First came Spyro's Adventure, and it was good. Then came Giants, introducing a new element into the tried-and-true Skylanders gameplay formula; it, too, was good. Then followed Swap Force, and suddenly the game, which was already balancing a fine line of fiddliness, what with having to pause and switch out the figurines, became prohibitively complicated, where time spent configuring the Skylanders detracted from the gameplay.
Whereas in the previous two games, you had to switch out the real-world NFC-enabled figurines -- each of which allows you to play that character in-game by placing it on the Skylanders "portal" peripheral, connected to your console via USB -- Swap Force introduced characters held togetehr at the waist by magnets, which could be mixed-and-matched for a much wider range of configurations.
With Trap Team, Activision seems to have learnt its lesson. Gone are the mix-and-match Skylanders, replaced with a new set of heroes and a new mechanic: Traps. These are pegs that you place in an aperture in the new portal that allow you capture certain enemies -- which you can then play as in addition to your Skylander, switching between the two.
The game also introduces Trap Masters. Like Giants, these Skylanders allow you to access certain underground areas; instead of jumping through the ground, though, the Trap Master smashes Traptanium crystals, which restores, piece by piece, the universe's bad-guy prison.
First, the bad news: although you can get away with playing the game with just one Trap Master and as few traps as you like (you don't have to trap enemies), in order to complete the game, you'll have to make some significant purchases. Like the Skylanders, the enemies you can trap have elemental types, so you'll need at least eight traps, as well as the Trap Master portal.
Also, unlike Spyro's Adventure, Giants and Swap Force, where gated elemental zones could be opened by any Skylander of the corresponding element, the gated elemental zones in Trap Team can only be opened by Trap Masters of the corresponding element. This means that you'll need to purchase at least eight of the premium Trap Master Skylander figures if you want access to those zones.
It's a curious choice to enforce the purchase in that way, considering that fans would likely want to purchase a selection of the figures anyway; we imagine there will be plenty of parents, who have already spent a fair amount of money on the toys, vexed that their investment hasn't carried through in the way it had for previous games. (Old Skylanders can still be used to play the game, just not to access the locked areas.)