Here’s an interesting question: can the sheer amount of content in a game help address gameplay flaws? In other words, is it possible to overlook a game not being especially fun to play if there’s loads of it to enjoy? On the one hand, game design sensibilities appear to say “yes;” it’s the essence of the grind – the concept that the entire MMORPG industry is built on – and many modern games incorporate some form of artificial lengthening to spice up a game in the face of lackluster gameplay.
On the other hand, we’ve got games like the ever-popular MOBAs, which eschew the grind in favor of compressing the highest points of action-RPG gameplay into half-hour chunks.
With Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found we’ve got what looks like the former. There’s a lot to do in this game: you’ve got loot to find, gear to upgrade and a sort of tower-defense concept to deal with. What’s more, it’s all tied together with the classic grind facilitation concept: procedural generation. You’re not going to be hurting for more adventures to have anytime soon. The issue, then, lies in the fact that those adventures aren’t especially fun to have; the “gamefeel,” for lack of a better term, brings to mind free Flash games from yesteryear. This is a game you play despite the core gameplay, not of it.
You control Brand, a doll…er, “action figure” who’s out to stop an evil entity from taking over his owner’s house. Starting each night from the bedroom, you’ll accomplish this through rudimentary Metroidvania-style platforming, hacking and slashing. Victory yields the aforementioned loot, used to craft better gear and upgrades for Brand. Meanwhile, defeat sends Brand back to the bedroom. Death isn’t permanent, but it does cause the layout of the house to randomize itself, which can prove a significant setback. You’ll also have to deal with the aforementioned tower defense elements, which largely serve as a resource sink that you’re punished for ignoring.
There’s plenty of things to collect in Toy Odyssey, including dozens of bits of armor, weapons and ranged gear to equip on Brand, and there’s a lot to say for the fact that all of this actually changes his appearance. Weapons also tend to behave slightly differently from one another, which helps the game feel fresh. When you aren’t upgrading Brand directly you can focus on keeping the bedroom well-defended so you don’t get your loot or toy pals stolen. The key to success for this sort of procedurally-generated game is offering plenty of minor goals for players to give themselves, and on this front the game is successful.
The issue is that no point does controlling the character really feel “good;” gamers who’ve lived through the glory days of Flash games will be familiar with that platform’s hallmark “floaty” feeling, where characters feel like they lack any weight or sense of presence, and that defines the entire experience of playing Toy Odyssey. Sure, Brand’s a toy, but the game would be drastically improved if you felt some impact behind his jumps or weapon swings.
Meanwhile, Toy Odyssey actually does look and sound pretty good. You’ll see plenty of recognizable toys from your childhood, and even Brand himself looks like a doll…er, “action figure” that any kid would have loved to own. While the game’s procedural generation prevents most of the house’s environments from feeling especially cohesive, that’s not a huge deal, and this isn’t an ugly game by any means.
I realize the odd physics and lack of weight inherent to the gameplay probably won’t be an issue for everyone. Frankly, the sheer amount of things to do in Toy Odyssey: The Lost and Found is likely to overwhelm any iffy spots for the average player. I’m also willing to admit that I’m becoming a crotchety old man who’s maybe a little too picky about a $15 game that offers hours of fun and was largely bug-free. With that in mind, this makes for a recommendation on my part; just don’t expect it to change the face of platforming.