Last year Play Fusion soared passed their Kickstarter target and set off with just over a quarter-of-a-million dollars to make good on some very lofty promises. Fast forward almost exactly a year and, having teamed up with Tomy, their offering, Lightseekers is out in the public and making waves.
So what is it? Well, that’s actually a tricky question, or rather, it’s tricky to give you a short answer. Lightseekers, in short-ish (deep breath in) is a cross platform, multimedia toy and gaming experience that utilises augmented reality and Bluetooth enabled smart toys to deliver a fully connected experience (and breathe out). The core play pattern comes in three parts. The Card Game, the Toy and, the free Mobile Game App. I’ve had a hands-on-week juggling the trio of facets and it is time to pass the verdict.
The Card Game.
If you’ve played, or are at least familiar with, Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! cards you have the general idea of the play pattern. Players sit across from one another with custom decks of 36 cards designed to lower their opponents ‘health’ to zero. Last one alive wins. Like the afore mentioned classics, cards come in a variety of ‘types’: Tech, Mountain, Nature and Dread being to name a few. Each of those types have attack and defence cards that relate to specific ‘Hero’ cards of the same family and can be combined into powerful combos.
As a rank amateur in these types of games it took me a few rounds to settle into the flow but once I was there the depth of potential strategies is quite thrilling. The cards themselves are all self explanatory and once you’ve got the knack of the rotating Buff cards you can outsmart some of the more devastating attacks. Lightseekers is a genuinely enjoyable experience, easy to pick up and easy to dig into. If ‘Magic: The Gathering’ has intrigued and terrified you in equal measure, this might be the place to start. Although, on the flip side, the seasoned pros may find this to be a tad too simplistic to be rewarding.
But, we all know playing these card games is only half the story, they need to be collectible. The design of each ‘type’ is distinct and whipping out a rare shiny card is every bit as enjoyable as it was all those years ago in the playground. A commendation must be given to the art team as the character designs are wonderfully detailed and help to further build the Lightseekers world.
The collectability of the cards as a whole though, isn’t fantastic. You’ll want to gather as many ‘Hero’ cards as possible as they bring the ‘Wow!’ Factor but the various Buffs, Attack and, Defence cards won’t deliver much of an impact to those not playing the game itself.
Your basic Starter Deck sets you back around £20 and the ‘Blind Bag’ Booster Packs come in at the £3- £4 mark. You can also buy Intro Packs that feature two fully built decks consisting of 81 cards in total. This allows two of you to immediately play the game with easy to follow rules. If you’re interested, go for the Intro Pack with a friend or family member and have a fun evening delving into the world, you’ll get a great idea of whether this is for you or not.
This year saw the discontinuation of both Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions. With Sky Landers being the only remaining stalwart of the ‘Smart Toy’, the clever money was on seeing the inevitable demise of the ‘Toys-to-life’ gimmick. Play Fusion clearly disagrees as the toy at the centre of Lightseekers not only embraces those that have gone before but takes a huge leap with the technology. Currently t here are only two characters in the range. The bombastic, horn-crowned Tech-Lizard, Rex and the super cute, wide eyed ‘Storm Fairy’ Mari. Both are 7 inches tall, constructed of good, hardwearing plastics and their designs are, like the cards, beautifully realised. Play Fusion boasts that Rex and Mari are ‘Collector Level’ figures and they are. Each has ratcheted rotation and hinge joints for the shoulders, elbows and, hips with a simple, yet effective neck swivel topping it off. To nitpick, it would have been nice to see knee and ankle joints and at least a swivel in Rex’s tail but they really are nitpicks. I have shelves of ‘Collector’ figures that come nowhere near the Lightseekers in their joint count and those are just lumps of plastic, these guys have brains.
The brain in question is Play Fusion’s Fusion Core and it is the jewel in the crown of Lighseekers. It’s a mini computer that, when plugged into the back of any of their figures, brings them to life. The rechargeable brain gives light, sound and motion functions to the figures while also acting as a Bluetooth connector. With a Fusion Core slotted in, your Lightseeker starts to glow from their goggles, ornaments and, armour as well as making fun little quips when you pick them up or move their limbs. The Fusion Core also powers any accessories you give your Lightseeker. The accessories range is continually expanding and features swords, shields, flight packs and, guns. They price at around £17 each and continue the Lightseekers trend of being well designed and wonderfully constructed. These can all be plugged into your figure bringing new lights, sounds and playability. It does not stop there though. Any figure or accessory you buy comes with the corresponding card. This means you’re not just buying a ‘Nitro Hammer’ for your action figure, you’re getting one for your competitive deck as well! This is where the connected play starts to show itself but trust me, once we get into the Mobile Game, you’ll see the full scope of it.
