Playing Skylanders Trap Team feels like you're getting a taste of the future of iOS gaming, especially if the home console game studios have their way.
It's a big budget, AAA experience, with almost no concession given to the fact that it happens to be running on a tablet. It's an Xbox 360 game, but on your iPad, and it is a phenomenal technical achievement.
It's also $75 US dollars (or about £50) for the Starter Pack, and in its obsession with being as close as possible to a home release, it can feel a little awkward to play.
The home experience, on the move
In the Starter Pack you'll find two Traps, the Portal, a controller, 5 AAA batteries, and other bits and pieces. You also get a standard Skylander from the new series called Food Fight, and a Trap Master named Snap Shot. All you need to do then is download the game from the App Store. Mercifully, it's free.
The physical tech is excellent. The Portal places your Skylanders into the game quickly, and the controller is comfortable to hold and easy to use. It's so good that I wish you could use it in other games as a standard MFi controller, but alas, you can't.
An Internet connection is required while playing, as Skylanders Trap Team needs to access the net to download additional data frequently.
Alternatively you can plum for the Premium Install, which partitions off another 6GB of space on your tablet and begins retrieving data for the entire game in the background as you're playing.
You can play on the go, but if you don't want to lug all the hardware around with you you'll be limiting your Skylanders choices to just Instant Food Fight and Instant Snap Shot, plus any enemies you confine to the Instant Life and Instant Water Traps. It's playable this way, but it you're not getting the full experience.
The main reason for that is the Portal itself. You can bring any physical Skylander into the game to get in on the combat and platforming action, and each of them has an elemental affinity, such as Life or Water or Magic or whatever. Many areas have access locked down to a specific element.
If you don't have a Fire Skylander, you simply can't take on some challenges, and it feels as if you're missing out on content you've already paid for.
On top of this, some areas can only be accessed by the new Trap Masters, you'll need certain Elemental Traps to imprison certain Villains, there are optional playsets to buy as well.
But Skylanders Trap Team isn't lacking content. The main story is lengthy, as is the tower defence-style Kaos Challenge mode. There are minigames scattered throughout levels that change up the flow of the platforming and arena combat.
There's even a collectible card game squirrelled away in here, and you'll build up your deck as you trap Villains.
Each Skylander levels up and increases their abilities, and you collect loot so that you can visit Persephone to unlock special moves and upgrades. There are Hats and Trinkets to collect too. There's a lot, basically.
The presentation is wonderful. I played the game on an iPad Mini 2 and the frame rate stayed smooth for most of the duration. That's impressive considering the massive draw distance, attention to detail in the environment design, and the well-animated characters.
The story is right out of a Saturday morning cartoon, and the audio work is suitably awesome. Richard Steven Horvitz and Patrick Warburton are particularly impressive as they reprise their roles as Kaos and Flynn, dancing over hilarious lines of dialogue that young and old will appreciate.
Skylanders Trap Team is expensive then, and at times its reliance on the Portal can make it unwieldy. But it's also the real deal. It's not a free-to-play Candy Crush clone, it's not a disposable side project, and it's not a "portable version."
This is the full Skylanders experience, you can take it anywhere you like, and that's kind of amazing.The US version of Skylanders Trap Team is out now, the UK version will be out on October 10th.
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