Bankrupted the Bank of Dad

Ac­tivi­sion’s toy story might just be a load of trap

XBox: The Official Magazine - - REVIEWS -

Pub­lisher Ac­tivi­sion / De­vel­oper Toys for Bob / For­mat Xbox 360 & Xbox One (re­viewed) / re­lease date out now

Purses groan. Par­ents wail. A tide of cyn­i­cism sweeps the land. No, it’s not the re­lease of Justin Bieber con­cert tick­ets – it’s Sky­lan­ders: Trap Team. The Sky­lan­ders games have al­ways been fairly de­cent ac­tion-ad­ven­ture puz­zle-plat­former games, with plenty of sid­e­quests, col­lectibles and minigames to en­ter­tain even the short­est of at­ten­tion spans – but the gloss is start­ing to wear away, and all that’s un­der­neath is a bid to get your money in less and less sub­tle ways.

Gated ar­eas re­quire cer­tain el­e­men­tal char­ac­ters to un­lock, and the two in­cluded in the starter pack are Wa­ter and Life – and only Wa­ter can un­lock those doors, be­cause he’s a Trap Master. The big new thing for 2014, Trap Masters are es­sen­tially Ac­tivi­sion’s way of en­sur­ing you buy new fig­ures, as they’re the only ones who can get all that tasty new con­tent.

The trap me­chanic – which cap­tures van­quished vil­lains, Poké­mon- style – in­volves el­e­men­tal traps and un­less you pur­chase more you’ll only be able to snare about a quar­ter of the vil­lains. It’s a shame, be­cause the me­chanic is a nice idea, al­low­ing you to tag in char­ac­ters you’ve caught, and boasts clever use of sound – there’s a real sense of con­nec­tion to the world as vil­lains yell en­cour­age­ment, jokes and sass at you from their plas­tic ‘prisons’.

It’s a great hook in a game that is slicker than the usual chil­dren’s fare. Yes, it has its prob­lems – it’s slow and frus­trat­ing, with no sprint but­ton, no skip­pable di­a­logue and no check­points. Yet the character de­sign is ex­cel­lent, the script is just the right level of puerile, and there’s enough vari­a­tion to keep you hooked.

But just as you start to get into the groove, you’ll meet another screened-off sec­tion of the game that sticks its hand out for another ten quid. Rather than the way Lego games work, for ex­am­ple – gat­ing off ar­eas un­til you un­lock later char­ac­ters – it’s gated off with money. Your money.

It ends up feel­ing like an av­er­age Dreamworks film – a Mega­mind or a Shark Tale – be­cause de­spite its pol­ish, you still come away un­der­whelmed and a bit dis­ap­pointed that you didn’t spend that money on a fam­ily ticket to a Pixar film in­stead. OXM

Sci­en­tists dis­cover that the di­nosaurs ac­tu­ally died out be­cause of faulty jet­packs.

The pro­posed re­place­ment for Sooty and Sweep didn’t win over too many hearts.

Re­viewer Kate Gray Live OXM Kate @hownot­to­draw

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