Light and Dark Elemental Skylanders Playsets

8 Overall Score
Characters: 9/10
Levels: 6/10
Toys: 9/10

These sets are not only cool in their own right, the two new elements add to a Skylanders rulebook that has essentially been the same for the past four years.

The 3DS levels provided with the two playsets are only slightly more fun than being the middle man in a three-segment human centipede. Ummm... I take that back. The centipede would probably be more fun.

I’ve been a Skylanders fan for, well, ever. The commercials for Spyro’s Adventure and the toys-to-life mechanic four or five years ago caught my interest big time, and there I was on launch day, waiting in line to get the Wii and 3DS games and a whole mess of figures. Little did I know, this single purchase would not only compel me to buy all 20 or so toys for that game, it would see me amassing 100 percent complete toy collections for Giants and Swap Force, the Skylanders’ first two sequels. With a wife, baby and mortgage, I made the decision to hold off on Skylanders: Trap Team. I finally broke down in late November, snatching up all the Trap Teams toys I could (I’ve got a complete set – as far as what has been released – for Trap Team now, too). I thought I was out, but they pulled me back in. How? Not only the addition of two new elemental powers, bringing the number from eight to 10, but also that the details behind those little question marks remained an abject mystery for a long three-to-four months.

Which brings us to this review for both the Light and Dark expansion packs. There are really a few things you need to know before going any further: Bad news first: The expansion packs are expensive, like Disney Infinity expensive, at a whopping $30. So you’ll be spending $60+ to get the two new characters, Knight Light and Knight Mare, a light or dark element trap and either the Midnight Museum or Sunscraper Spire. The catch is, though, you CAN NOT finish Trap Team with 100% completion with these items. You can’t fill out the Skylander roster, you can’t get all the hats and treasure because special warp gates only react if a Trap Master of the appropriate element toy approaches them (Light and Dark are no exception). You’ll only be two levels in before you see the first of these gates, so it is annoying right off the bat. Finally, if you are trying to fill out a captured villain roster, you’ll have to wait even longer – the only Light and Dark traps available are included in these packs (GameStop just put out a Light trap with an exclusive villain, bringing the total to three). Three traps available + eight Light/Dark villains = I bet some kids had a disappointing Christmas last month. At least when Pokemon tells you to “catch ‘em all,” they are courteous enough to make that actually possible from the minute you start the game.

As a serious fan of anything Skylanders and an Internet user, you probably knew I’d start with the downside of the Light and Dark packs; no one has said anything nice on the Internet about anything, animal, vegetable or mineral, for a decade or so now. So let’s break the mold and go over what makes these sets so worthy of recommendation. The new Trap Masters, Knight Mare (Dark) and Night Light (Light) are two of the best when it comes to this game’s design, just slightly behind Wallop; a giant angel man with enormous wings and a massive blade or a half man/half horse with a giant sword. The enclosed level pieces (Midnight Museum, Sunscraper Spire) are nicely detailed, and the Spire even lights up on the Portal of Power! The third item you get is a Light or Dark trap. I personally don’t care much what a particular trap looks like. The ones in these packs are neat, though quickly become an annoyance when you catch one villain and reach another with no second trap to use and no indication of when Activision will get them to store shelves.

The completionist in me (I can’t put a game down until I’ve got a 100% save file) is both placated and infuriated by these packs. Each pack comes with a small sticker sheet of four stickers. One sticker is to be placed over a question mark on the poster that comes with the game, identifying each of the two new villains. The other three are specifically for the cardboard trap holder that comes packed with Trap Team starter set. This is the awesome part; Activision knew their audience when the made the decision to include those stickers. What they completely bungled, though, is that some of us bought the fancier flip top trap case, and the stickers included with the Light/Dark packs don’t fit in the blank “?” areas. Like, at all. I’m not really sure why Activision has chosen to punish hardcore fans with this stupid move, but maybe they will surprise us later and make the trap box stickers us huge fans really need.

So are the new guys worth more than just what they unlock? I personally think so, especially Knight Mare. She is one of the faster members of the Trap Team, so you don’t have to trade power for speed (I’m looking at you, Tree Rex, Eye Brawl, Wildfire, Thumpback, Jawbreaker and all the others who act like they don’t have anywhere to be anytime soon). She’s no Stealth Elf or Ghost Roster, but there is no question on who’d win a foot race between her and Wallop, Lob-Star and Head Rush. Knight Light, on the other hand, isn’t quite as impressive. He may be the first “humanoid” Skylander, but for all he brings to the table he could just be a larger, weaker Ignitor who left all his fire armor at his old lady’s house last night.

