Bankrupted the Bank of Dad
Activision’s toy story might just be a load of trap
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
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Reviewer Kate Gray Live OXM Kate @hownottodraw