Published on December 14th, 2014 | by octaneblue0
Review: Skylanders Trap Team – Wii U
Developer(s): Toys for Bob, Beenox (Wii U, PS4, Xbox One), Vicarious Visions (Tablet)
Platforms(s): Wii U, Wii, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Tablet (iPad, Android, Kindle Fire)
Release Date(s): October 5, 2014
The Skylanders series is in its fourth generation, and this iteration introduces some key new features, most notably the ability to “trap” and play as a villain. Toys for Bob, the developers behind the first two games, are back at the helm, with some help from Beenox. Is Skylanders Trap Team another noteworthy entry in the franchise? Read on for the full review of Skylanders Trap Team on the Wii U!
In Skylanders Trap Team, the main series villain Kaos has unleashed several villains from a prison to invade Skylands. A group of villains known as the Doom Raiders are dangerous in particular, and quickly set Kaos aside for their own plans. The Skylanders set out to stop the villains and save Skylands once again. And along the way, they’ll be able to trap the villains and have them join up as allies.
At its core, Skylanders Trap Team plays similarly to its predecessors. Gameplay-wise, it’s an action/platformer with some RPG elements. It’s a simple game to learn how to play, making it easy to recommend to gamers of any age. The game uses a “figure-to-life” setup in which physical figures are placed on a special portal, which brings them into the game. It’s a formula that’s worked for the series ever since it launched in 2011, and it still works well here. And like the previous games, Skylanders Trap Team supports co-op play for 2 players. It’s still extremely fun with a fellow player, and players can drop in or out as they please. The game works well with 2 players, although some platforming parts get pretty cramped and seem like they were made for solo play. The tethering feature, which pulls players together if they move far apart from one another, is still here, and it can be a nuisance at times, pulling players together even when they’re not that far from each other. Hopefully this is something that can modified in later games to ease up on the maximum length that separates players.
It should also be noted that I came across several glitches while playing the game. These didn’t pop up too often, but they included disappearing villains, de-sycned audio during cutscenes, key items not appearing where they should, and falling off the stage to an endless void. Sometimes these would fix themselves by exiting and re-entering an area, but the more severe ones required resetting the chapter completely, which is obviously bothersome. It’s disappointing that these glitches were overlooked during development.
Each iteration of the series introduces a new element to the gameplay: Skylanders Giants introduced the Giants, big Skylanders that can perform strong feats of strength, while Skylanders SWAP Force introduced the SWAP Force, Skylanders with the ability to swap their top and bottom halves to create new, unique combinations. In this game, the Trap Team is a particular group of Skylanders that are armed with Traptanium weapons. They have the special ability to open up elemental Traptanium Gates, and are stronger against the villains. Of course, all figures from the previous games are forward-compatible with Trap Team, and they’re retain all of their stats and upgrades as well.
The new gameplay element in this game is the ability to trap villains. There are several villains found throughout each chapter, and every single one of them can be trapped. Using a physical trap figure, which is placed into the game’s physical Traptanium Portal peripheral, villains are trapped upon defeat. Like the Skylanders, each villain has a particular element, so a Trap of the respective element is necessary to trap them. Once trapped, the villains are playable just like a Skylander. All of the villains have at least two attacks; the Doom Raiders have three attacks. And switching between a Skylander and villain is done simply with the press of a button. Villains don’t have a health bar but do have a timer that is lowered with each hit they take. So you’ll have to manage your character and villain combination so that, for example, there’s enough time for a villain to jump into the game to take hits for an injured Skylander. While each Trap can only hold one villain, you thankfully do not need an individual trap for every single villain; you can swap out captured villains in the game’s hub.
Like the Skylanders, the villains each have their own unique personalities and powers. Using each one of them is a fun experience, one that players will certainly enjoy as they go through the game and find new villains to trap. The villains will also chat with players through a speaker embedded into the Traptanium Portal. Thankfully, you can mute them in the game’s option menu if you’d like. Also noteworthy are the Villain Quests found in most of the chapters. A character will require help from a villain, and bringing that villain activates a quest that, upon completion, nets them an upgraded form. They’ll receive a new look, stronger powers, and can stay in and fight for a lengthier time. These essentially replace the Heroic Challenges/Bonus Mission Maps from the previous games. Unlike its predecessors however, you cannot access these quests in the main hub; you have to go through each individual chapter if you want to go through them again.
In addition to the villains, Skylanders Trap Team introduces Skylanders Minis as playable characters for the first time in the series. Previously introduced as Skylanders Sidekicks, these pint-sized characters used to just follow the playable characters around. But this time, the figures can be used in-game just like a regular Skylander. That includes using attacks, leveling up, and purchasing upgrades. While they don’t serve much of an in-game purpose, it’s nice that the Minis have an actual use now.
The graphics in the game look rather nice for the most part, although Skylanders SWAP Force, at least on the Wii U version, did look a bit better and featured more graphical details. Regardless, the character animations are perfectly fine, and the frame rate is steady and doesn’t appear to drop even when there’s a lot of action on-screen. The soundtrack is nice too, with some nice background music during the chapters that picks up when villains attack. Much thought was put into the sound design in particular in Trap Team. Each villain has their own theme song when summoned into the game, with a wide range of musical genres covered with each theme song.
The game’s main Story Mode consists of 18 Chapters. Each of them will take about 30 minutes to an hour if you’re exploring everything and gathering all of the collectibles hidden throughout each level. In addition to the Story Mode, the game also includes an Arena Mode, in which you fight off waves of enemies in an enclosed area, and the all-new Kaos Doom Challenge. This is a tower-defense style mode in which you can build defensive turrets and fight off waves of enemies, all while guarding a horde of treasure. These are fun modes that players can go through if they’re looking for a non-story experience. These three modes make up the game; some modes found in other games, most notably the 2 player Battle Mode, have been cut completely. Skylanders SWAP Force was the first game in the series to feature some kind of online functionality; the HD versions of the game featured online leaderboards. While it’s not the online play that fans probably would’ve wanted, it was a neat feature. Unfortunately, it’s gone in this iteration. If you’d like to extend the gameplay, there are currently two Adventure Packs out for the game. These include a new chapter, an additional Skylander, and magic items that serve various functions in-game. There are also “Unknown” elements explicitly seen throughout the Story Mode, and these will no doubt provide additional functionality once they launch.
As with previous entries of the series on the Wii U, Skylanders Trap Team makes use of Wii U-specific features. The game features Off-TV Play, as well as Miiverse support for interacting with fellow players. In previous games in the series, when using the GamePad for regular play, the screen would show your active Skylanders’ stats or mission objectives, with the ability to switch between them by tapping an on-screen button. That’s not the case with Trap Team, and the game instead shows your currently trapped villain, or your Skylander that’s waiting to return to battle if you’re using a villain. You can poke them on the GamePad, and that’s about it. Its previous use as a quick reference guide is sorely missed here, as you’ll have to stop the action by pausing the game to check out your stats or objectives, as opposed to just looking down at the GamePad for that information.
Skylanders Trap Team is another fun entry in the series, with the playable villains being the key attraction to this iteration. There are great new features that have been introduced here, but unfortunately some steps have been taken back from previous games. But overall, the game is worth playing for returning fans and new players alike.
+ Playable villains
+ Lengthy Story Mode
+ Fun Co-op
– Scaled back features compared to previous games
– Occasional glitches
– Some tethering issues in co-op play