Ubisoft might be a little late to the party when it comes to toys-that-appear-in-your-games peripherals but with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the company could have a hit with pint-sized space explorers who like to play with toys as part of the game they’re playing.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas treads the commonly told tale of an evil entity wanting to take over the solar system and it’s up to you to save the day but central to Ubisoft’s space game are the plastic spaceships and figures that use a special mount that fits to your controller then brings the ships to life in-game.
I played the Nintendo Switch version (it’s also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), where you slide a Joycon onto each side of the mount then attach the spaceship toy/ you have. Each craft and pilot has different abilities and weapons. The toy feels a little heavy on the controller to start with but you soon get used to it.
As a bonus for Nintendo Switch players, the Switch version has a toy based off Fox McCloud’s Arwing spaceship and the wily fox himself – and it’s a beauty of a craft, and Fox plays a major role in the game, with Switch exclusive missions focusing on the Star Fox team.
If you’re something of a toy collector then things could get expensive if you decide to buy as many ships as you can afford. The starter pack costs around $118 with additional ships setting you back about $58 a pop for a spaceship. Additional weapons packs cost around $30. You snap on the attachments, which appear in-game and you can swap out weapons and modify them on the fly, depending on the enemy you’re squaring off against.
That said, the toys aren’t necessary to actually play the game so you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to: You can play it without spending a cent on the ships and weapon attachments, if you want.
The game takes place on a variety of planets with different fauna and flora, as well as the Atlas star system, and while there is a bit of a grind where you have to explore planets for clues to help you in your missions, mine for resources, form alliances with other alien races and do busy work for locals to move the story forward, I was surprised how much of a smile it put on my face. Maybe it was the fact that I was controlling the on-screen spaceship with a controller that looked like the on-screen spaceship.
The combat is fast and fluid enough, and it seems to hold a pretty consistent frame rate on the Switch, something that is vital for a game that relies on fast reflexes. It’s a lot of fun, too, swapping out weapons mid-battle when you realise your initial arsenal isn’t up to scratch, but young players might find the intricacies of weapons management mid-battle a little daunting, though.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a lot of fun, even with the grinding busy work and some repetitive missions, but the toys add a different dimension to the game play that will appeal to spaceship fans. Parents, just keep in mind that the cost will mount up if your game fan wants more and more ships and weapons.
Heck, 10-year-old me would have danced with delight if I’d been able to play a game like Starlink: Battle for Atlas with its snap-on space ships and weapons.
Thanks to Five Eight Distribution for the review copy of Starlinke: Battle for Atlas and the toys.