Monday, June 20, 2016

E3 2016 Impressions - Toys to Life

The fad of on-disc physical DLC... I mean... the brilliant business move of... er... cool figurines of characters that you can collect and display on your shelf (yeah, there we go) that are "Toys to Life" were still going strong at E3 this year. (Don't hate; I have like fifteen amiibo myself.) While I didn't notice any Skylanders or Disney Infinity displays this time around, there were still some nifty Toys to Life representatives in the form of amiibo, LEGO Dimensions figures, a children's plush and storybook combo called Octobo, and an NFC-reading touch pad of board games for any figurine.

The making of an amiibo
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It seems like there are times when Nintendo's amiibo are more popular than the games they're actually used in. And perhaps rightly so; their quality is surprisingly high and they often represent characters who have very few other products based on them, so they're a good way to show off your fandom (or play with them) for a relatively low price compared to high quality figurines.
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While I don't know their use at this point (and it's usually not very exciting anyway), my best guess is that the newly announced Super Mario series amiibo will be primarily used in the upcoming Mario Party: Star Rush on 3DS. Against all odds, fan favorites Waluigi and Daisy finally get their own amiibo figures, in addition to Boo and new versions of Diddy Kong, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Rosalina.
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Even cooler, in my opinion, are the three highly detailed Zelda: Breath of the Wild amiibo: Archer Link, Rider Link, and the Guardian, which can be used in the upcoming game. As before, click to enlarge the pictures.

LEGO Dimensions
A LEGO Dimensions portal
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This was my first time trying LEGO Dimensions, but both the story adventures and the new competitive multiplayer modes seemed to be quite enjoyable for gamers of any age, albeit seemingly cost prohibitive and a bit obnoxious because of the frequency of the multiplayer announcer's quips. I played a Capture the Flag mode in a large Adventure Time-themed arena with characters scanned in from the new Ghostbusters, Green Arrow (an E3-exclusive character figure), and The A-Team. Basically, the goal was to capture any of the opponents' flags and either carry it back to your own base for big points or simply hold onto it for a gradual increase in points. You could also attack other players, collect powerups, and upgrade your defenses by spending collectible Lego studs. From what I understood, different characters also had somewhat different abilities. It was indeed quite fun and I could see that there was potential for strategic gameplay for those who played the mode often.

All of this was to showcase the upcoming Year 2 figures for LEGO Dimensions which will work with existing Starter Packs. I had to look this up from to refresh my memory since there are so many new ones coming, but...

"The new packs will begin launching on September 27, 2016 and include the Ghostbusters Story Pack, Adventure Time and Mission: Impossible Level Packs, Harry Potter and Adventure Time Team Packs, and The A-Team Fun Pack. Additional expansion packs based on other highly-anticipated films Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The LEGO Batman Movie and wildly popular properties The Goonies, Sonic The Hedgehog, Teen Titans Go!, LEGO City Undercover, Knight Rider, The Powerpuff Girls, Gremlins, Beetlejuice and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial will be released in product waves stretching into summer of next year."
Upcoming Adventure Time Team Pack
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There are a lot of new series being added and it makes for a ridiculous mashup of characters that should be fun for kids and parents alike (well, maybe not the parents' wallets), thanks to a combination of old and new properties. Admittedly, it's all one huge brilliant advertisement feeding into itself for Legos, games, movies, and TV shows, but at least the game itself is actually good.

Additional LEGO Dimensions photos start here in the WhatTheyCallGames Facebook page album.

Prizm Labs' Play Table
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Pitched as a "Board Game Console", the Play Table is a large touch screen which is designed to play apps of popular and original board games. You can drag virtual cards and pieces around with your finger to place them, simply use the board to set up a digital version of a game you already own so you can use your own pieces on top of it, or, cooler still, use the Toys to Life figures you already own which can be scanned for both ID and board position. Although not officially partnered with Nintendo or Disney, the Play Table demo included one board game that actually recognized that a Mewtwo amiibo and Plant from Plants vs. Zombies had been placed on one team and that a Disney Infinity Elsa and Pikachu had been placed on the other team; each with its own matching graphics, audio, attacks, and stats (although the Plant was demonstrated to be made to recognized as a Pikachu for me). In addition to existing figures from other companies, Play Table has its own scan-able cards and stickers which can turn any object you want into a readable game piece. According to the trailer on its website, Play Table is also spill proof and usable in combination with smart phones, so that's nice too. I didn't spend too much time trying the Play Table myself, but it's a neat concept at any rate. With enough compatible games, it has the potential to cut down on a lot of setup time and board game storage space.

(Includes a short developer interview and explanation)
One of the most unique things I saw at E3 was Octobo, an interactive plush toy and story book combo for young children and parents. The adorable octopus has sensors in it to detect when you hug it, shake or wiggle its arms, and place story book tokens in the little basket in front of it. Its face is displayed on an iPad which slides into a pouch on the front and runs an app that comes free with the plush and book (additional books would also be available for separate purchase) and its facial expression changes according to what you do with it. Behind the iPad is a cute sleeping face, so it's not necessary to have it inserted when you aren't playing with it. The book that was demonstrated for me was primarily what you'd expect from a typical children's picture book, but it was also designed to teach pattern recognition and name writing. To do this, one page tells us that Octobo likes fish with stripes more than the rest, and so when given the option of a fish token to put in the basket, Octobo reacts best when the striped fish is given. Impressively, another token allows you to write your name on it and will cause Octobo to wish you a good night by name when you give it to him.
Octobo is still in the prototyping phase and a final price isn't yet determined, but the person I talked to said that they were expecting it to be in the price range of other interactive toys. Personally, I just like to see game theory and interactivity used in new and interesting ways, as Octobo does for early childhood education and family bonding. So even though I wouldn't have a need for something like this myself, just seeing the concept in action put a smile on my face.

Additional E3 2016 Coverage
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