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LEGO Dimensions Dies – Toys-to-Life Dead Too?

This morning it was announced on Twitter that LEGO Dimensions, Warner Bros. toys-to-life game, would no longer be in development or producing any expansions. Looks like they’ll keep the servers up and running, though if I had to venture a guess it won’t be much past the new year.

LEGO Dimensions wasn’t a bad game. Graev owns probably 90% of all the characters and expansions (that’s a lot), and I own 3-4 expansions and the base game. There’s a lot of content to play through even in the base game, and I think any kids or adults who enjoy LEGO or the Warner Bros. properties have a lot there to enjoy.

The toys-to-life genre is taking quite a beating. First we saw Disney exit the genre. Then, despite a very popular Netflix series, the Skylanders franchise announced there would be no Skylanders game in 2017. I do think that Skylanders will see a resurgence because of the show, and the series desperately needed a break in order to re-imagine itself and wait for more kiddos who don’t know what Skylanders is yet to reach that 5-year-old’ish point.

Are toys-to-life dead? No, I think there’s more to come. Nintendo’s Amiibo are holding strong, and I don’t think it’s just because of the company’s brand. Nintendo is making a much bigger comeback than most of the analyst predicated. It’ll be a 100 million unit seller and see much greater console home penetration that they thought. That will do a lot for Amiibo, and who knows where that’ll take TTL.

And don’t forget about Lightseekers (which I haven’t tried yet) which looks pretty cool too.

If I had to make a super magic ball prediction, I’d say that toys-to-life will make a bigger comeback with AR. Imagine Skylanders with AR built into console gaming. Gets you thinkin’.

6

Disney Exits Gaming Industry

Disney stop making video games

Disney announced today that it is officially leaving the gaming industry and closing its internal game studios (Avalanche) in favor of pursuing strictly licensed deals. This means that Disney Infinity has officially been discontinued, although they did announce Through the Looking Glass and Finding Dory expansions will still be released.

“After a thorough evaluation, we have modified our approach to console gaming and will transition exclusively to a licensing model. This shift in strategy means we will cease production of Disney Infinity, where the lack of growth in the toys-to-life market, coupled with high development costs, has created a challenging business model.  This means that we will be shutting down Avalanche, our internal studio that developed the game.  This was a difficult decision that we did not take lightly given the quality of Disney Infinity and its many passionate fans.”

For someone like myself who not only enjoys these types of games but also follows the industry closely, I find the most interesting and poignant statements to be those made around the growth of the toys-to-life market. Disney Infinity was enormously popular and made tons of money. It beat out Skylanders and Lego Dimensions last year (thanks to Star Wars) and it wasn’t even close. I’m a little shocked to see isn’t growing. Disney Infinity itself is responsible for immense growth, but perhaps they aren’t happy being the trailblazers. I imagine Activision enjoyed increased sales as a result of the increased awareness for toys-to-life games. Last I checked, Skylanders, Amiibo, and Lego were doing quite well.

While disappointing, a small part of me is relieved. Disney Infinity was expensive. I mean really, really expensive. Way fun, but coming in at $12+ a figure, $30+ a playset, and a $60 game was rough. I bought it all on my own (no review copies, thanks Disney) and enjoyed it, but simply couldn’t keep up. I had to let Lego Dimensions go until I received it as a gift, and Skylanders I only bought a few pieces.

You can get a lot of the sets and figures pretty cheap on Amazon now, and I imagine they’ll continue to drop in price. Now’s the time to even grab Disney Infinity 2.0 for the really good Guardians of the Galaxy stuff. They’re all worth playing.

KH3

Thankfully, lots of studios utilize Disney’s IPs successfully. Sadly, Marvel has all but gone mobile, though, and Star Wars is currently stuck in EA’s clutches (Battlefront 2 is launching next year. Like really? We need another one?). Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming soon, though!

1

Disney Infinity 3.0: Rise Against the Empire Review

Rise Against the Empire Play Set

Rise Against the Empire represents the final Disney Infinity 3.0 Star Wars play set for me to review. I was originally going to review this one right after Twilight of the Republic, but Graev and I decided to share this one and he took his sweet time getting it to me. Waiting was so worth it; Rise Against the Empire (RATE) is easily my favorite play set.

Story/Presentation/Gameplay

Rise Against the Empire is broken up into 3 main segments, conveniently comprising the three movies (4, 5, 6) and the three main planets on those movies: Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor. While RATE takes enormous liberties with the story, just like the other play sets, it actually works better than the other play sets. I want to break this up into sections on each planet where I can talk about what I really liked on each.

