Adventures in Toy Odyssey
To picture Toy Odyssey all you have to do is imagine a heroic action figure fighting their way through Sid’s room from Toy Story. The game is an indie title featuring all of your favorite new indie game features like procedural generation, stat boosts, and crafting systems. However, the game is firmly rooted in action-style platformers, or the cringe-worthy “MetroidVania” moniker. It’s not a far fetched comparison and it takes a lot of time to build up, but Toy Odyssey still managed to hook me and turn into a time sink.
There are two areas to explore while sifting through the world. Before every runthrough you start in the bedroom. From here you can craft new weapons, develop defenses against the lost toys, and gain/turn in quests. Outside of the room lies the rest of the house. Room-by-room enemies are spawned and increase in difficulty the further you reach. Each enemy has their own attack, and you’ll have no problem figuring out there are some creatures worth avoiding rather than waste your precious hit points to get a bit of money. No matter what happens you’ll end up back in the bedroom. Death is a weird mechanic here because it’s not as cut-and-dry as other games. Rather than losing all the things you’ve collected, Toy Odyssey manages to be forgiving by sending you back to the bedroom with everything you collected. The catch? The entire house rearranges itself. Should you end a run by returning to the bedroom on your own fruition, the map remains the same, which proves crucial as the game requires you to go further into the house.
There are tons of different items to collect. Main characters are saved along the way and each of them creates a new feature in the bedroom. They all give you quests, as well. The quests can be anything from a certain number of enemies and finding specific items to saving new characters and fighting bosses. It’s run-of-the-mill MMO type groundwork, but it works surprisingly well for this style of game.
Sure, Toy Odyssey lacks mission variety and is much more shallow than it appears, but I didn’t notice while playing. The gameplay could come off grindy, but I still found myself diving back in despite. There’s a story around all your actions, and I’m sure it’s got high points but all I’ve gathered is my owner has been having nightmares and lost toys are out to plunge the house into chaos. There are diary entries scattered from various family members to collect to fill in plot gaps. Point is, Toy Odyssey doesn’t really need a story to keep you playing. I don’t think I ever got through a run of Spelunky and thought it would be better if there were a reason I was after all the treasure.
The weird thing about how all the systems interlock stems from the amount of time it takes to make progress. None of the crafting and base building was intuitive and there wasn’t much of a tutorial to show me what I was doing. Is it important to spend my money on towers rather than weapons? In order to make stronger weapons you have to make a lesser weapon. It’s really difficult to see what each weapon needs and the order they lay themselves out makes it even harder to keep track of what I was doing. Honestly, the prerequisites are so dark if you don’t have them that I had to walk up to my TV to see what I needed.
While hunting items in the house, you’ll fill up your bag within the first couple screens and unless you pay special attention to a specific item you need, you’ll end up throwing up stuff you needed for some that you don’t in later screens. My point is everything is really difficult to keep track of. At a certain point you’ll have collected enough items that stuff starts to fall into place, but I probably plugged 8 hours in before I felt like I really got the ball rolling.
Crafting items wasn’t the only thing that took forever to delve into. I didn’t even hear about the boss battles until somewhere around the 10 hour mark, too. It’s just strange how long it takes to get the big picture of what’s going on in Toy Odyssey, and oddly enough I never felt like I was running low on patience. You can upgrade each part of your action figure which changes the style of outfit as well as earns new movements. You’ll get a dash technique and multiple jumps, which make each room more maneuverable as you proceed.
Most runs end the same way. Sure, you can go back to the home base to save your place, but you never know what’s in the next room. Maybe all that health I’ve been waiting for will be right behind the door. I think I went back to the bedroom by choice three times in the close to 100 runs I’ve had in the game. That’s another feature I should mention. Each time you enter the bedroom the game ticks up the counter as if another day has passed. I haven’t seen it affect anything, but it lets me know how many times I’ve died without a successful run to the end. I tried to hold off writing this review until I saw some sort of endgame, but there’s no real end in sight and I’ve put in a lot of hours.
Toy Odyssey is weird because it feels flawed, but I can’t stop playing it. There’s a certain point in each individual run where it feels impossible to move further. Some enemies hurt you worse than others and despite having ludicrous amounts of hit points there are some traps that feel like instadeath. It’s frustrating, but I keep playing over and over again.
I know it isn’t perfect, but I’m still totally engaged playing Toy Odyssey. It somehow manages to squeeze every possible drop replayability out of its systems, and even though I have the sneaking suspicion reward systems are a cheap way to get people hooked, I’m still hooked. I’ve probably said more negative than positive, but I am having a lot of fun playing through Toy Odyssey. I don’t remember the last time I put this much time into a game I was reviewing, and I’m still excited for what’s left to uncover and my next upgrades. The game has a lot of spirit and a creepy fever dream aesthetic for fans of serious and more light-hearted games. If you’re looking for a game that can be played in short bursts but last for a long time, it’s hard to see a better value than what Toy Odyssey offers.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox One, PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Hiker Games; Developer: Hiker Games ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 20, 2016 ; MSRP: $14.99
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Toy Odyssey given to HeyPoorPlayer by Hiker Games.”