Play Fusion and Tomy have given us quite a few options when it comes to buying the toys. If you want to jump straight in they offer two different Starter Packs, one with Rex the other Mari. The Starter Pack comes with the figure, a Fusion Core, one weapon and their corresponding cards. This prices a £70 and gives you everything you need to fully access the toy and the game. For me that price tag just edges outside my comfort zone. I love this toy, it feels great, looks the part and has surprising features but I’d say that a £50-£60 price tag would be more suitable.
If you balked slightly at £70, you can get the figure on its own for £24 but it has no Fusion Core. As a collector’s toy, it’s a great price and if you like the look of them, get them. The Fusion Cores are also available on their own for £50. There is so much tech in these mini computers but I’m still itching at the price tag. Still, with these options you can dip your toe with the toy and then go all in with the Fusion Core and accessories.
This Ladies and Gents is where it all comes to a head, the free Mobile App Lightseekers: Awakening.
The premise is simple, you are a Lightseeker – a hero quested to save the world from the evil General Carnage. To do this you ‘ll have to level up, beat monsters, customise your gear, defeat dungeons, complete fetch quests etc, etc. The classic RPG tropes are all on show here but it’s free and it’s portable.
The graphics are impressive for a mobile game. The over-world is a top down affair with a defined, lush, cartoony design. The realms are distinct from one another and the enemy concepts actually had me smirking in silent admiration a couple of times. Like the visuals, the game play is well realised. Auto targeting and auto attacks mean that your character looks after themselves while you concentrate on balancing combos and healing spells. That combined with the customisable difficultly sliders results in a very rewarding combat system.
The game is still in its first few editions and as such certain mechanics like the marketplace and augment progression feel unfinished and poorly explained. Looking at their blog posts Play Fusion are well aware of these issues and future patches should see even more polish coming to this already very shiny game.
This isn’t the end though, oh no! Remember the Fusion Core than plugs into your Lightseekers toys? Well, the Bluetooth feature it brings allows you to connect your figure to the game. This means when you level up in the game, your toy levels up too! Not only that but your figure will chat alongside you on your quest giving you little titbits of knowledge for certain areas or calling out when they need healing. You are so much more connected to your figure when you know he’s level 20 and has a rare rune that you worked hard to earn.
It gets better still. Those weapons and shields you can buy, when popped into a connected figure’s hand appear in the game giving you a massive power boost. Each weapon has their own level and augment slots meaning you can make an incredibly powerful, customised hammer and then give it to a new character boosting them through the levels.
The flight packs also bring a new element to the game play. Plug a rocket pack into the Fusion Core and suddenly your figure is the controller. Utilising sensitive motion controls you can fly your in-game character through challenges by twisting and turning your figure in real life. It takes a bit of practice to actually get good at it but it’s such a welcome change of pace.
And finally, we come full circle. Those cards that we talked about all those paragraphs ago are Augmented Reality cards. Wave them in front of your smart device’s camera and their effects appear in game. Scan a hero card, you’ve got them as a follower. Scan a combo card, you’ve got a new powerful attack. Having the Intro Pack of cards, I spent the first 40 minutes just scanning them all into the game, it’s so easily done and they bring fantastic power-ups!
Herein lies the genius of the Lightseekers Game. It forgoes the usual ‘Freemium games’ format of micro transactions and long wait times. Simply replacing them with an equally as lucrative, yet infinitely more enjoyable card and toy based loot system. If this had followed those old formats and was asking me to drop £4 on a digital loot box I’d had laughed it right off my IPad and deleted it instantly. But am I going to continue buying the Booster Packs? Yes. I am hooked. I can see the brains behind it all and I am so impressed with the polish that I am fully willing to succumb to any of their new offerings.
Lightseekers is an incredibly ambitious undertaking and, for the most part Play Fusion are absolutely nailing it. The three parts of the experience interact seamlessly with one another and no aspect of production feels short changed or rushed out to make a quick buck or two. Lightseekers has made a bold opening gambit into the toy market and it promises to be a long running franchise with new toys, cards and game updates. If you have children of 8-13 or are yourself a fan of ‘Smart-Toys’ and RPG’s this should be on top of your Christmas must have list.
|· Fantastic production quality
|· High price point for full toy experience|
|· Seamless interaction between toy, cards and mobile game||· App has a few ‘first draft’ issues|
|· Free high quality Mobile RPG app
|· Cards not as collectable as other brands|
|· Charming designs
|· Promises to have longevity|