Toys to life games are everywhere and they are intimidating. We’re taking some time today to break everything down and explain the differences between the “big three” toys to life games that will be competing for your hard earned holiday dollars this year. (We also have an article all about how to save money no matter what game you choose!)

Skylanders Superchargers

ESRB Rating – E 10+

What is it about exactly?

Skylanders Superchargers (along with all the other games in the series) is a story based game where players take on the role of a Portal Master and command mighty heroes called Skylanders as they protect the skylands from the forces of evil.

If that sounds somewhat cheesy to you… that’s actually pretty fair. The plotline isn’t exactly a paragon of originality, but this is a game designed for children. It executes the standard fantasy adventure tropes well enough and the writing is good enough to earn a few chuckles.

The gameplay hook is straightforward and frankly that is one of the strengths of the series. The different characters are each aligned with a different element and you use them to battle your way through a series of different levels. You are encouraged to switch things up when the different levels present you with zones that give bonuses to characters of a specific type (Fire type characters might be stronger near a lava flow for example). There are also some secret areas that cannot be accessed without a character of a specific type.

As I said before the true strength of Skylanders comes from its simplicity. It is accessible to new players without a lot of effort because the game itself is relatively simple and there are very few buttons to have to deal with

Can my kid play it?

There is no doubt about it. Skylanders may still be a pretty simple game to play, but it has gotten more complicated as the years have gone by. In the original game (Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures) you couldn’t even jump. The newest game gives you vehicles to drive, fly, and navigate.

All of that said, the controls are the only part of the game that is tough to follow and that will come with practice.

What exactly do I need to buy to make this game work?

The Skylanders Superchargers starter pack comes with all of the figures that you need to complete the game, but in order to fully experience the game you need to have a figure of each element, a plane type vehicle, and a boat type vehicle.

The best way to ensure that you are buying things that your kids need is to actually play the game with them. This way you’ll see it first hand and won’t make any costly mistakes.

Take a look at the buying guide for Skylanders Superchargers that we have published right here.

Disney Infinity 3.0

ESRB Rating – E 10+

What is it about exactly?

Disney Infinity 3.0 is, at its heart, a game about creation and play. The main feature of the game is the toy box. This is a game mode that gives players a blank slate within which to create their own play spaces. There are several tools and templates available to let players create all kinds of worlds in which to play. This is going to be either a blessing or a curse for each family depending on whether your family wants a direct story driven experience or, essentially, a toy.

Parents who were gamers in their youth will remember how awesome some of the licensed Disney games were back in the day. Games like Aladdin for the Sega Genesis and Ducktales for the NES. Those days are long gone for a number of reasons, but the Disney Infinity series is part of Disney’s plan to deal with it. The strategy moving forward it to take advantage of the games platform and art style to let their development teams work efficiently and create playsets for all of their different licenses. Each playset consists of a unique game experience based on the license. This helps your family cusomize the experience. Not interested in the Inside Out game? Skip it. Obsessed with Star Wars? There are three playsets announced so far.

This is the 3.0 version of the game so it does iterate on the previous versions. In the past it suffered from trying to be too many games at once. That is less of a problem now that Avalanche, the company behind Disney Infinity, has contracted other developers that specialize in things like melee combat and driving.

Can my kid play it?

The Toy Box mode is incredibly complex at a high level. Creating things using the game tools can take a lot of practice to get used to. As a result a lot of younger kids might just use it like a sand box and mess around. My kids once spent a good hour and a half spawning as many enemies as they could fit on the screen and then battling them with different characters. I know another family whose kids spent half an hour just repeatedly jumping off the edge of their world into the abyss beyond only to respawn a second later and do it again.

The play sets are much more direct and feature gameplay themed after their licenses. The Star Wars sets specifically are story driven experiences. They are challenging, but there is nothing in them that will make them unplayable.

What do I need to buy?

Disney Infinity is a standout in this category because you don’t really need to buy anything in order to play the game. You obviously need to make sure that your kids have a character that they like to use. That will help them complete and earn everything in the base game. After that it is all about the playsets. Each playset and character that you purchase unlocks more assets for the toy box as well.

If you want to know all of the details take a look at the buying guide that we published here.

LEGO Dimensions

ESRB Rating – E 10 +

What is it all about?

This is the newest entry to the Toys to Life category and it has been pretty successful so far. The LEGO series by Traveller’s Tales has been very successful over the years and LEGO Dimensions is an extension of that success.  This a story driven game similar to Skylanders that follows the standard formula in most LEGO games. The difference is that instead of focusing on one property like Harry Potter or Star Wars it includes just about everything that Warner Brothers managed to license. You can play as a Ghostbuster alongside Homer Simpson in a level built based on Dr. Who. These absurd crossovers define the entire game and help deliver some hilarious jokes.

The main hook for the game is the LEGO mini sets that come along with the various level sets and figures. I have seen a lot of parents express concern that their kids will lose the mini figures or incorporate them into their regular collections. The good news for those parents is that each figure or vehicle includes a small round base that carries all the relevant data so they don’t have to worry.

Can my kid play it?

In short: Yes. LEGO Dimensions is built on the same framework as previous LEGO games. There may be some puzzles where they might struggle if they haven’t played a lot of games before, but there is nothing that is insurmountable.

What do I have to buy?

We have a buyers guide that we have previously published, but at the end of the day this is another game where the Starter Pack is enough to be able to experience the main story of the core game. There are a HUGE number of extra characters and level packs that either have been or will be released that will either unlock additional content inside the main game or will actually add additional stages to the game.


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By Stephen Duetzmann

Editor in Chief Founder/EiC Blogger, Podcaster, Video Host RE: games that families can play together.

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