I’ve seen too many bad games foisted off on young gamers, shoved aside with the phrase “It’s not good, but kids might like it.” Kids don’t deserve bad games any more than you do, and Skylanders: Trap Team helps prove that they don’t need to settle for them.
I didn’t expect to be defending Skylanders. When Jeff issued the challenge to play Trap Team, I can’t say I eagerly jumped at the chance. However, I have always been curious about this series’ appeal; I couldn’t tell if it was legitimately good, or just a clever gimmick to sell action figures. Even if one day playing Trap Team isn’t enough to fully absorb everything about Skylanders, it’s definitely enough to understand why the franchise is such a phenomenon.
I'm a fan of Traveller's Tales Lego games, and Toys for Bob taps into the same breed of charming, low-impact, family entertainment with Trap Team. I can't speak to how this particular iteration improves over the previous ones, but the fantastic visuals and polished gameplay leave little room for complaint. The combat and platforming are simple, but the character progression adds a bit of unexpected depth. Choosing an upgrade path isn't groundbreaking or anything, but it adds a little bit of ownership and entices you to keep playing to keep learning new skills.
Of course, the biggest component (or gimmick) of Skylanders is the portal, which transforms action figures into in-game characters. In order to get more characters (which unlock different secret areas and other stuff), you need to buy more toys. On this front, my experience wasn't typical of most newcomers. We have a huge box of Skylanders toys that have been used to review all of the entries up until now, so I was a novice with all the benefits of a long-dedicated collector. That made it easy to enjoy the thrill of swapping out multiple characters, watching them come to life, and trying out a variety of different abilities. I had a good time playing through the first several levels, completing various objectives and capturing villains.
However, I couldn't help but think of how much less fun I would be having without that huge box of toys on my desk. The game only comes with two figures. If you want more characters (and the game is better the more you have), you need to buy them. Even though I was enjoying Skylanders, I realized that the experience isn't about providing a great game – it's about providing a good enough game to tempt players to make it better by sinking more money into it.
Am I going to go out and start buying Skylanders toys? Nope. Was I surprised by how much fun I had during my day of playing Trap Team anyway? Absolutely.
I was prepared to dismiss Skylanders as a ploy to make parents buy junk for their kids, but I am ultimately in favor of Skylanders: Trap Team making our Top 50 list. It’s a charming and well-made adventure that uses its remarkable technology very well. My only reservation is the fact that getting the most out of this game requires a significant investment beyond the initial purchase. Amassing a sufficient army of figures is not cheap, but if you’re playing this installment, you also probably have a box of figures from previous titles already, and you know what comes with the territory. Thankfully, Trap Team makes your devotion pay off with fun and accessible gameplay that is easy to enjoy.