One of the most popular developments in family video-games over the last few years is the cross-over between virtual and physical play. Games like Skylanders and Disney Infinity use real toys to access in game content and characters.
Most recently these games have added customization to their list of features. In Skylanders this translates as mix and match Swap Force characters, in Disney Infinity this is addressed with mix and match Power Discs that add items and special powers.
A game that has led the way in the toy market with this kind of customization is the Beyblade line of battle tops. These come apart and can be customized in thousands of different ways. Each element affects how the Beyblade behaves in the arena and offers a high level of strategy,
It was with some excitement then that my family has been set-up to try the new Beyblade Evolution 3DS game. This takes that Beyblade toy-line and crafts the first video-game on the 3DS for it. The game offers a story and battle mode that leverage a simulation of the Beyblade battles and customization.
My children, who are well versed in both Skylanders and Disney Infinity but newer to Beyblades, took to the play-style quickly. In fact it triggered something of a resurgence of interest in the physical toys as well as the videogame. The version we tested came with a limited edition Winged Pegasus Beyblade top which helped in this regard.
The most successful mode for them was the Beyblade Augmented Reality feature. This uses the 3DS cameras and an AR card to enable two players with the game to compete in virtual battles.
The player sees their room on the screen, and into that space is rendered a virtual battle arena. The clever thing here is that while they move their 3DS around the stadium also moves accordingly on the screen creating the illusion that it is really there.
As you can see in this video, the illusion is very impressive. I think this works because it successfully crossed the usual divide between virtual and physical play. I like this as they get more value from the game.
Beyblade Evolution is by no means perfect on 3DS. I'd still like to see the menus and navigation simplified for new players. In particular the use of the term "Settings Database" feels rather confusing until you realize this is simply your personal Beyblade collection. Some more depth in the story mode wouldn't go amiss either, tying in closely with the new Shogun Steel cartoons.
But to linger long on these points is to miss the point of Beybade Evolution. The challenge for the game was to create a new experience for Beyblade fans as well as creating new Beyblade fans out of existing 3DS gamers. On this count, in my family at least, it's done a great job.
If you are looking for a game that offers a different take on the Skylanders and Disney Infinity toy-meets-game genre, this is well worth considering.