Feature

Transformers And Tamagotchi Designer Part Of Ambitious Upcoming Toys-To-Life Game

by Mike Futter on Mar 23, 2016 at 03:00 AM

It's hard not to be skeptical when you hear the term "toys-to-life." Skylanders sales were down this year. Disney Infinity is taking a year off from an annual release. Some retailers are heavily discounting Lego Dimensions sets.

The market is still growing, though. The latest player, Jumo, is upping the ante with higher-end figures and an innovative (and slightly scary) in-game purchase model. 

The company's upcoming product, Infinite Arms, features heavily articulated and posable figures. These were designed in part by Yasuo Takahama, who has played a crucial role in the Transformers toy line and was the designer of Tamagochi pocket pets.

Jumo's founder, Keiichi Yano, also founded iNis, the company behind the fantastic Elite Beat Agents and Lips. The chief creative officer, Chris Esaki, worked at Namco and on the Xbox team. He's credited on a number of games, including kill.switch (one of the first titles to use contemporary cover mechanics), Gears of War, Mass Effect, and Jade Empire.

Infinite Arms is a mobile title (which may put some people off), but it plays extremely well. Players link their figure to the game via bluetooth, and each has its own ID registered to a specific owner. The figures have four customization points: the two hands and two back mounts. 

The weapons are color-coded by element. Click in a weapon and it rapidly appears on the in-game figure.

The game is a combination of solo and competitive play, with narrative written by Tom Abernathy (Halo Reach, The Division). There will be loot drops, rare enemies, and bosses. The action game can be played with touch controls, which work well, or a controller.

The hook for collectors is that Infinite Arms will be released in seasons. Yano calls this "Fast Toys," modeled after the fast fashion movement. Jumo has figured out how to condense the design, manufacturing, and distribution timeline to mere weeks.

The app will be free, with the cost coming from the toys and the weapons. When players want to purchase new equipment, they'll go to the in-game store. This is actually Jumo's Amazon storefront, and if you have Amazon Prime, your order will take advantage of it.

All items will be limited run, with new weapons coming every couple of weeks. Armaments also come in rare varieties that are randomly placed in the packages. You won't know if you have one until you open it. New figures will be rolled out at a pace of four per season, with each season lasting about four months. 

Jumo hasn't announced pricing for the figures or weapons, and that's a crucial detail. Without that information, it's hard to understand how accessible this game is going to be.

I liked what I saw and played of Infinite Arms. The figures are quite attractive, and have that more recent Transformers flare that calls back to Generation One while making things sleaker. The game controls work surprisingly well, but the mobile angle might be a tough sell.

I'm extremely interested to learn more and see how the pricing shakes out. Infinite Arms has a lot of potential, but Jumo needs to make all the right decisions with very little room for error on its way to the summer release.