where they had left off, scorning Kaos in the meantime and ignoring his attempts to be the leader of the group. What ensues is actually a pretty good story, to be honest, one of fall outs and arguments among enemies, betrayal and eventual triumph for the Portal Master (ie, you) over the forces of evil.
The capture mechanic was also a very good idea. The new portal that came with Skylanders Trap Team not only had room for you to put your chosen Skylander on, bringing the figure to life in the game, but also had a slot for a trap to be inserted. When you were battling a boss in the game, if you had the correct trap inserted when you beat them, you could imprison them inside the trap. The portal featured a small speaker, so as the villain was caught, their voice move from the speakers on the TV, seemingly traveling to the trap, which flashed as the villain spoke. It has to be said that this was a very good effect, and as my son was four years old at the time, he genuinely believed that the baddies lived in the trap. Once you had a villain caught, you could switch to them at any point in the game, as long as they had enough energy. Quite often it appeared that the villains were stronger than the actual Skylanders, so defeating a tough boss with an earlier boss was always pretty satisfying.
But also released in this version of the game were two new elements, Light and Dark, requiring new traps and Skylanders to be purchased. These new elements didn’t really add much to the whole experience if truth be told to be honest, but if you wanted to catch ’em all… oops, wrong game!
So, Trap Team was pretty much business as usual, running exactly the same as previous games, leaving you to chose a Skylander you wanted to be, placing them on the portal and as if by magic, they appeared on the screen, in the game.
Different elements of Skylanders were stronger in specific sections of the game, so having the “correct” Skylander did make things a bit easier. Luckily, unlike the previous Swap Force, there weren’t sections walled off if you didn’t have the particular element of Skylander that the game determined you needed. Further to this, each Skylander gained experience and gold as you played with them, enabling easier upgrading and for them to have new abilities. Levelling the Skylanders did make everything simpler, as they had a lot more health and enhanced attacks. Yet in a nice touch, Skylanders never die, and instead they just become tired and can’t be used for a while until they recover.
The absolute best thing about these games though is the time that I spent bonding with my son over them. We have played pretty much every Skylander game ever released on the Xbox One, Wii or Wii U, and even though I had to buy the games each time, luckily the figures were cross-compatible, apart from a few that were exclusive to the Nintendo platforms. Even the portals could be plugged into any of the consoles, which allowed for a nice bit of money saving. And believe me, when you’ve gone deep into the Skylanders universe, you’ll be looking to save every penny you can.
Even better is the fact that these games were the entry into video games for my son, with this Trap Team releasing when he was but a small nipper. Seeing him learn how to use the controller, how to relate the inputs of his fingers to the way the characters moved on screen, and being able to join in with something that he had only watched me do before was a great thing to see. Nowadays, some five years on, he can run rings around me in most games, he’s an absolute terror on Overwatch, and if we play games together he’s normally the one waiting for me at the checkpoint.
Skylanders Trap Team on Xbox One, for me, was the pinnacle of the Skylanders games. They carried on for a bit, through Superchargers and Imaginators, but those were, in my opinion, not as much of a revolution as the trap mechanic was. Beating enemies, trapping them, using their power and beating the next bunch was a lot of fun. With some of the boss fights being very tricky, particularly Wolfgang and his amazing concert stage that took me and the boy a good few Skylanders to beat, and Chef Pepper Jack and his stage that featured a floor that got hot if you weren’t paying attention, even now, five years down the line, they stick in the mind. The first time the boy took down a boss on his own still brings a smile to my face, even now.
But what do you think of Skylanders Trap Team? Did you play this game when it came out? What did you think of it? How many Skylanders did you own? Please let me know in the comments below.