Toys-to-life died a death. Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions, and even Skylanders - they all stopped producing games and figures. The main reason is the cost of producing the figures and trying to keep prices down for you, the consumer. So why would Ubisoft try now? Have they got a trick or two up their collective sleeve?
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an ambitious game - part shoot 'em up space battler, part RPG-based planet explorer - and it's all wrapped up with a great story. And some pretty cool tech.
The enigmatic scientist St. Grand has put together a ragtag crew of pilots led by Mason Rana. Mason is the inventor of the Starlink tech, and St. Grand helped him unlock Starlink's potential by utilising Nova, an alien power source, to help boost its range. This gave Starlink the ability to transfer objects across vast distances almost instantaneously, making it possible to swap pilots, ships and weapons mid-combat, giving you a tactical edge whilst battling your foes. Without giving too much of the story away, you'll find yourself in the Atlas System, situated around 431 light-years from Earth, where the evil Drax is commanding the Forgotten Legion to search for ancient tech built by the mysterious Wardens, in the hope the relics they find will transform him into a Warden and unlock the secrets they hold.
All the toys, from the pilots to the starships (and even the guns), are all well-crafted and certainly look the part. When not playing the game they wouldn't look out of place on any toy shelf or even a collector's cabinet too. Rather than using a portal to place the toys on like other games, Starlink uses a unique cradle that attaches to your controller; for both the PS4 and Xbox One these clip around the controller, but for the Switch you place your Joy-Cons into a cradle that acts as the hand grips. When fully constructed they don't feel heavy or cumbersome, although they may be slightly too much for the littlest hands, even if that's not too much of a problem.
First, you have to select your pilot, which in the base game is Mason, although the Switch version also includes Fox McCloud. The pilot slips into the head of the cradle, and next you'll have to clip the body of the ship over the top of them. At first these can be tricky to clip into place and may need to be pushed on firmly, but don't worry too much, as the toys are well-built and shouldn't break. Next select your wings, and again the base game only includes one set that matches your ship, although once you expand your collection these can be swapped (and certain wings can increase your handling, speed, or even armour). Lastly, attach your all-important weapons.
You start the game with two main weapons; Frost Barrage, an icy volley of missiles, and Flamethrower, a huge cone of fire. These two will get you through the majority of the game, but certain tasks and enemies will require different elements. These come in the form of Kinetic, Gravity, and Stasis weapons. All the wings and weapons share the same connectors and therefore can be either swapped or stacked with ease. You can even buy extra ships to bolster your team and weapon packs too, all of which have different attributes that can aid you in your quest to stop Grax and the Forgotten Legion. As you progress through the game you'll earn experience, money, and mods, with each ship and weapon able to have mods attached to help boost damage, resistance, or even how much experience or money you earn.
Once you've attached a pilot, ship, or weapon this will unlock those parts for co-op, and a second player can join you with either their own ships and cradle or they can battle alongside you digitally with just a second controller and the items you've already unlocked. If you wish to pay, you can unlock everything, and while this isn't necessary it will obviously make the game easier in certain respects. Having a second player on screen with you is a definite benefit, and if you keep close together you'll earn a Starlink boost, increasing your overall damage and protection, so it's always worth keeping close in order to take down your opponents.
Now, unlike all other toys-to-life games, with Starlink you don't need to have the physical toys to play the game, as all parts are available to buy digitally, including the base game, and can be swapped in or out at any point.