Rise Against the Empire Tatooine

Tatooine

Tatooine is the weakest of the three planets, but there are a number of fun things to do. I think they introduce the idea of credits nicely. Credits are this play set’s currency mechanic. Credits are used to buy buildings and customization info. Tatooine introduces the ability to purchase buildings and erect them in the form of a base. I’m reminded of the toy box mode with how these pop up and give you vehicles/customization.

Rise Against the Empire Hoth

Hoth

Here’s where things pick up. Hoth contains lots of missions, and some base building, but the true gem here is roping walkers. Flying a snow speeder and roping works beautifully — way better than any other vehicle use in in any Disney Infinity game. I had a blast here, especially having to rope 5 of these suckers in the mini Battle for Hoth.

Rise Against the Empire Endor

Endor

By far the best planet. You get to help the Ewoks do Ewoky (Ewokian?) things like take helmets from Stormtroopers, ride their elevators up and down (or in my case not realize these exist while trying to find a way to throw Ewoks…).  My favorite part was wrangling AT-STs and setting traps like swinging lots, slip ropes, etc. Riding a speeder bike through the forest was also a lot of fun.

Rise Against the Empire Space Battles

Death Star Trench Run & Space Battles

The space combat and death star trench runs (plural since there New Hope and Return both had one) were executed perfectly. RATE introduced the dodge, shoot, and evade mechanics for scripted/lightly-on-rails moments which worked great. Saving Admiral Ackbar’s fleet while destroying multiple Star Destroyers was a great space moment. The controls when not on-rails are absolutely horrible, though, and a taint on an otherwise amazing experience.

Rise Against the Empire Characters

Once again RATE shines above the other two play sets, this time by having the best characters. Luke and Leia come with the play set, and others can be purchased individually.

  • Luke – Standard Jedi with a blaster, but has nice saber fighting. Straight up.
  • Leia – Great combos that stun/knock back.
  • Chewbacca – Charge-up on his Bowcaster is an amazing infantry killer.
  • Han Solo – Great combos like Leia.
  • Boba Fett – Flying is great, and has a strong blaster, but his rocket launcher is why I use him.
  • Darth Vader – Saber throw wins.

Overall Thoughts

Rise Against the Empire is the best Disney Infinity 3.0 play set yet, and definitely does the best job providing a mix of vehicle gameplay and interesting/fun character use. If you’re going to buy only one play set, or if you’re looking for a reason to get Disney Infinity 3.0, then I highly recommend Rise Against the Empire along with all of the characters.

Disney Infinity 3.0: The Force Awakens Play Set Review

Disney Infinity 3.0: The Force Awakens Play Set

The Toys to Life genre continues to find its way into my busy gaming schedule with another play set from Disney Infinity 3.0. Star Wars The Force Awakens Play Set came out to coincide with the movie, and offers gamers the chance to take on the roles of Finn and Rey — along with others — as they unravel the mysteries of this post-empire galaxy.

I won’t offer up any movie spoilers, though the game itself doesn’t actually spoil any of the major movie surprises. Like the other Star Wars play sets, The Force Awakens play set departs a bit from the story told in the movies. This doesn’t really hurt or help the experience any, but may influence whether or not you want to jump in.

Disney Infinity 3.0: The Force Awakens Play Set

The story itself is good. The presentation is also fairly good as well. I’m trying not to say anything that would spoil the movie, so I won’t go any further on story.

Kylo Ren FigureGameplay is mostly about the characters themselves. Rey’s combat abilities are interesting, but overall this figure (which comes with the set) fell flat for me. Finn was pretty good and seems like an overall good choice for range and melee combat.

Additional figures like Poe were definitely needed to help round out some of those more difficult encounters so that you do not have to go back to a checkpoint. My absolute favorite character was Kylo Ren. The figure matches his personality and behavior in the movies perfectly, and I thought his moves and gameplay were (by far) the only truly unique ones in the bunch.

Vehicle use in TFA was wonky — more wonky than the wonkyness of the previous play sets. I actually didn’t like how the ships controlled at all. Aside from one moment on Jakku where you fly the Falcon, vehicles were an afterthought.

There is a slight sense here that the play set was rushed. A lot of the side missions (blue exclamation marks) were generic even for Disney Infinity.

Overall, The Force Awakens Play Set was fun. I think it’s worth buying for a Disney Infinity enthusiast, but not by itself going to justify grabbing both the core game and the play set.

