Welcome to our new series called Two Sides of the Same Coin. The gaming world is full of wonders, but sometimes there is an aspect that although fun is riddled with many problems. For the first installment, I am going to dive into the topic of “toys-to-life” games.
For those who don’t know what these games are, “toys-to-life” games are titles such as Skylanders, Disney Infinity and the recently released Lego: Dimensions. Games that adopt this format feature multiple characters with a variety of abilities, visual looks, and gameplay variations that add new ways to play the game. In order to play as these characters, people must purchase new figures that can be placed on a portal, the device that makes the figures appear on the screen. Essentially, figures for “toys-to-life” games are downloadable content, but in physical from. Now that we are up to speed on what this type of game is, let’s dissect the positive and negative aspects that “toys-to-life” games bring to the table.
Positives: It’s Time To Play The Game
I’m personally a fan of these types of games. I originally resisted because of the pricing model, but I was fortunate enough to pick up Skylanders: Swap Force on sale for the Xbox One. The game comes with a portal, Wash Buckler, Blast Zone, and Ninja Stealth Elf. The gameplay tweak in Swap Force was that there were swappable Skylanders that would grant new abilities. There are 256 unique combinations to discover that will allow access to new areas and grant the player different abilities to succeed in battle. While the game is aimed at kids, the actual core gameplay is a fun action platformer that contains plenty of humorous moments, exciting boss battles and new places to discover.
Disney Infinity and Lego: Dimensions offer less of a risk. While Skylanders is full of unique and made up characters that haven’t existed before (with the exception of Spyro), the characters in Disney Infinity and Lego: Dimensions are all licensed characters from various Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and other popular franchises. It’s fun to take control of some of your favorite characters in situations that they normally wouldn’t find themselves in. In this regard, “toys-to-life” games offer an experience that no other game can.
How many instances would find Gandalf, Homer Simpson and Scooby-Doo all going on an adventure together? Lego: Dimensions melds the narrative of some iconic movies and TV shows with an original twist all its own. The gameplay is reminiscent to the Lego games that fans love, but utilizes the Lego Dimension portal in order to solve puzzles and take down bosses. The gameplay variations between Lego: Dimensions and the other Lego games such as Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars, Lego Jurassic World are fantastic. In fact, Lego: Dimensions is simply the best Lego game I have ever played. While these games are fun, there is one MAJOR problem and that leads me to the negative side of the “toys-to-life” genre.
Negatives: Money, Money, Money
All of these games essentially cost a lot of money. Sure, the base game for Lego: Dimensions may cost $100 while the Skylanders and Disney Infinity games cost around $65, but once you start playing the games, the cost begins to rise. When you purchase a “toys-to-life” game, you are given the bare essentials. Players will have what they need to complete the main storyline, but that’s not enough. Playing through the game will show you just what you’re missing. Skylanders contains different elements that must be obtained in order to get through side doors. The games come with three elements (the rest are sold separately.) Swap Force in particular was rough because in addition to needing multiple elementals to view all the content, some challenges needed certain Skylanders that wielded a specific ability.
It was frustrating. At $15 per swappable Skylander, players were looking at around $210 and that didn’t even count the other Skylanders that could be purchased as well. To purchase the rest of them at $9.99, that would cost around another $329.69. To own everything, that would cost more than $500. I’m not saying that you have to go out and buy each Skylander to have a great time, but there are so many hidden moves to unlock that are only usable with a certain Skylander. I’ve been to Skylanders day at Gamestop a few times and there are always families that mention needing one or two more figures to complete the set for that particular game. The amount of people spending over $500 for one game is quite alarming.
Lego: Dimensions has already catered to my desire to play through side areas by locking them behind characters I have no interest in ever purchasing. I’m not a fan of The Wizard of Oz, but in order to destroy silver Legos, I need to by The Wicked Witch of the West. That’s unfortunate because the game is actually quite fantastic. Lego: Dimension takes the Skylanders price that I mentioned and goes a step further. In order to buy just the FIRST wave of content for the game (including the game itself), players will be set back more than $400 dollars. There are still more character packs and level packs coming out in the next few months. With Lego: Dimensions, each level pack costs $30.
These games come at a cost. The thing is that once a new installment comes out, the previous game sort of gets left in the dust and leaves your characters useless. Sure, Skylanders allows players to use characters from the previous games, but that’s the effect that “toys-to-life” games have on people. Why play with the old characters when there are new ones to be had? That’s the problem. By the time all of the figures are released, most people have finished the game. There is no real point in getting the new figures if everything in the particular game has been found. That is unless you are a collector.
Skylanders: Trap Team adopted an interesting strategy and didn’t release the light and dark elementals until a few months after launch. This ensured that players who wanted to see everything would be playing the game for a long time. Lego: Dimensions is doing the same thing. There are other hub worlds to be found and areas to be unlocked, but in order to do so, players need Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, DC, Simpsons characters, and others as well. The problem here is that these characters don’t come out for a while. This leaves players who are currently experiencing one of these games at launch out of luck.
Conclusion: Play In Moderation
If it seems like I focused more on the negatives, it’s because that’s what needs to be addressed in a more urgent matter. For unsuspecting consumers (especially parents), who may not know much about the “toys-to-life” genre, the total possible amount of money spent on these games could be quite a shock and also very annoying. It’s better to be well informed than to just go into a store and buy without the proper knowledge. In the end, “toys-to-life” games are actually fantastic experiences that bring fun and laughter for gamers. I would actually recommend picking up any of the games I suggested above.
If you are content with just purchasing the bare essentials to play the game or if budget is not a problem and you can purchase many of the characters, go ahead and have a blast. If budget concerns are an issue or if you think that games like this will find you buying more than you want to on multiple occasions, it may be best to skip the “toys-to-life” genre. One thing is for sure, “toys-to-life” games bring a unique experience that most games on the market fail to give gamers out there. They inspire imagination within the “Toy Box” in Disney Infinity as well as installing feelings of nostalgia in Lego: Dimensions. Whether you are a young person finding the love of video games early on or an older gamer who feels “young at heart”, there’s something awesome about seeing your figure appear on the screen. The first time I witnessed my Skylander go through the portal, I was hooked… and I haven’t looked back since.