Skylanders Trap Team
Skylanders Trap Team may represent a dramatic shift in tablet gaming. Previously, Activision released app store games inspired by the billion-dollar franchise to complement the more robust console releases, like the shooter Cloud Patrol and the free-to-play build-a-thon Lost Islands. This year, the publisher brought the exact same PS4, Xbox One and Wii U title to iPad and Android devices. Slight compromises were made of course, most notably with graphics and speed, but don't let either of these irrelevant observations dissuade you from spending $74.99 on the starter pack. This version is every bit as good as its counterparts.
Trap Team works brilliantly. You download the game from your app store of choice, activate the new Portal of Power (otherwise known as the Traptanium Portal), do the same with the physical controller and everything syncs on its own through Bluetooth; seamless and simple. We don't have a console Trap Team to run the test, but there's a great chance you can start playing the iPad and Android one faster, considering the quick setup process.
The game, meanwhile, is the quality Skylanders experience we've come to expect over the last few years, with the twist that you're able to capture enemies using pieces of Traptanium (you receive two in the box, along with an equal number of Skylanders) and effortlessly switch between characters with a simple button press, harnessing their unique abilities to solve challenges and defeat bad guys. Along the way, you'll gather a bunch of loot and unlock new moves for your favorite characters. Should you grow tired of one Skylander, you can easily replace it with a new one, just as you would on console.
Beyond that, Trap Team looks and sounds incredible. Expect plenty of detail in both the Skylanders and the world they inhabit, along with impressive voice work that brings each character to life. Of particular interest is the first boss you see, The Gulper, a large brute that wrecks havoc in the background as you seek the best way to defeat him.
Regarding the control pad, it's a cross between the Xbox One controller (diagonal analog stick placement, face buttons) and the DualShock 4 (L1/L2, R1/R2 buttons). It's small, but also well built and responsive. The fact that it fits snugly underneath the Portal is a big plus if you intend to play on the go. Now all Activision needs to do is convince app developers to support it; thus far, it only works with Trap Team, and may permanently remain that way.
We think the price of entry may turn off some tablet users accustomed to paying $0.99 or nothing to download games, though an argument can be made that Trap Team is the most full-featured iOS and Android game in history.
Like all Skylanders games, though, Activision wants players to buy as many figures as possible, which costs upwards of $14.99 for the large Trap Masters, and $9.99 at the cheapest. You can't access certain areas without characters belonging to various elemental types, and now when you factor Traptanium into the mix, the cost skyrockets to receive the ultimate experience.
Speaking of Traptanium, it's a novel concept and smart marketing on Activision's part, but it comes off as a clever way of inhaling money from our pockets. Though to be fair, the ability to trade imprisoned Skylanders with friends is a cool feature.
Finally, and this has nothing to do with the game, make sure you purchase a tablet case with a built-in stand, or at the very least lean the device against a surface that'll prevent it from slipping.
We can and will counter every negative thing to say about Skylanders Trap Team with a positive. The Starter Pack is $74.99 but it's a wonderful game, while the somewhat pricey figures look awesome displayed on a shelf. Ultimately, this is the sort of game everyone envisioned years ago as tablets grew in power, and we hope Activision and other publishers release more Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo ports to these devices. You can't go wrong with Trap Team on console, but the iPad and Android port is just as good, if not better because of the portability.
Before buying Skylanders Trap Team, check the back of the Starter Pack box to make sure it is compatible with your iPad or Android tablet.