Gamers of a certain age will remember Epoch’s Barcode Battler, a compact games system that relied on barcoded characters and power-ups to fight against each other. The key to its (failed) longevity was the fact that further barcodes could be used to create new characters, enemies and add-ons. In the end its tiny LCD screen couldn’t compete with the growing range of TV consoles, and it paled into bargain bins.
Now imagine an interactive system that connects to your TV but also uses a broad and expandable range of characters and power-ups that you can collect just like Top Trump cards. Since we’ve been dragged squealing into the 21st century, barcodes just won’t cut it anymore – instead picture RFID-enabled cards that register with mere proximity across a swipe sensor. You’re getting close to the incredible gaming concept of Mattel’s HyperScan.
HyperScan consists of a console, lightweight and foldable for ease of transport and storage, that not only runs games on CD-ROM but also interacts with re-writable RFID token cards (which Mattel calls Intellicards). A software title such as Marvel X-Men would run primary gameplay from the CD, but during that a player can pause the action and swipe one or more of their Intellicards to upgrade, modify and enhance both their offensive and defensive battle abilities, such as extra strength, armour and special moves. At the end of the game the Intellicards can be swiped again, this time uploading details of their winning powers so that they can be invoked in future games.
Mattel see HyperScan as a bridging system for children eight and above, fitting in-between simplistic plug & play games and high-end consoles like the PS2 and XBox 360 which can often feature mature content. It hybridises traditional button-bashing with the perennially popular collector cards concept, game packs selling with a CD-ROM and six game cards, with subsequent booster packs of game cards available to introduce new skills and features. A single game features around 100 corresponding Intellicards: 10 to 20 characters, each with between 20 and 40 hours of gameplay, and in excess of 80 modification cards.
As with recent collector card trends like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, collectors won’t know what cards might be in each booster pack they buy; Mattel are keen to stoke the furious swapping scene that has always been a part of trading cards. The addition of RFID takes it one step further, with initially identical cards eventually being unique through continued gameplay.
The success of any console system depends on the quality of its games. So far Mattel has announced Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, Interstellar Wrestling League and the aforementioned Marvel X-Men as all being available from launch, with Marvel Heroes hitting shelves a month later.
HyperScan will be available in October for $69.99, which includes a controller, Marvel X-Men game and six game cards in addition to the console itself. Optionals include extra controllers at $19.99 each, an Intellicard case at $7.99, a console & accessories case at $19.99 and of course extra games at $19.99, while booster card packs run to $9.99.