9

The Best Games of 2015

Unlike most years, 2015 was jam-packed with amazing games. In fact, there were simply too many amazing games for the average gamer to play them all. What a marvelous problem to have after so many years of needing to come up with a reason to like more than one or two games. I could simply list off the big releases and call it a day — for that check out our 2015 Holiday Buyer’s Guide for Gamers — but instead I’m going to cite a few of the games that made my own personal gaming time special in 2015. These are my most memorable games. So let’s call this a list of ‘the best games of 2015 for ME.’

ac syndicate

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

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The AC franchise hit a home run this year with Syndicate. So many quality-of-life improvements went into refining the experience of traversing the world, and the beginnings of customization system that makes sense are starting to emerge. The story was intriguing and the side missions worth doing — overall not a dull moment. My wife, who doesn’t normally go for the violent games at all, was very interested in the presentation and setting, along with the interesting story points. Playing together was a ton of fun as we completed nearly everything there was to do in the game.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Play Sets

Disney Infinity 3.0

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The toys-to-life genre exploded in 2015. I could have easily put Skylanders on this list, and perhaps LEGO Dimension will be once I get to playing it (see the end of this post) but I decided to go with Disney Infinity 3.0 because of how much the presentation and stories captured my interest. Being able to play through the familiar Star Wars settings was a blast, and I like how each one has a slightly different take or another angle to go along with the main story we all know. I enjoyed making a little youtube series following my progress through the first playset (Twilight of the Republic). I have plans to do the same here very soon for Rise Against the Empire and the brand new Force Awakens playsets that just released.

splatoon-combat

Splatoon

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Nintendo’s first real foray into online shooters did not disappoint. Splatoon was a breath of innovative fresh air. The inking system, weapons, and presentation were all very enjoyable. Nintendo’s constant stream of updates, especially in the first two months, made each week exciting to see what new maps, weapons, and outfits were added. Nintendo captures the spirit of gaming in Splatoon, and honestly that can be said for the other great games they released this year like Mario Maker.

EQ Classic Ragefire Server

EverQuest

Why is this on my list you ask? Why do I keep bringing up a game that is nearly 20 years old? Because I put over 280 hours into the game in 2015, and gave the company who made it almost as much money as I gave to Disney and Nintendo.  Both Ragefire and now Phinigel have given me more MMORPG enjoyment than I’ve had in years. People used to love to sling the “if you love it so much why don’t you go back and play it” line at me. Well, I did. And guess what? It’s awesome. Still going strong on Phinigel.

The Backlog is Real

Now I should note here that I still have a backlog I’m working through, and several games on my Christmas List. Here are just a FEW of the games I still need to play, which could have easily been on this list had I been able to get to them.

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X – Wii U
  • LEGO Dimensions
  • Just Cause 3
  • Legacy of the Void
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Witcher 3 (potentially, though I haven’t played 1 or 2)
  • Fallout 4 (Have to finish it)

Did I forget any games I should have mentioned in my backlog that you haven’t seen me cover before? Should I be adding more to my backlog? Let me know what you think were the best games of 2015.

3

Disney Infinity: Toy Box Speedway Review

Much like Toy Box Takeover, Disney Infinity: Toy Box Speedway is an expansion to the Toy Box of Disney Infinity 3.0. Instead of being a beat’em up, action rpg, or fighting style game, Speedway brings several racing modes to the game.

toy-box-speedway

Toy Box Speedway

Speedway begins like everything else Disney Infinity by placing you in a central hub area designed to let you test out different vehicles. You’ll find a test track, half pipe, jumps, speed boosts, etc. This is where you can get your Tony Hawk on vehicle style and simply mess around.

When you’re ready to begin racing you can step up to one of three portals: Standard Race, Battle Race, and Time Trial. Standard Races and Time Trials are just your regular races you might expect. Nothing much to explain there. Battle races are like a typical Mario Kart level where weapons and powerups are available for pickup along the course.

Toy Box SpeedwayLike most Disney Infinity vehicles, driving is a little wonky. Drifting feels just a little bit off and sometimes when you think you’re doing everything right the game will think you’ve gone off the track–or will go off the track–and places you right back in the middle of the track. Really annoying when you’re in first place. In terms of your competition, the AI is ridiculously tough on the hardest mode. Any little slip up and you’ll never catch up to the lead car.

The variety of vehicles is strong. You can pick everything from a basic car to something out of Star Wars. Basically whatever you unlock in the Toy Box it feels like you can bring into the racing game. I liked playing as my Yoda figure and driving a Sand Crawler. Weapon variety is incredibly generic and forgettable. Powerups in general are a little bit of a letdown.

