Toys that work with iPad apps are most certainly a gimmick. How appropriate then that the WWE has a game that can use action figures you buy at the store. A gimmick for an industry built on gimmicks.
The common belief with the app toys is that they don’t add anything to the overall experience. By all rights you can play the game without the toy. Give away the app and sell the plastic…it makes sense and is a tried-and-true method for making money. Beside the fact that the app toys are not really needed, I always wondered how well they worked with the tablet and the app. Thankfully I trip to Big Lots gave me the chance to find out.
As a life long fan, I’m a sucker for anything pro wrestling, so when I saw a WWE app toy in the bargin bin, I couldn’t pass it up. The toy is a tiny wrestling action figure that you use with a free app download called Apptivity WWE Rumblers, made by Mattel.
I got myself a tiny CM Punk figure and downloaded the Apptivity app for my iPad. What I got was a surprising polished game that wonderfully married the WWE brand and Mattel’s toys. I slapped my CM Punk on the glass and learned how to fight.
Not surprisingly, the stand the figure comes with just simulates your fingers, creating multiple touch points on the screen. I went through the training tutorial to learn how to smack, run and use my special moves…all of which really boil down to swiping back and forth on the screen. Once you pass that you’re able to play some one-off exhibition matches or start your “career” towards a championship.
The career mode is rather straight forward, setup in a bracket tournament style. You fight until you get to the top and win a belt. Along the way you earn experience that you can use to beef up your superstar’s defense and offense. Frankly, I was happy to see a very simple upgrade mechanic used, that shows some restraint on the part of the game. It would have been easy to have six attributes to worry about but they made it easy and thoughtless.
In the end, I’m not sure the upgrading makes a difference but it doesn’t really matter. The time spent with the game is pretty brief, there’s just not much there beyond the wonderful trappings of a wrestling show…intro music, wild costumes and over-the-top signature moves. That’s what wrestling is! And while the gameplay might not be much to write home about, seeing a micro-sized version of your favorite superstar prance around the ring holding the championship belt above his head like a 7-year-old is truly priceless.
So lets be honest here, the action figure toy I bought for $2.50 is a souvenir. A branded trinket that you can have to show off your fandom. I’m not ashamed to show it off and I actually like the little CM Punk figure, despite it being somewhat inaccurate. While the figure doesn’t really add to the game, it’ll add nicely to the collection of toys on my desk at work. It’s not unlike the Saturday Morning cartoons of old where the shows were nothing but 30-minute commercials for the toys. Same thing here, only instead of cartoons we have digital games.
I’m sure the trend of selling physical goods that interact with apps and digital games is just getting into it’s prime. Just look the Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Maybe it’s actually the best of both worlds, getting two for the price of one? You get a digital game and a toy that you can keep and play with forever, all for one price (in some cases).
Yet what I don’t agree with is requiring the players to buy the toys to play the game. I believe the physical toys should be like in-game currency. You should be able to play and complete the game without the toy but if you buy the toy you’ll get certain advantages as well as the play value of the toy itself. I can play the WWE Rumblers game without my pint-sized CM Punk but having him does make the game more interesting and fun while also giving me something to hang on to long after the game is deleted.
The original price on the WWE Rumblers was $5 and I got it on sale for $2.50. For under $5 I feel I got something worth the price but once you approach that $5 or more mark, the game is going to really have to deliver. WWE Rumblers is not one of those games but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. If you see these types of games for under $5, go ahead and splurge. You’ll have a half-hour of fun playing the game and a lifelong toy shaped like your favorite wrestler.