If you think Toys to Life is dead, you might want to reconsider that statement after seeing Lightseekers. Truly, it’s a next generation of technology, pushing the genre well beyond the simplistic “put figures on a portal” nature of Skylanders, Lego Dimensions and Disney Infinity. This covers so many different angles, with the recent release of a free to play mobile game alongside a new generation of smart figures and even a trading card game, all of which can interact and work together.
The most immediate thing you’ll notice about Jax the Tyrax and Kora the Mari, the two figures that Lightseekers has launched with, is that they’re full on action figures produced by Tomy in collaboration with PlayFusion. Their limbs articulate with a clickiness that lets you put them in various dramatic poses, they’ve got extra weapons and attachments, and most importantly, all of this translates directly across to the game, which magically knows what’s in each hand.
Actually, I tell a lie. It’s not magic, it’s relatively small but sturdy electronic connectors imbedded in each hand and on the handle of each weapon reporting back to a relatively small but chunky Fusioncore module that can plug into the back of any toy and act as its brain. It’s this module that connects to the tablet via Bluetooth, powers the various little lights in the toy and detects what weapons are in hand for the game.
Not only that, but it features two small buttons, letting the toy itself act as a controller in the game. For most of the game, you’ll be playing directly on the tablet, bashing your way through enemies on the fantastical planet of Tantos in the light action RPG combat, but attach a pair of wings or a jet pack to the character’s back and they can take off, using the gyroscope in the toy as a motion controller and blasting away at enemies with rockets.
A handful of mini games also feature, sending you flying through levels using the motion control and buttons to try and pick up orbs while racing against another player, or working semi-cooperatively against enemies. Playing in the middle of a lovely store, I’m up against a rather enthusiastic kid who seems to be lapping it all up. Really he simply relishes the chance, not to win, but to make other people lose. Kids are mean, but thankfully I held my own.
The game also brings further augmented reality elements into play with scannable cards that act as boosters and items for the heroes, potentially even bringing in support characters or pets to fight alongside you. These cards all have unique identifier codes cannily hidden away around the edges of the printed cards, making each one individual to the game and allowing Play Fusion to limit their use to avoid letting them be overpowering.
However, all of these cards also work as part of a traditional trading card game, with the twist being, well… twisting. You have your main hero card that determines your stats, each of which adheres to one of the six elemental Orders. Each turn, you play direct attacks, defence or buffs, that could in and of themselves be creatures that damage the opposing player.
However, what’s unique here is that as buffs fill out the mat in front of you, each of your turns that pass sees them spin 90º, with their effects changing each turn until they expire. Meanwhile, there’s also combo cards that need you to sacrifice other cards with particular elements on them, and that’s before you start to consider whether you want to do that instead of playing two standard cards, or if you want to draw more cards instead of playing any.
It’s surprisingly deep and complex, offering something fascinating and new to the TCG genre that’s so in vogue right now, however, it also manages to be relatively straight forward with just a handful of rules to learn about the order of each turn.
Honestly, Lightseekers might be trying to do a few too many things at once. The one saving grace is that all of these disparate elements can stand alone or interact with one another and that they are starting relatively small, with just two smart figures releasing now, and further pairs planned for the future.
More difficult to overcome is the potential apathy to the Toys to Life genre, regardless of how good and clever these toys are. The market quickly became oversaturated and seemed to burst over the last couple years, and when that happens, it’s often up to new teams to come in and innovate. Lightseekers is just that, breathing a fresh life into the genre.