Courses are nice and varied. There are nine different tracks to choose from: Aladdin, Star Wars, Frozen, Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It-Ralph, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Monster’s Inc., and Gravity Falls. While neat to look at the themes, some of the courses are incredibly straight forward. They’re plenty long, though, and some of them offer a surprising amount of ‘find your own way through the track’ opportunities.

Each course also has collectibles which was both neat to try and find them while racing but also annoying as Graev would be driving 10mph trying to find all of the tokens while the rest of us had already finished our laps 4 minutes ago. Speaking of collectibles, for the Frozen fanatics in your household you’re probably going to have to pick this up… Elsa’s Ice Palace is only obtainable in Disney Infinity 3.0 if you win the first place trophy in all 3 Grand Prix races. You can also obtain neat things like Jack’s Spiral Hill from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

While not an amazing racing game on its own, the value proposition is just about right there with Toy Box takeover. For the completionists it’s a must-have, and kids will probably love it way more than adults.

1

Disney Infinity: Toy Box Takeover Review

My Disney Infinity adventures continue, this time with a look at the Toy Box Takeover and Toy Box Speedway Expansion Games. These two mini-expansion add content onto the Toy Box mode of the game which, if you recall from my Disney Infinity review, is the area of the game where players can make their own houses, create their own games, and be or interact with all of the characters and props from Disney properties.

toy-box-takeover

Toy Box Takeover

Take Box TakeoverToy Box Takeover is an isometric beat’em up adventure where you can take control of any of the character figures you have and play what reminds me of a Skylanders level. You’re roaming through trying to beat the bad guys, maybe solve a few minor basic puzzles, and collect items for use in your Toy Box.

Story is in somewhat short supply here, but Syndrome has stolen Merlins wand and used it to conjure up a few worlds. That… about sums it up. Your mission is to go and get it back and stop him from continuing to cause chaos.

This actually feels like it was built with the Toy Box  game making scripting tools, which is both encouraging to those who have lots of time on their hands and want to make a level, but also a little disappointing since that means there’s an element of simplicity at play. While you can certainly bash lots of bad guys, and the boss battles are fun, the overall gameplay and level designs are a little simple.

There are only 5 levels (6 if you count Merlin’s hub) and 6 unlockable toys with 2 unlockable sidekicks in each. All in, Toy Box Takeover has about 3-4 hours of gameplay, and no replayability. I do like how Graev and I were able to play co-op together, though. That always adds to the experience.

In my opinion, Toy Box Takeover is fun and nice to have if you’re a Toy Box completionist. Is it a must-have like the playsets? No, definitely not. It’s a fun little addition and way to extend your Disney Infinity adventures if you have an extra $19.99 burning a hole in your pocket.

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Torn On Whether or Not to Get LEGO Dimensions

I’m torn. I really, really want everything. If I had all the money in the world then this wouldn’t even be a debate. I’d buy LEGO Dimensions, Skylanders Superchargers, and the rest of Disney Infinity 3.0 and be done with it all. But I don’t, and I can’t, etc. I want to be able to review it all for you guys, but unless the good people at Activision, Traveller’s Tales, and Disney decide to bestow review copies upon me then I’m stuck having to decide to space it out or forgo something.

LEGO Dimensions

Here’s where I’m at. I love Disney Infinity 3.0. Amazing game. Check out my review of the overall game as well as the TotR play set. That wasn’t cheap. I love Disney and their games. I’ve also been a long-time fan of the LEGO game series and what Jon Burton and team have come up with. We’ve played and reviewed them all here on our blog. But LEGO Dimensions isn’t cheap. It’s $100 for the starter set (LEGO markup is real) and about the same price as the other toys-to-life games out there when it comes to play sets and figures, etc.

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LEGO Doctor Who

Can I say no to LEGO Doctor Who?!

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When I think about it, LEGO Dimensions could technically just be another LEGO game. I’ve played LEGO LotR, LEGO Batman, LEGO et al. Do I need a LEGO game that would run me, bare minimum, $170’ish for what I want? Part of me says yes. Then I think to myself… okay, it’s LEGO. Does it have the building sandbox style of Disney Infinity 3.0 but with LEGOs? Sadly, it doesn’t, which is a huge missed opportunity.

Yet at the same time, Dimensions has a contiguous story across all of their universes which bridges the whole ‘it doesn’t make sense having characters in here that don’t belong’ because inter-dimensional travel is explaining it all. Disney Infinity sorta just throws it all in together and focuses on the characters rather than the ‘universe’ of their ‘infinite possibilities’.

