Price: FREE (Starter Pack sold separately for $74.99)
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Mini Retina
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Skylanders has long been one of those games that I knew I was a little old for, but would’ve gone nuts over as a child. And apparently there are plenty of kids out there who do, in fact, go nuts over it, because the series has been going strong for quite a while.
I can’t pretend to be an authority on Skylanders, but if you’re reading this I don’t imagine you’re particularly interested in The Story So Far or anything like that. You probably just want to know if the Skylanders fanatic(s) in your life will be interested in Skylanders Trap Team, and whether or not it’ll be worth the purchase.
Before I delve into the particulars it’s worth noting that the download for Skylanders Trap Team is free, but you’ll need to own the Trap Team Starter Pack ($74.99) - and an iPad 3 or up - if you want to play the full game. The price is nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but bear in mind it comes with a wireless Skylanders Portal, one Trap Master and one slightly less fancy Skylander, two Trap Crystals (more on those in a bit), and a wireless controller.
The gameplay should be familiar to Skylanders fans. You’ll be wandering around various levels with your characters, fighting against the forces of the evil wizard Kaos, solving some relatively simple puzzles, platforming on occasion, and swapping between Skylanders in order to access special element-specific gates. It’s a bit on the simple side, which is an understandable byproduct of being a game meant for a younger audience, but it’s absolutely overflowing with charm.
Now, regarding those Trap Crystals I mentioned earlier. A bunch of baddies have escaped from prison and it’s up to you to recapture them; something that requires Trap Crystals. When you find one of these enemies (either as a part of the story or hidden away along a side path) you’ll have to fight them, and if you win you’ll be able to drop a crystal into a special slot in the Portal to contain them. Then you can have the newly-captured convict travel along with you, providing color-commentary as you play and even tagging in to fight when needed - Broccoli Guy is definitely my favorite. What’s more, there are special quests scattered throughout the Skylands that can only be completed using specific enemies that you’ve captured.
There are also the Kaos Doom Challenges, which are a bit like wave survival and tower defense rolled into a Skylanders package. They're a good way to earn some extra cash and experience, and are a nice change of pace from the campaign. Unlockable Battle Arenas are also available if you’re looking for even more stuff to do.
While I’m not really the target audience for Skylanders Trap Team, I have to say I’ve been nothing but impressed by the tech behind it. Setting up the Portal is a simple matter of turning it on after making sure Bluetooth and WiFi are enabled on your iPad. That’s it. You turn it on and it works. The same goes for the controller, which can even be turned on and off in the middle of playing without missing a beat - the game will switch to touchscreen controls automatically. Adding a second player is also really easy: simply turn on another compatible wireless controller (third party works, too), plop a second Skylander on the Portal, and press “A” to join.
And what about Trap Team as a mobile game? Well for starters it’s not a stripped-down “mobile game” - it’s the console game, on a mobile device. You can cradle your iPad in a handy little slot along the side of the Portal to prop it up hands-free while you play with the included controller, you can play directly on the iPad using touch controls while keeping the Portal within arms reach, and you can even play without the Portal or controller in a special On-the-Go mode that uses digital-only versions of the Starter Pack characters.
Of course, Skylanders Trap Team still places a heavy emphasis on buying the figures. Each character has a unique look and personality, and are generally pretty cool both in and out of the game (Jawbreaker is a personal favorite), but it can definitely be a bit costly if you plan to get your hands on most/all of them. Similarly, if you don’t have a figure of the proper element needed to open a gate, you won’t be seeing what’s on the other side any time soon.
I was also a bit surprised to see that the game has to download character data whenever you place a new Skylander on the Portal for the very first time. It’s just a one-off, so it’s not like you have to sit and wait every time you switch characters, but the time it takes to download and install all that info disrupts the flow a bit. Although I’m not certain there’s another way they could’ve handled it, short of making the base download significantly larger.
So, should you run out and get yourself a Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack as soon as possible? That depends entirely on how crazy your family/friends/children are for the series. If they love it, then absolutely. It’s also a great fit for series fans that are looking for a more portable version.