I’m kind of a sucker for board games in VR. The sheer visual spectacle of seeing the entire game world before you coming to life in vivid 3D still wows me, so a game like 5 Min Lab’s Toy Clash has instant visual appeal. It’s less of a board game and more of a tower offense/defense experience, but still has a distinct small world charm.
A very small world in fact, since the focus is on toys attacking each other. In Toy Clash, you play one faction of toys trying to defeat another. There might be some kind of plot here in this single-player affair, but it didn’t stick with me. Essentially, two sides square off, sending in units of various types to destroy the enemy forces and base.
Toy soldiers, elf-like tennis ballers, hopping clockwork knights, bat-wielding thugs, and several more units are unlocked and upgradable through the game. Bazookas, off-road buggies, and other weird weapons keep the tone incredibly light. The colorful, bright art looks excellent and suits the nonsensical toy action just right.
The tower offensive nature of the game centers around the goal of destroying the enemy’s tower on the opposite end of the screen. Once their home base is destroyed, you can move to the next level. Conversely, your home base (an old tank for some reason) is fair game for them. If it gets destroyed, it’s game over.
These home towers have offensive abilities as well and can even be upgraded to be stronger and more lethal. In fact, everything in Toy Clash can be upgraded once enough points are earned. Points are the game’s currency, earned based on your level performance, and you can upgrade each unit individually.
The same is true of spells earned over the course of the game’s 36 levels. Spells include nifty high-power attacks like a great ball of fire or ice and some more practical uses like being able to pick up your units and move them around the map. These effects are particularly useful when dealing with clumps of enemies, but aren’t quite powerful enough to be tide-changers for the most part.
Toy Clash is all about timing… well, to be precise, mostly waiting for time to pass. This isn’t a large-scale battle game. Most of the time, there are less than ten units on the board at once. Rounds only last a few minutes, but much of that time is simply spent waiting for ever-recharging bars to reload to be able to create a new unit. The more powerful the unit, the more energy it takes to make them, so there’s a constant trade-off between waiting long enough to get the energy for a higher end unit or simply throwing out lesser units because it’s quicker.
What’s odd is that once you make a particular unit, the ability to make another has to recharge as well, independent of your overall energy recharging. There ends up being a lot of waiting for such quick matches and it frequently feels as if the AI opponent can make units a lot faster than you can, which is a bit frustrating.
On the plus side, this system can add a distinct sense of franticness to the action, but it feels like things are artificially stacked against the player in some cases. Even still though, Toy Clash is charming enough to be fun for the most part. The head-tracking based interface of the Gear VR is completely intuitive. To interact with things, you just look at them and tap the touch side panel. Mechanically, Toy Clash couldn’t be simpler to control.
Toy Clash provides enough good-looking VR action to be worth a look for fans of the genre. While the pacing is frequently off, the flaws aren’t grave enough to make it a wash. The diversity of boards, quaint toy theme, and overall fun nature of watching these clockwork battles unfold gives the game a distinctly gimmicky appeal for a short time.