As far as the levels go, they can be either really awesome or a kick in the face with a steel-toed Kodiak work boot. If you are playing the console versions, Sunscraper Spire and Minute Museum provide about 1-3 hours of fun, depending on your pace, and decision to collect everything. Since I’m encouraging you to try all four new levels (Mirror of Mystery and Nightmare Express have been available for a while), I won’t tell you with ones are better than some of the main game’s levels, but at least one or two are. See for yourself.

If you are playing these expansion levels, and I’m referring to all four here, on 3DS, then… let’s hope you have dental insurance because that work boot has been cleared for landing. The console versions of these four extra levels are full-featured and make sense in-game; they are presented as Flynn (aka Kronk aka Joe Swanson aka Brock Samson aka Johnny Johnson The Tick aka David Puddy – Patrick Warburton) is preparing to write a memoir and these four adventures are chapters from his life. Since Flynn spends a good deal of time on the bench in Trap Team, not only was the memoir idea a good one to frame those extra scenarios, it also keeps the character front and center in the preparation for Skylanders 5, which none of us doubt is on the way.

In the 3DS version of these levels, however, reaches, and possibly exceeds, the extreme laziness that came with putting the first two of them together. The levels in Sunscraper Spire and Midnight Museum, from a gameplay standpoint (right along with the first two), are virtually indistinguishable from one another. On the Nightmare Express, you fight bad guys to open blocked paths and you win (on a moving train). In Mirror of Mystery, you fight bad guys to open blocked paths and you win (and you use a catapult). In In Sunscraper Spire, you fight bad guys to open blocked paths and you win (this time you must destroy little objects as well). And finally, for Midnight Museum, you fight bad guys to open blocked paths and you win (while avoiding deadly fog). These levels, in a word, suck. Even worse is that you must play each FOUR TIMES to fill four specific goals, each of which are so easy that my 2-year-old daughter could put it off. These lame challenges make the villain redemption quests in the console version look like Skyrim or Mass Effect when compared to these four wastes of energy. And guess what? You get NOTHING for finishing them. No stars, no items, no nothing… just a “Hey, thanks for letting us murder your brain cells.”). As a fan from the very beginning, I was astonished that the series would pull such as cop-out, but that’s where we are. I’ve often said the handheld Skylanders game get worse every year, and Trap Team just proved me right.

But back to the set as a whole. If you are a Skylanders completionist, you either already have these toys or are not wasting time reading this article. Instead, you are probably driving to every Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Toys R Us in your area looking for them. If you are a casual player, you’ll probably still want these if you plan on finishing the game – Trap Masters open only open in-game areas specifically for them, so you’ll never truly finish without at least one of all (now) 10 elements. The addition of new elements was cool, and the way they held them back for a few months was even cooler (or frustrating, depending on who you ask). What really stung was the 3DS levels. I’ve seen indies programmed by a single guy that were leaps and bounds ahead of every aspect of the 3DS Light/Dark expansions. These expansions are highly sought after and often tough to find, yet (mostly) terrible from a gameplay standpoint. So why would Activision allow the electronic part, even on as minor as the 3DS game) of the franchise to fall over a waterfall of mediocrity? At least this time they used Flynn as a way to tie it together. But I digress; if you are a Skylanders fan, you need to these two packs. Just like any gamer, I’ve got my beefs with some of the aspects of these products, but overall they are very good. Even though Activision is acting like the Sheriff of Nottingham with the prices, not just for these sets but Skylanders as a whole. I wonder how many people will drop out after Trap Team; I dropped Skylanders before Swap Force (they dragged me back) and now they want $25 a pop for the Eon’s Elite series (old toys with new paintjobs, higher stats and decorative cases). Are they serious?!

The bottom line is that if you or your children play Trap Team, then these two packs and what they unlock is crucial to the full enjoyment of the game. The figures sculpts are nice, the new characters are a mixed bag and the levels are only good if you play them on a console, not a 3DS. Happy hunting!

 

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Jason Nimer
Author: Jason Nimer View all posts by
Jason Nimer has been playing video games for nearly 30 years. He has been professionally reviewing them for nearly a decade, with well over 1,000 written reviews to his credit. Jason's signature gaming credit is completing a no-nicknames, US-only, legit Living Dex in Pokemon. His other interests include 80's and 90's punk rock, power metal, comics (though all he reads now is the IDW TMNT ongoing series and his old Preacher hardcovers), collecting and playing Skylanders and being the biggest Dragonball Z fan on the entire planet (and yes, he CAN prove it). Jason lives in Georgia with his wife, Wendi, and daughter, Lily, and will tell anyone who will listen that Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! is the best video game of all time.

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