'Lightseekers' Review: Toys-To-Life Game Has Potential That It Hasn't Quite Met

Scanning a Lightseekers card on my desk IDigitalTimes

For the past year, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Lightseekers , a mobile app/game that wants to evolve the “toys to life” genre. The game introduces a line of action figures, cards and merchandise. I’ve held the original action figure prototypes, watched the official announcement live at Toy Fair and now I finally get my hands on the actual product.

At launch, Lightseekers only has two playable heroes: Jax, a bionic orange dinosaur, and Kora, a bright-eyed, underwater creature that wouldn’t look out of place in the Snorks. I chose Kora, because that’s the name of my favorite Avatar, and started my adventure.

Playfusion, the company behind Lightseekers, did an amazing job creating a world that feels alive, vibrant and dangerous. The fights don’t feel like random button mashing, you actually have to plan out your attack, comboing different elemental abilities together for more damage.

Yet my biggest gripe with Lightseekers is how monotonous it gets. You talk to a town-person, fight monsters or find an item, complete a mission, gain experience and then repeat until you are strong enough to  move on to the next zone. There are blockades you can’t get past until you hit a certain level, which can make the game feel super grindy. I know it’s a game aimed at children, but I hate artificial game-lengtheners and fetch quests. I want to be able to run around and explore this world; the only way I’ll learn is by throwing Kora into a swarm of high-level wolves or giant wasps.

Fight in an amusement park, it's the Lightseekers way Photo: IDigitalTimes

The Lightseekers app is free-to-play and available now and worth playing if you want a simple overhead RPG made for kids. I usually find myself getting bored with “freemium” apps that just want to take my money and run with it, but I haven’t dropped a dollar on the game and I’m still having fun.

However at the end of the day, Lightseekers only makes money from people who buy the interactable toys. The action figures, which you need to access certain paths and mini-games, won’t be available until the summer, but the Lightseekers cards are out right now. These cards, which come in booster packs along with pre-built elemental themed decks can be scanned, popping up in Augmented Reality on your device,giving unique buffs to your hero in-game. The cardboard tie-in feels a little gimmicky – you don’t need the cards to play the game and the buffs they bestow are so insignificant they only really matter at later levels.

Getting the Lightseekers app to understand scanned cards can also be difficult. I’d find myself holding a perfectly straight, clean card on a bright surface only to have the app unable to recognize what was right in front of it. Even when the app did recognize there was a Bubblefish card, it would sometimes refuse to give me the buff, forcing me to scan the card over and over.

Overall, Lightseekers is a game with potential that it hasn’t quite met yet. The game is fun for a little while, but the grinding really starts to get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable experience. The cards are neat, but don’t really impact gameplay that much. When the Lightseekers action figures finally come out in July, we will know if the game/toy line can actually compete with the other “toys to life” titans.

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