Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a boring game with incredible toys

The toys-to-life boom was undoubtedly cool. Even if you’re an adult, you can’t deny the simple joys of placing a toy on a pedestal, or an amiibo on your controller, and seeing your game spring to life. It’s a small way that the game can cross the boundaries into real life and make the player feel more active in that world. But ultimately, you’ll favor either the game, or the figure, and Starlink: Battle for Atlas is the perfect example of a toys-to-life game where the toy is amazing, and the game merely exists.

Starlink is Ubisoft’s attempt at the toys-to-life genre after the relative successes of Disney Infinity, Skylanders and Nintendo’s line of amiibo figures. In Starlink, you connect a pilot, ship hull, wings, and guns to your chosen spacecraft, and watch it all come to life on the screen before you. This is all amazingly satisfying, and the simple technology will put a smile of your face. Whether I’ve shown this to kids or adults, the reaction is always amusement. The novelty of the figure appearing on screen is impossible to resist.

Players can mix and match pilots, guns, ships, wings, and more to their heart’s content, creating their own figures and space ships in tandem. It’s easy to imagine children adoring this because even as an adult, the charm is hard to deny. Ubisoft’s partnership with Nintendo was aimed right at the nostalgia of many Nintendo fan as they included Starfox and his crew as staples in the Nintendo Switch version of the game. This even prompted me to purchase the Starlink Starter Pack, which included two pilots and Starfox‘s iconic Arwing.

The Arwing looks great too. A controller attachment which was also included acts as a stand and it can sit on a shelf with pride. It’s absolutely a worthwhile investment for those willing to place monuments to pop culture nostalgia on their shelves and are solid enough toys in their right. For those wishing to play a video game? Well, maybe not.

Foxy flying

starlink best buy

Starlink is fine. There’s nothing about Starlink that feels egregious or bad to play, honestly. The ships control well enough and have plenty of options for moving and shooting. There’s a decent number of enemies to blast, and space battles play out very differently to battles on planets, which changes up the gameplay. On top of that, Fox McCloud’s Arwing controls and shoots great, and feels like a perfect fit for the Starlink world. It’s probably why Ubisoft is adding even more Star Fox content soon.

But missions are often fetch quests where you fly from one edge of the planet to another. You’ll fly to planets for mundane conversations with inhabitants. Moving across space is slow and boring. The story isn’t very engaging. Nothing is awful, but nothing is particularly great, either.

It’s a sight to behold. While playing the game, you sit there with a fully formed space ship jutting out of the controller in your hands, but just blankly playing through a fairly mediocre gaming experience. It’s hard not to have the urge to tear the ship from the controller and just fly it around the room in your hands like a child. Here, the toy included feels so wonderful, but the game it works with just underwhelms.

Of course, this all comes from a grown-ass man. Starlink is a toys-to-life game, and is therefore squarely aimed at a younger audience, who will no doubt appreciate Starlink‘s gameplay much more than me. After all, exploring planets and flying around the galaxy is interesting at first, and it’s definitely got enough content to keep players busy.

A lot of space

Starfox Starlink

But who doesn’t want to play with these toys themselves? The novelty of the toys is so strong that it’s difficult not to feel tempted to buy more pieces and see the ship combinations you can create, but sadly, with such a mediocre game attached to it, it just isn’t worthwhile. Though if these toys had a bit more utility outside of the game, it’s easy to see rooms of — potentially inebriated — adults enjoying toys-to-life games in the same way Mario Party can remain a staple at gatherings well into your adult years. But as of right now, there are no toys-to-life games that can offer this kind of experience. Well, except maybe Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, but the less said about that the better.

If you are an adult out there looking at a present to buy a younger relative, Starlink might be the perfect gift, and with imagination, that toy is going to be even more valuable than the game in the long run. But as of right now, Starlink is an interesting novelty for adults that will amount to little more than a monument to nostalgia, and gatherer of dust, sitting on a shelf. And that just isn’t worth the money no matter how cool the toys are.