Trendspotting: the indie games that combine digital with physical

The Guardian // 16th February 2016

Powered by article titled “Trendspotting: the indie games that combine digital with physical” was written by Will Freeman, for The Observer on Monday 15th February 2016 10.27 UTC


There has been an explosion in the number of video games that are altered and unlocked by toys. This “toys-to-life” concept is simple: place small figurines on a platform connected to a games console, and those characters magically appear in-game.

In general, the toys are used only as keys to unlock content. Not so with Fabulous Beasts from Sensible Object, which sees players build a tower from blocks that represent animals, elements and forces, striving not to let it tumble.

fabulous beasts in action
Fabulous beasts in action.

And structural integrity is not the only challenge. Each piece placed in the tower impacts a streamlined, stylised strategy game played on tablet simultaneously, where breeding, evolving and maintaining the beasts carves a route to victory.

It’s a fascinating experience, as the forces acting on the real-world animal heap and the strategy of the video game become utterly entwined.


Three UK games with indie-built hardware were winners at the recent IndieCade. Fabulous Beasts secured the Technology award, Robin Baumgarten’s Line Wobbler took Game Design, and Alistair Aitcheson’s Codex Bash was the Media Choice.

bristol robotics lab
Robotics Engineer Silas Adekunle (right), seen here with colleague Eleanor Rodgers, has devised gaming with robots, using apps on mobile devices. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer


Bristol startup Reach Robotics is working to realise personal real-world battling robots that work in unison with a digital game. The Mecha Monsters will employ smartphones as their controllers.


Blocks modular is a customisable smartwatch from Blocks Wearables, while Roli and Technology Will Save Us are developing a digital touch-sensitive music keyboard. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010


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