#16: To Infinity…And Bankruptcy! (Fri 18th September 2015)
“Toys To Life”. That’s what they’re calling it. Toys. To. Life. If you’re not familiar with “Toys To Life” as a concept, close your eyes and imagine what it is. Maybe you see a teddy bear wandering around your living room? Or a brightly coloured xylophone shouting obscenities at you. Or something else. I’ve no idea. I’ve never met you, and haven’t the slightest idea how your mind works.
What “Toys To Life” is, in fact, is a figurine with a microchip in its arse that, when placed on a plastic plinth, appears in a videogame. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you fall into one of two camps:
1: I’m vaguely aware of/have never heard of this
2: I’m a parent, and this is the reason I’ve had to downsize my home
The market for this stuff is MASSIVE and, as you would expect with anything that seems to be a license to print money (or, more accurately, take buckets of it from kids and their parents), more and more companies are flooding the market. There’s Skylanders from Activision, Disney Infinity, Amiibo from Nintendo and, if that hasn’t forced hard-working parents to sell their car, there’ll soon be Lego Dimensions as well. If you’ve got a kid who likes to collect things, it would cost you literally THOUSANDS of pounds to own complete collections for all these games, not helped by the scarcity of certain figurines driving up prices on ebay and the like.
And the games aren’t even that good. I’ve just spent the last couple of days playing Disney Infinity 3.0’s Star Wars Play Set – Twilight of The Republic and…
Sorry, I should explain again. In Disney Infinity, to actually play specific content created for these toys you’ve bought, you’ll need to have purchased a ‘Play Set’ disc.
“The game disc?” – you innocently ask?
“You wish!” – I reply.
The GAME disc is essentially an introduction to the gameplay mechanics, and a bunch of tutorials that teach you how to use the game’s creative mode – an unintuitive and clunky game design tool that would undoubtedly drive your average six-year-old to murder.
The PLAY SET disc is another plastic thing you buy and rest on top of the ‘Infinity Portal’, which is yet another, bigger, bit of plastic you buy and plug into the console via a USB cable. All this, so that you can get a few hours worth of gameplay, set in the same world as those plastic figurines you bought. So, in the case of ‘Twilight of the Republic’ I got about 5 hours worth of Star Wars missions I could play with my little plastic Yoda, along with a bunch of side quests comparable to the joy one gets from similar tasks in Assassin’s Creed (spoilers: not much).
Well, you might be thinking, I suppose at least with all of these figurines I’ve bought, there’s fun in them going on missions together. Seeing Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and Mickey Mouse going on a Star Wars themed adventure could be a fun little twist on things! It would, dear reader! It would! But you’re not allowed to do that. Only certain Star Wars figurines are compatible with the Twilight of the Republic Play Set! In your face, fun!
I guess as someone who wasn’t a child when this stuff first appeared, I just can’t change gears in my thinking and accept that I need to be in possession of at least FOUR separate items in order to play just one short element of this computer game.
Call me crazy but, when I was a kid, if I wanted a videogame to play, I bought a videogame. If I wanted a toy to play with, I bought a toy. If it’s breakfast and I want a cup of coffee, I don’t have to buy a toaster as well before the kettle lets me boil the water, do I?
Kids seem to love it though and, in fairness, the story missions themselves were actually quite a lot of fun. So, you know, if your kids like this sort of thing, it’s probably worth it. As long as you don’t mind going to Bognor instead of Bermuda next summer.