My son Gabe invited a few of his friends to PAX this year and the group of them set off to experience the show on their own for the first time. They came back raving about a game they saw called Lightseekers that I had heard of and thought was a “Toys to Life” sort of thing I'd heard about on Kickstarter. I have to admit that after Disney Infinity kicked the bucket I sort of figured the genre was dead. I mean, if Disney can’t make it work who can? I let them take me over to the booth the next day though and I am glad I did because “Toys to Life” doesn’t really do Lightseekers justice.
As the comic states, Lightseekers really does come in three distinct flavors that are all great on their own but can also be used together in some really cool ways. I have only had a few days with all this stuff but let me break it down for you as best I can. I’ll have the most to say about the card game element as that’s what I’ve spent the most time with.
I have not spent much time with this part of Lightseekers but I can tell you a bit about it. This is a mobile FTP game but it’s not like most FTP games. Lightseekers is free and you can play it all you want without ever being asked to pay for anything. I don’t know if I can stress just how cool this is. There are no microtransactions in the game and you don’t need to buy any of the other Lightseekers stuff to play it. It’s a very solid app that looks beautiful and has some novel solutions for movement. If you’re curious you should just grab it.
So the game is free and that’s because they hope you’ll pay for it in a couple different ways. The heroes that you can play in the game all have action figure counterparts. These are not little sculpts that you place on some kind of digital alter and then leave there. These are big, articulated, light up, talking action figures. They are also bluetooth devices that can function almost like Wiimotes. Moving your action figure around moves your onscreen character and there are various games to play this way.
The figures also have weapons that show up in game and save all their progress. So if I were to spend a bunch of time leveling up a cool sword I could give that physical sword toy to my son Noah and he could use it in his game. I’ve not investigated this part of Lightseekers much but that is only because Noah will not stop playing with the toys long enough for me to try them out in the game.
Okay, so in addition to playing with these elemental heroes in the game or with the action figures, they each are also represented by a starter deck in a Lightseekers card game. This is a fully featured physical trading card game just so we are clear. To be honest this was the part of the hydra I was least convinced of when I saw it. Each one of the cards can be scanned by the app to give you some sort of digimal goodie. In my mind I saw these cards as being purchased by players of the mobile game in order to get these digital doodads. When they told me the cards also constituted an actual TCG I think I probably made a mean face. This is the part of Lightseekers I’ve spent the most time with and so I can tell you why I regret making that face.
Elemental starting decks, thirtyfive cards plus a hero and about thirty health all tracked on a colorful playmat. Lightseekers looks beautiful but not threatening, this is a game for “kids” and the art sells it. This is a fast game because there’s no real “manna” to spend each turn. You’ve got two actions and playing a card costs an action. At the end of your turn you’ll draw a card for each action you skipped so turns can go super fast. Cards are divided into types like items, attack and defend which do pretty much what you’d expect and then buffs which we mention in the strip today.
These cards can have values at all four corners and during a special phase at the beginning of your turn reserved for buffs, they rotate 90 degrees. As each new value rotates into that top left corner position, a “rotate” effect is triggered. Let me tell you right now these are really fun. Some of the basic ones tick over and deal “X” amount of damage based on that new corner number. But the gameplay spirals out from there into some really cool places. Just for example I played a buff last night from my Dread deck that told me to stop discarding and instead place those cards under this buff. It did nothing as it rotated for a few turns but on the last rotation the value was “0”. The card told me “0” equaled the number of cards I’d placed under this one and that’s how many I could draw. Now the buff is discarded and I have a hand full of cool stuff to do.
On the other hand I’m playing against my son’s Tech deck and I see him laying out buffs that are essentially ticking time bombs. I watch them spin each round for nothing but at the very end it might pop for 16 damage. I’ve got ways of clearing buffs but it's a mad dash. Then finally there are more powerful versions of these concepts called Combos. You must pay for these by feeding cards from your hand back to your deck, but once out they tend to have big game changing effects. We’ve played a few rounds each night for the past couple days and the game is really stuck in my brain right now. I’ve been shuffling through the extra cards I’ve got trying to tune my deck in little ways and see what happens. I have yet to beat my son but I believe that has more to do with me and less to do with the cards. Although if the folks at Lightsekers are watching this, I feel like the Tech deck needs to be nerfed.
This is one of those PAX situations where I literally had my credit card out and was ready to buy this stuff when they put it in my hands and thanked me for making Penny Arcade. Maybe that will effect your opinion of this but I hope it doesn't. I’m not gonna lie to you these toys are not cheap and we all know what a TCG can do to a person. What I can say is Lightseekers gives an incredible amount even compared to what it asks. The fact that you can play their game for free and never interact with any of the “pay” sides of the endeavor is really something cool. My wife has been playing the game alone since the boys told her about it and has not expressed any interest in the toys or the cards. Tycho would say that the game simply acts as a numbing agent so you don’t struggle as the twin fangs of toys and cards do their bloody work. Maybe that's true. I’m telling you that Lightseekers is worth being devoured for.