Maybe Ubisoft didn’t hear, but Toys to Life died a couple of years ago when heavyweights Disney Infinity, Skylanders and Lego Dimensions all exited stage left. That hasn’t stopped Ubisoft from building a brand new entry in the fading genre, blending space exploration and planetary battling with physical toys you can take apart and rebuild on the fly.
The way the ships all bolt together is fantastic, letting you extend and customise in various ways. With a conventional mindset, wings bolt onto the main body, and you can then slap different guns onto those wings, but if you prefer, you can bolt several wings together – up to three on either side – attach them backwards, and create a distinctively asymmetrical look. Don’t worry, the ship will still somehow manage to stay in the sky and fly, but these add a lot of fun and easy experimentation when it comes to putting things together physically.
Unlike its forebears, there’s no standalone portal to plonk in front of your TV and put toys on. Instead they’re all attached to your controller – on Switch, it’s a bespoke Joy-Con grip with a central plinth, while Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have controller attachments that dominate the centre of the controllers. It means you’re almost playing the game with these toys right in your hand. The first step is to pick your pilot, each of which have unique abilities in game, then slot the body of the ship over the top of them, attach wings and weapons, and you’re away.
There’s a certain look of No Man’s Sky to the planets already revealed, perhaps drawing on similar classic science fiction artwork for their inspirations, and the mission on the planet of Haven shows this off wonderfully, with rolling hills covered in pink grass for you to explore and quirkily designed alien creatures for you to scan. It’s poppy, colourful and inviting.
While on the surface, you’re taking on various quests and missions for the different factions and trying to gain favour with them in your fight against the Forgotten Legion that are ravaging the system. If you’re tired of following the main story, you can easily spin off to the side and start scanning the wildlife, gathering resources and solving puzzles for upgrades, and simply exploring and mapping each of these planets.
Quite regularly, you’ll bump into the Forgotten Legion, whether they’ve taken over a base that you can capture from their control or you’ve been tasked with destroying mining rigs and a string of successively larger enemies. The ground play is a lot like playing with a hover tank, moving in any direction and strafe, and with a jump and boost that help you evade. Take to the skies and eventually outer space, and there’s a forward thrust that you’d expect from flight. It just feels right – and more than a little bit Star Fox-y – in how it handles and shifts between them. The game seamlessly moves from planet surface to outer space, and honestly looked great doing so.
It’s not terribly challenging, so long as you’re levelled up and find the right combination of weapons to use. A great deal of the fun in the game is in experimenting with different weapons and exploiting elemental weaknesses. Pairing ice weapons with fire weapons gives you great flexibility, but there might be more fun with a stasis missile launcher that makes enemies float, a wing mounted jet that launches your ship as a battering ram, or a gravity vortex that pulls enemies in and can take on the elemental damage of whatever is then fired through it. As much as I loved the battering ram and the vast amount of damage it could cause, I eventually discovered that it was not the best weapon for every task.
Starlink would be one worth watching even without Toys to Life – and you can play in a digital only mode, which will be especially handy for Switch, but giving you physical things to play with and combining that with a family friendly coming of age story gives this game a unique feel that stands out from the crowds of other games coming out later this year.