Graev says I should wait for reviews. I want to be one of those reviews, dangit! I want to bring you guys information as soon as I can to help you make an informed decisions on whether or not you should go out there and buy these games. What do you think? Do I wait for reviews and see if LEGO Dimensions is worth it, or do I bite the bullet and pre-order the base game for $100? Your feedback is very, very appreciated. For now, LEGO Dimensions remains on my wishlist.

P.S. I feel like I could write a followup on Skylanders SuperChargers and hit the same chords… maybe I will.

Disney Infinity 3.0: Twilight of the Republic Review

I finished my play-through of Disney Infinity 3.0’s Twilight of the Republic play set last night! As I detailed in my review of Disney Infinity 3.0 as a whole, these play sets are just one “game” within a game, comprising story-driven quests, objectives, collectibles, and challenges.Twilight of the Republic Review

 

Story and Setting

[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Geonosis-Factory.jpg” class=”pointer”]Twilight of the Republic Geonosis[/su_lightbox]Twilight of the Republic takes place chronologically between the second and third movies smack dab in the middle of the Clone Wars era. The basic story (no spoilers) has you traveling through various planets to identify a new threat to the Republic. This threat will introduce you to familiar locations such as Geonosis and Tatooine, as well as many legendary figures from the entire Star Wars series. While the story is good, there are definitely some liberties taken. As long as you’re not a purist you should be fine. My only true critique is that I wish it was longer.

There are a total of 4 planets you traverse as you advance the story, but only 3 of them count in my opinion. The final planet is pretty much the final boss fight only. Each planet offers about an hour or two of gameplay not including collectibles and challenges. Gameplay on these planets consists mostly of side quests with a few main story quests pushing you through. The side quests are silly and aimed at the younger audience, but the core story will keep you engaged and wanting to progress to see more. I rather enjoyed when the game departed from just combat and presented me with obstacles to try and navigate.

Disney Infinity YodaI played on the second to last difficulty and found the game actually too difficult in many spots. Boss battles had nice mechanics as well as a learning curve. The final boss was actually very challenging and had I not had Anakin, Ahsoka, Yoda, Ezra, and Sabine I would have been in deep trouble. I ended up cycling through them and even had to wait for one to recharge during a phase of the encounter.

TotR Characters

The play set comes with Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano. Combined with Yoda and Obi-wan (with Darth Maul release later this year) these are the only current characters you’ll be able to play in TotR until you unlock more character tokens — you’ll still need to purchase those characters to use them as well. For the purpose of scoring this review, I am only going to review what is included in the play set. Continue reading

5

Disney Infinity 3.0 Overview and Review

Disney Infinity 3.0

I almost don’t even know where to begin with my coverage of Disney Infinity 3.0 because the game itself is so massive in scope that tackling the entire thing at once feels way too daunting for both me to type up and for you to even want to read in one sitting. I decided the best thing to do would be to cover various aspects of the game in different entries, document some of what I write about in casual Let’s Play videos, and go from there.

Today’s post is going to be a little bit of a broad overview. I’m going to attach Episode 1 of my Let’s Play series for you to see some of these things I’m talking about. This will act as my review for the game itself overall. I will review each of the items sold separately for you to be able to make an educated decision on whether or not they are worth the purchase.

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What is Disney Infinity 3.0?

Disney Infinity 3.0 is the third game in what what has grown from a simple Skylanders rip off into a juggernaut of a game. As I mentioned before, the scope of DI is huge. There’s a toy box where you can build everything from Disney to Star Wars to Marvel themed worlds, create your own games and script them with in-game tools — yes, you can even make isometric MOBAs in this thing — and decorate a house. There’s even the ability to download other players’ toy boxes.

You can also play through story-driven Play Sets which act as action/adventure games. So far there are three Play Sets released — two for Star Wars and one for Inside Out — which I will review independently. There’s Twilight of the Republic ($34.99) which takes place in the clone wars era, and Rise Against the Empire ($34.99) which spans New Hope through RotJ. I haven’t picked up Inside Out yet, but I’ll probably grab it soon. Oh, if you buy it be sure to get it in the Inside Out Bundle exclusive to Amazon for $65.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Play Sets

Looking for something a little more like Diablo? A dungeon crawler of sorts? Yep, there’s a game for that called Toy Box Takeover ($20). There’s even upcoming Toy Box expansion called Toy Box Speedway which is a Mario Kart-esque racer. I have no idea when that comes out. I will also review these independently since they are each sold separately. Continue reading

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