Review Price to be confirmed
See that iPad? It belongs to your kids now...Coming on iOS, Android and Kindle Fire devices
We’ve had mobile tie-ins and we’ve had tablet versions of a few console games, but with Skylanders: Trap Team, Activision really is trying something new. This is a one-to-one version of a brand new console game, launched at the same time as the console game, and boasting the same features, if not more. It looks like the console game and, thanks to the bundled hardware, plays like it too.
Whether you play it on your iPad Air or a Samsung Galaxy Tab S, Trap Team isn’t some cut-down side-game, but the same Trap Team you might play on the Xbox 360 or PS3.
It all comes down to a combination of software and hardware. Just like on the conventional console platforms, Trap Team comes as a starter pack with the new Traptanium Portal, the Skylanders Food Fight and Snap Shot and water and life traps. The new portal works across Android, iPad and Kindle Fire platforms through a Bluetooth link, and includes a handy stand which, we’re told, will support anything from the iPad Mini with Retina Display and Google Nexus 7 to the giant-sized Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2.
It also houses a Skylanders-specific Bluetooth gaming controller, with twin analogue sticks, four face buttons and four shoulder buttons to match the PS3 or 360 pads. The controller and portal pair automatically and setup-free with the Skylanders: Trap Team app, which downloads free from your platform’s app store.
The controller is a little lightweight and stubby, not to mention clearly designed for smaller hands, but the sticks and buttons don’t feel too bad at all, and it seems perfectly responsive in gameplay. You might even want to try it with other titles, but we’re told that the price of the easy pairing is that it’s not compatible with other games.
We mostly saw the game itself demonstrated rather than hands-on, but if the team’s objective was to achieve parity with the last-gen console versions then they look to have achieved it. In fact, running at native screen resolution on a Retina iPad Mini, it arguably looks crisper and more vibrant, with impressive draw distances and some nice textures and effects.
Basically, it seems that you get the full Skylanders experience, complete with the simple pleasures of popping those plastic figurines on and off their stand to bring them in and out of play, not to mention the new fun of trapping villains. We saw one, Sheep Creep, captured and converted to good, and you had the same synchronised light and sound effects from the portal that you would expect from the home console versions. Still, you might be thinking, what’s the point of a mobile game that you (or your kids) can’t take with you when you go out?
Fear not. Pull your tablet from the portal and you can carry on playing on the move, with touchscreen controls taking the place of the physical controller, but the gameplay going on as before. There are some minor limitations. The Trap Team app only downloads with the first new levels, streaming new levels as you play, so without a live Internet connection you can only play levels you’ve already downloaded, while you’re limited to two digital ‘instant’ skylanders and a couple of ‘instant’ traps. This isn’t a problem. These still upgrade and customise just like the physical critters, and we’re told that you could theoretically complete the whole game with just the instants.
The instants also work to power a kind-of demo experience, which gives players who download the app without purchasing the starter pack a chance to get a feel for Trap Team before they buy.
Co-op play is supported, either with third-party controllers or the controller bundled with another portal, and the skylander figures work exactly as they do in the console version, saving all enhancements and customisations internally so that you can play with your most beefy skylander on your friend’s tablet or console.
Like the home console versions the mobile game is also compatible with the 175-strong range of existing skylanders, regardless of platform, giving you the option to play with old favourites as well as the 50 new skylanders and 40 new villains that will be arriving with Trap Team itself.
Overall, we’re impressed. This is the whole console game running on mobile platforms in a way that doesn’t compromise the graphics, the gameplay or mobile play. The first of two downsides is that, as the game is hand-optimised for each platform, only a fairly small range of tablets are supported. You can play on the iPad 3 (with reduced graphics quality), iPad 4, iPad Air and Retina Mini, plus the Kindle Fire HDX (both sizes), but Android support is currently limited to the 2013 Nexus 7, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro and Tab S ranges and the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014). We’re told that the range of supported tablets will be added to, and given that neither the Nexus 7 nor the Fire HDX uses a particularly exotic processor, we’d hope that to be the case.
The second downside? Well, Trap Team for tablet gives you a full console game, but also at a full console cost. The app might be free, but the starter pack costs the same £64.99 RRP. Given the bundled controller, portal, skylanders and traps that’s actually not too bad, but will parents used to paying £2.99 or less for a tablet game warm to the idea of splashing out £65 for Trap Team? I suspect that a lot of people in the gaming industry will be watching with interest to find out.