Studio: 5 MIN LAB
Type: Casual, strategy
Game Modes: Single
Control: Touchpad, gamepad supported
I can most concisely describe Toy Clash as a bite-sized strategy game. It may bear some resemblance to Evil Robot Traffic Jam or Twisted Realms, but this is only superficial. If I had to pick a Gear VR game it is most similar to, it would have to be Tactera, if Tactera were stripped down to having just 2 bases, yours and the enemy’s. But even this isn’t entirely accurate, and I’m glad I gave Toy Clash a chance, because it turned out to be a polished and surprisingly addictive title.
The developers promote Toy Clash as a tower-offense game. Each round begins with a storybook on a desk opening to reveal an illustrated battlefield; your base (an immobilized tank) sits on the left, and the enemy tower on the right. You strategically drop toys on the storybook battlefield across a series of 32 stages, with the ultimate goal of destroying the enemy tower while protecting your own base. You slowly generate resources that you can use to purchase and place units on the stage, and then watch them go to work. Units can only be positioned or repositioned, but cannot otherwise be given any orders, though you are able to support them with the use of some special powers.
You get access to six different unlockable and upgradable units ranging from basic melee rascals to mech-tanks to rocket-toting bombers, all with different range/power/health stats and production costs. And this is where the bulk of the strategy lies; should you place a cheaper unit right now to slow down the enemy, or risk waiting to get something more powerful or better suited? You also get six support powers, two of which can be equipped in any one battle, that let you hurl fireballs, heal your units, or speed up production, among other things.
You unlock units and special powers by gathering stars, which are awarded for passing the stage, passing it in under 2 minutes, and keeping your base at full health. And speaking of that 2-minute star award, this game is fast; all rounds can be completed in under 2 minutes, and some even under 1 minute, hence my “bite-sized” comment at the beginning. For the most part all rounds follow the same formula on the same limited terrain, with only the enemy spawn pattern changed, although that does vary wildly from stage to stage. The most interesting stages are the challenges; you’re restricted to just one or two units and a special power, and expected to make the most of it. They force you out of your usual strategy and make you develop new tactics, and turn out to be the most rewarding stages of all.
Controls are solid for the most part, and gamepad use is supported but not required. Regardless of whether or not you use a gamepad, the position of your “grabber” claw is controlled by your gaze. On the battlefield, the claw moves on a horizontal plane, while in the menus or unit selector it has to move on a vertical plane. The movement of the claw is actually handled pretty well; I was able to select items in the background or battlefield accurately and intuitively, and rarely, if ever, made a mistake between the two. The only control issue occurs when using the repositioning claw on the battlefield, which consistently grabs just behind where you think it will, and takes some getting used to.
The graphics are cutesy and cartooney, but quite detailed. The play area is very small and directly in front of you, which allowed the developer to intricately design the units and environment. The framerate sticks to 60 frames-per-second the majority of the time, but there is definitely noticeable slowdown when 20 units are animated on the battlefield. The color palette and style definitely won’t appeal to everybody, but it’s exactly what you would expect from a game called Toy Clash, so no surprises there. Tower offense and defense games typically put the play area right in front of you, and size everything to be model-scale at tabletop distances, so the graphics take on a very “touchable” appearance, and Toy Clash is no different. It makes you wish the Gear VR had positional tracking so you could lean in for a closer look.
While the graphics are pleasant, we only get 2 battlefields; a forest-themed one you’ll be seeing the majority of the time, and a castle-themed one used for challenge stages. And despite the different color schemes, both are structurally identical; your base and the enemy’s sit at either end of a very short lane, with no obstacles or alternate paths. It would have been nice to see more varied terrain in the battlefields both for visual and gameplay diversity.
The sound compliments the graphics. A cartoon military theme greets you at the title screen and plays throughout the game, but luckily it’s done well enough. The sound effects are a mix of shots, explosions, crashes and screams, and all are adequate. Death-sounds emitted by units are particularly useful on the crowded battlefield, allowing you to confirm if you’ve lost a unit or scored a kill. The only issue I have with the sound effects is that some of them can get a bit annoying; a specific example is if you have 3 or 4 of the ranged Wimbledon units attacking at the same time, their attack noise gets irritating pretty fast.
Comfort & Immersion
Comfort-wise there’s nothing to worry about. The camera doesn’t move, you’re just looking around and selecting items. The comfort level is comparable to other Gear VR games like Tactera or Evil Robot Traffic Jam. There’s really nothing here to make the player uncomfortable, and even the occasional framerate slowdown shouldn’t cause you any nausea.
And like the level of comfort, the sense of presence generated is very similar to any other VR strategy game. There’s no reason to look anywhere except directly ahead, which will make some people ask why this game needed to be in VR. And I’d have to say it doesn’t, with the exception of bringing the toys to life right in front of you. The game does it’s best to make you feel like you’re playing with living toys on a tabletop, and the only thing holding the illusion back is the limitations of the hardware itself. Once consumer-level AR devices are common, that’s where we’ll see these kinds of games; table-top strategy right on your table, desk, or lap.
The cute graphics and sound aren’t my kind of thing. But just like Panzer Panic last year, after a few stages with Toy Clash I found myself enjoying it. The gameplay isn’t groundbreaking, but the units and powers are well-tuned and balanced, and the game has an overall high-quality feel. The upgrade scheme seems to be particularly well-tuned; you always feel like you’re just one more victory away from a new unit or upgrade, and you feel compelled to play just one more round.
Toy Clash doesn’t have the depth of games like Tactera and Skylight, but it’s not that type of game. It’s a tower offense/siege game, and it’s small and focused. It’s simpler and quicker, a kind of bite-sized strategy game. For the asking price, you’re getting a very polished and surprisingly addictive title with an appropriate amount of content.
- Detailed toy models and animations
- Well-balanced units
- Simple and addictive gameplay
- No diversity in battlefield layout
- Large battles cause significant slowdown
- Grabber claw accuracy isn't intuitive