Toys to Life: It’s Aliiiiive!

Kii talks about the joys of playing with toys and videogames AT THE SAME TIME!

Today I’m going to discuss with you one of the newest genres of game. Yes, it’s for children. No, I do not have any children and yes, I have spent a significant portion of my adult earnings on it. I present to you ‘Toys to Life’.

Toys to life means just that, you have a toy and via the wonders of technology that toy can be animated and move around all of its own accord. The catch being, that it needs to happen via a videogame system that usually has an added ‘portal’ attachment (handily sold alongside the games). When I was a child the idea of my toys being able to frolic and converse was the stuff of dreams but for the children of today, you can almost expect them to do it.

Let’s take the newest venture into this field, Nintendo’s Amiibos. Amiibos are small models of your favourite Nintendo characters which work with a variety of games. You can get your Pikachu and teach him how to murder everyone swiftly in Smash Bros and his little programmable AI will remember. You can then pop him into your pocket, go over to your friend’s house and watch them cry as your adorable electric mouse cuts them a new one. Link can unlock new weapons in Hyrule Warriors and the Mario crew will all have their own game boards for the upcoming Mario Party 10.


Samus, Link and Pikachu

What surprised me most was not the vast game coverage that one Amiibo can give you but the advanced planning that Nintendo themselves have had. With the Amiibos there are no portals or stands, the NFC (Near Field Communication) reader needed to port your long-loved friends into your system is already built into the Wii-U. They built the tech into the console in 2012 for stuff that they weren’t releasing until 2014. They sat on that announcement for two years and in a tech industry that’s a helluva long time.


Stitch, Elsa, Gamora and Vanellope

Our next big hitter in the Toys to Life category is Disney Infinity. DI heavily pushes the ‘Toy Box’ aspect of their game where players can build their own environments for their hoard of characters to run around in. Because of this, the core game itself doesn’t really have much in the way of gameplay without purchasing a character that comes with its own stage and it was this marketing style that initially put me off the franchise. However, since playing Disney Infinity I feel that it definitely wants to be more ‘Minecraft’ about its experience. In the instructional early game, I played a mini game where I was taught some basic coding via the use of a Disney ‘Magic Wand’ which made the concept of different parts of the stage I was building ‘talking’ to each other much more accessible. Anything that teaches you how to code in an easy way always wins some brownie points no matter what age it’s aimed at.

Trap Shadow, Eye Brawl, Rattle Shake, Stealth Elf and Hot Dog

Trap Shadow, Eye Brawl, Rattle Shake, Stealth Elf and Hot Dog

Then we have the game series that arguably created the genre and in my opinion a shining example of what to do with a licence acquisition, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Skylanders has the widest variety of models and the most games under its belt with currently four incarnations. Each evolution of the series adds a new type of model, so there are even more to collect, but thankfully all of the older models will still function in the newer games. Something which I’m sure made some parent/child arguments much easier. The following is a re-enactment.

“But you already have lots of Skylanders, dear”

“Yeah, but I can use all the ones I already have in this shiny new game which gives me something new to play with whilst not incurring further costs AND it means I won’t abandon the old toys, thus wasting your previous expenses”

“Oh well that makes perfect sense, here’s my credit card”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what kids talk like. Though, it’s really a lie because you have to have all of them. The game design in itself is very clever in making sure that you have more models than you need. For example, the second game is called ‘Giants’ hence the new models were much larger than the standard ones. In the third game ‘Swap Force’ there are areas within the levels that are only accessible by Giant Skylanders and so you can never sell your previous collection for the new one just in case you need it. The story of the Skylanders games follows a traditional action/adventure style like the original Spyro and so you want to 100% every damn level to make sure that you have every damn piece of treasure and magical ship part there is. Hence, you need every single model in case of a mystical ‘limited access’ door emergency.


As you may have gathered, the gimmick for 'Swap Force' in that they can swap. Pictured are Trap Shadow and Rattle Shake who swap to become Trap Shake and Rattle Shadow.

As you may have gathered, the gimmick for ‘Swap Force’ in that they can swap. Pictured are Trap Shadow and Rattle Shake who swap to become Trap Shake and Rattle Shadow.

So, is there a superior game? I don’t think so. Nintendo and Disney have their lineage to back them up and Skylanders pretty much invented the concept. If you ask a child if they want a Pikachu, Elsa from Frozen and a molten puppy they (And I) will say ‘Of course I do, gimme!’


Ok, but why does this appeal to adults so hard? Well, a gripe that I have with many children’s games is when they’re designed as ‘Children’s games’ as opposed to ‘Games that happen to be fine for children’ by which I mean, when developers put in less effort because they patronise their audience in assuming that being a child means being an idiot. This is something that these three franchises don’t do and instead they focus on making their games actually enjoyable, thus they have gained an additional adult audience. This is something the developers obviously want and encourage because lets be serious, you need a damn good wage to be able to buy all this shit.

If you need me, I’ll be with my toys.