Review: Skylanders Trap Team (Wii U)

Trap Team is shiny enough to make you feel good about giving up your own shinies.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 10/24/2014 10:06 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Lots to do besides just the main story; voice acting and writing that will please both kids and adults
Poison Mushroom for...
Combat won't be extremely interesting to veterans; lots of money to spend

So Skylanders have been around for about three years now, and they show no signs of letting up. In case you haven’t already devoted 25% of your income to it, Skylanders is a series revolving around basic combat and mostly interesting characters and locales. But unlike most games, where you’re limited to four or five characters to play with, Skylanders puts hundreds of characters at your fingertips. You just have to buy them, in the form of toys that come to life on-screen when you place them on a USB-attached platform.

Since 2011, Activision and Toys for Bob have released 292 Skylanders. For perspective, that’s about as many Pok√©mon made public in the same timeframe from Red and Green to Gold and Silver. It’s a phenomenal number, especially when considering how much money you have to spend to put a dent in it. And boy, does Skylanders Trap Team want you to.

Shiny characters and interesting locations make spending money fun.

Following up from Skylanders SWAP Force, Skylanders Trap Team introduces not only the requisite new Skylander figures, but also Traps. These are pieces of see-through plastic that, once placed into the USB-attached Portal, can trap boss enemies so that you can play with them. Doing so causes the boss’s voice to travel from the screen into the trap in your portal, where the boss will continue to give commentary on whatever you do in the game. Where Skylanders has usually been about putting the real world into the digital one, Trap Team does the opposite– and it’s pretty cool.

That said, traps also happen to cost $5.99 each, and certain colored traps can only be used to catch certain types of bosses, so you can see where the rabbit hole is going. Fortunately, each trap can hold multiple bosses, so you really just need one per color. (There are eight colors, so, “just.”)

But Toys for Bob obviously realizes how cynical its consumers can be, and thus has arguably realized the best Skylanders game yet in Trap Team. More than in Giants or SWAP Force, you feel a little better about missing some gated areas in Trap Team simply because there’s already so much to do. With more interesting boss fights and Adventure Time-esque for-grown-ups-too writing, the developers deliver a fantastical, loopy experience, even if the combat is relatively basic.

In SWAP Force, that kind of basic combat was actually a big downfall. Pressing A repeatedly there just didn’t feel satisfying, even with the Diablo-style leveling up and ability purchasing. Here, the combat is still extremely basic, and more fit for newcomers. Even with two players, mashing A can get a little old.

For the first time, you can play as Skylanders head honcho Kaos, if you trap him.

But the addition of Traps has made things a lot more palatable. At any time in the game, you can press ZL to switch to the boss in your currently inserted trap, which essentially multiplies the amount of characters you can have without buying anything, since the Starter Set comes with a trap. Plus, these enemies are generally well-designed and play completely differently from your Skylanders. (My personal favorite happens to be a sheep with cannons strapped to its back.)

And more than just treating its Traps as the gimmick-of-the-year, Toys for Bob has fleshed out its capturable boss characters as much as possible. Each boss, once captured, can go on a side quest to redeem itself, with miniature storylines that certainly prevent them from becoming forgettable. Perhaps Toys for Bob was worried that players wouldn’t become as attached to characters you don’t have in plastic toy form; with these quests, they don’t have anything to worry about.

Don’t forget to unlock hats. Everyone likes hats.

Beyond the story mode, which will take around ten hours to complete, Trap Team has a plethora of side activities that sometimes challenge even veterans. While they’re never extremely complex, Toys for Bob has incorporated entertaining imitations of tower defense games and trading card games, both of which are surprising to see in the Skylanders universe, but never unwelcome. In fact, they’re a nice breath of fresh air from a long bout of story mode, and those of us who have played videogames for a while should enjoy the sly allusions to other games. (I mean, the trading card game’s name is Skystone, which sounds familiar.)

Buying the Skylanders Trap Team Starter Set probably won’t be enough for you. Again and again, you’ll run into times when you wish you had just a little more cash to buy that colored trap, or that Skylander. But more than any Skylanders game before it, Trap Team makes you feel good about your purchases– even if it’s your kid that gets to enjoy them.

One Response to “Review: Skylanders Trap Team (Wii U)”

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    Skylanders is a huge money pit… but you have to give credit: it’s a high quality money pit.

    We have a couple of the older Skylanders games, usually buying the game and a handful of figures cheap once it is no longer current, and have found them to be fantastic little adventures. Sounds like Trap Team keeps up that trend.

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