In this industry, it's rare to experience a press demo where the subject at hand is literally shrouded in mystery—or, in this case, a black tablecloth.
Underneath this covering sat a collection of Transformer-esque figures for the upcoming toys-to-life game Infinite Arms, created by a trio of developers with plenty of experience across different genres: Keiichi Yano, co-founder of INIS (Elite Beat Agents, Gitaroo-Man), Chris Esaki, known for essentially creating cover-based shooting mechanics with 2003's Kill Switch, and Tom Abernathy, who's written for games like Halo: Reach and Destroy all Humans. As you'd probably expect, their new creation allows players to players to scan—and, more importantly, buy—physical representations of characters for the sake of interactivity between software and molded plastic. With Infinite Arms, though, they want to go much further than the basic interactions we've seen with Amiibo, Disney Infinity, and the like.
While most figures from the toys-to-life genre amount to small, well-molded statuettes, Infinite Arms' look like actual toys—big, solid toys at that. Sure, they can be placed in a dynamic pose to look attractive on your shelf, but Infinite Arms' collection of robots feel like they're actually meant to be played with. In general, they're much more complex than your average toys-to-life figure, with plenty of points of articulation, and four individual slots to snap new weapons into place. They also have a bit of circuitry under the hood—powered by a coin cell battery—which lends to their more complicated nature: Much like your standard apps, Infinite Arms robots can send push notifications to their owners when something happening on the software side of things requires their attention.
Rather than shooting for consoles, Infinite Arms is taking advantage of the untapped mobile space to give their interpretation of toys-to-life a unique direction. The free-to-play software for Android and iOS platforms—which players can use without buying a single toy—exists as an attempt to take mobile seriously; when talking about the game itself, the developers at the newly formed Jumo, Inc. made plenty of comparisons to Destiny. And even in its early stages, Infinite Arms definitely takes advantage of being on a mobile platform—the app itself can connect with your Amazon account, making it possible to buy new figures and accessories with just a few button presses. (Which could be a liability for parents who haven't protected their passwords.)
Infinite Arms takes a new approach in delivering its content, as well. Its content will consist of four-month seasons, with a collection of characters that can only be purchased while their season is active—players late to the game can replay old seasons, though. Of course, this seasonal content delivery system gives users plenty of reasons to buy new toys, but it also provides a certain of-the-moment quality missing from other toys-to-life experiences. Infinite Arms isn't just a toys-to-life sandbox; writer Tom Abernathy promises a slowly unraveling story with plenty of mysteries, created for players who grew up a little after cutting their teeth on more kid-friendly things like Skylanders.
Of course, with a constant cycle of new toys—and optional weapons to attach to their numerous slots—the question of cost arises. In my brief time using the app, I noticed the placeholder prices of $30 per figure, and thought they seemed pretty spot-on for such large, detailed toys with unique identities and the power to communicate with mobile devices. If you're looking to get the most of the experience, the cost could easily grow to $100 or more per season—maybe not too outlandish for the Amiibo and Infinity collectors out there, but a much steeper price of entry for anyone looking to experiment with Infinite Arms. Again, it's possible to play the game itself without spending a dime on any physical figures, but that's not necessarily representative of the full experience.
Ultimately, the game itself will determine whether or not Infinite Arms is worthwhile, and though I have faith in the developers, the one-on-one battle I demoed didn't completely win me over—not that such a small sample possibly could. If Jumo wants players to invest in pricier figures, the software itself will need to give players a reason to keep coming back. (Not that bad gameplay stopped Disney Infinity from selling, but still...) Thankfully, there's still plenty of time left before Infinite Arms' launch in late summer, and the dream team assembled for its creation should at least instill some confidence in the project—even for those wary about adding even more video game tchotchkes to their living spaces.