Skylanders: Trap Team Review

October 6, 2014

I’ll admit straight up that I haven’t been previously attracted to the Skylanders series, as in my cynical viewpoint, the whole thing outwardly looks like a complex and ingenious way for Activision to gravitate as much money towards them as possible. And it is. But, the hordes of fans that appreciate the series are a testament to the fact that the formula works, and the gameplay, style and presentation of the games are enjoyable for a great many people. Trap Team is my first proper foray into Skylanders on the PS4, and as a newcomer I can certainly see the appeal of the series.

Skylanders: Trap Team begins with the impotent and furious villain Kaos breaking a new pack of bad guys out of jail, the Doom Raiders. Planning to ally himself with his new nefarious friends, Kaos is soon usurped by the Doom Raiders’ own leader, Golden Queen, who has her own designs on Skylands. It’s up to Flynn, Cali and the rest of the Skylanders to stop them.

As the title of the game suggests, the major new addition to the franchise are the ‘Trap Masters’ – a new line of 16 figurines who sport crystal weapons and have the ability to trap certain enemies you come across.  For the first time ever, you can capture ‘villains’ and then tag in and out during gameplay to unleash their abilities. In practice, they work more as summonable creatures rather than real additional characters. Once tagged in, they display a timer rather than a health bar, and their skill trees are non-existent compared to regular Skylanders. However, each villain does get their own redemption side mission or mini-game to ‘power up’ their forms.


Gameplay in Skylanders: Trap Team is slow, but methodical action-based platforming. Your character jogs around compact island areas, blasting every enemy in sight, while occasionally coming across bosses and mini-bosses who can be captured and converted to good through your traps. There are a lot of side characters to meet and dialogue to wade through, most of which is fairly lame, except for some of the more imaginative villains who get in a clever line here and there. The story campaign will last about 12 hours or more, depending on how much you want to collect, and how many characters you choose to take through the adventure.

There are basic puzzles to solve, from pushing blocks and aligning lasers, to the more interesting ‘lock puzzles’ that take the form of simple 2D mazes. Probably the best part of the game are the boss fights, which do get increasingly challenging, relying on both perseverance and skill on the part of the player, and cool tricks and traps thrown at you from every angle.

Skylanders characters can be upgraded by collecting and spending cash with your local fairy, but you’ll max out most of their abilities pretty quickly, even with multiple characters, leaving you collecting useless money and experience for much of the game. Progress through the Story mode also unlocks further content, such as arena challenges, 2.5D mini-games and a pretty tepid rap battle rhythm game.

The centerpiece of the game is the new ‘Portal’ which comes with the game’s Starter Pack. This NFC reader detects whichever Skylanders figure you place inside. Very cool multicoloured LEDs glow along its perimeter, but the real standout feature is the ‘trap’. In addition to placing figures in the Portal, you can also insert one translucent ‘trap’ crystal, which holds captured enemies in a small stone prison on the base, which also houses a speaker. The amazing part about all this is that it allows whatever baddie you have encased within your trap to communicate with you throughout the game, offering comments, cheers and jokes. And their dialogue isn’t just limited to a couple of repeated phrases, it’s actually surprisingly varied and with minimal repetition. Given there’s over 40 villains, all with unique dialogue to offer, it’s actually a very impressive and charming addition.


The only big problem I have with the game comes from my own perspective, as someone who doesn’t collect these figures and doesn’t have a history with the series. The cost of getting everything and unlocking the ‘full’ experience in Trap Team seems to have been artificially inflated. While previous Skylanders toys are compatible, only Trap Masters are able to open all the special walled-off areas found throughout the game. These areas are also elementally-locked, meaning you’ll need at least eight Trap Masters to unlock most of them, and even then there are some ‘unknown’ elemental areas which will presumably be unlocked by further figurine and trap releases. Trap Masters run for about AU $18 in the shops at the moment, and while these elemental areas are usually small and inconsequential, it’s an expense worth noting. You do get two characters in the Starter Pack, but only one is a Trap Master.

As for the traps – each one can only hold one villain, and again each is elementally-locked, meaning you’ll need at least eight traps (AU $6 each at the moment) to be able to catch everything, and another special ‘Kaos’ trap which can only hold a single, particular villain. You’ll have to constantly swap out which villain you want in each crystal as well, unless you want to go all-in, in which case be prepared to buy over 40 traps to hold each villain (the Starter Pack comes with a little fold-out holder for all of these traps as well).

It’s true, you can finish the game without all of these extras, and you won’t  be missing out on really all that much. However, your completion percentage will be ridiculously low, and collectors and perfectionists will have to have deep pockets to see and do everything Skylanders: Trap Team has to offer.


The game looks remarkable on PS4, with detailed character models and very cool environments. A smooth framerate even with motion blur and other effects on full bore is impressive, and as far as kid-friendly games go, it’s one of the standout titles available on next-gen platforms at the moment. The voice-acting is also pretty strong, although Patrick Warburton is sorely underserved by lame lines and running jokes.

Skylanders: Trap Team is a solid game with a pretty awesome presentation, in the form of the Portal and traps. It’s such a unique feature to have running commentary on the game as you’re playing it, coming from a captured villain, and it really adds to the game’s sense of fun and enjoyment. I have some reservations about the ultimate cost of the game, and the amount of walled-off content, which is something that is worth considering for any parent purchasing the game for their kids. Collectors and fans of the series probably won’t care, and for them Skylanders: Trap Team presents a new, fun challenge that has a lot to wade through.


Looks great | Fun voice acting | Great technology behind the Portal and traps


Potentially high cost to see everything | Lame script

Overall Score: