Funko Fusion preview – once you pop you can’t stop

They’d never make a Lego Shaun Of The Dead game (10:10 Games)

From many of the same people behind the Lego movie titles comes a new co-op video game featuring everything from Hot Fuzz to Jurassic World.

Even if they’ve never bought one themselves, there can be few people in the Western world that don’t know what a Funko Pop is. The brand of distinctive, large-headed vinyl figures spans a bewildering range of pop culture intellectual properties (IPs). Fuelled by the establishment of new British developer 10:10 Games, Funko is about to enter the world of video games, with a title based on the toys and their interpretation of a handful of famous movies and TV shows.

Funko Fusion will knit together more than 20 beloved IPs, including some which have never before featured in video games, most notably Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Jaws. The game will also pay homage to the likes of Masters Of The Universe, the original Battlestar Galactica, Invincible, Jurassic World, The Thing, Five Nights At Freddy’s, Xena: Warrior Princess, and The Walking Dead.

You may imagine that this means it will take a similar approach to the Lego movie games and you’d be absolutely right. Not uncoincidentally, 10:10 Games (based in Warrington) was founded by luminaries of Traveller’s Tales/TT Games, and many of them have worked on some of the older Lego titles.

10:10’s Head of Publishing, Arthur Parsons, explained to us how the studio came into being: ‘I worked at Traveller’s Tales for 20-odd years. My boss here at 10:10, Jon Burton, was the original founder of Traveller’s Tales. Covid taught all of us different things. Sitting at home for the best part of two years, I just thought if I don’t leave now, for something new and exciting and different as a creative challenge, I never would.

‘So I made the decision to leave TT Games in 2021. Shortly after I left, Jon phoned me up and asked: ‘Do you want to do something new? I want to start a new studio and I want to create a new gaming franchise with Funko’.’

Funko was keen to enter the world of video games and the newly established 10:10 Games partnered with NBC Universal, opening up a vast pot of IPs which could go into Funko Fusion. ‘NBC Universal have got stuff that’s cool from when I was a kid, but they’ve also got stuff that’s current now, and everything in-between,’ says Parsons.

‘For us it was great: if we could bring in Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz and mix them up with everything else, they would bring a broader and different audience; the game is going to appeal, hopefully, to everyone between the age of 13 and 50+.’

We looked at it as a bit of a pie chart: what IP could we get that would appeal to people in their thirties, forties, twenties: looking at each of the different decades? I grew up watching Masters Of The Universe in the 80s, so I was like: ‘We’ve got to get Masters Of The Universe in.’ And Jon is a massive Back To The Future fan. Our physical distribution partners are Skybound, so it would have been remiss not to try to get Invincible and The Walking Dead in the game. And Five Nights At Freddy’s is just something that has a huge audience, so we’re really lucky that ScottGames allowed us to include that IP.’

At an online preview event, we weren’t able to play Funko Fusion, but we saw plenty of live gameplay in action. It was instantly clear that, while it clings to a familiar blueprint it’s by no means a clone. Parsons describes what 10:10 set out to achieve with Funko Fusion via an elevator pitch: ‘The game has three flavours. The fast-paced, slick, run ‘n’ gun adventure platforming of something like a Ratchet & Clank. Mixed with the objective-style gameplay of something like an Overwatch, where there are mission types and you know them, and even though there are different worlds and different asset-types, you understand them.’

‘And then you’ve got the layered-up, super-surprising-around-every-corner mash-up element of something like a Lego Dimensions or Disney Infinity: where you don’t know what you’re going to be able to do, but when you do it, it’s cool.’

In practice, Funko Fusion, which is non-linear, has seven core game-worlds, each of which is themed to a different IP, and by exploring the more obscure corners of these, you’ll be able to open up a large amount of what 10:10 Games calls cameo game worlds, which are smaller, more heavily focused and distilled levels containing the essence of other IPs. Over 20 separate IPs will feature in the game, and you’ll be able to play as more than 60 characters from across all of them taking any character, once unlocked, into any world.

In addition, each of the seven game worlds has its own unique gaming mechanics which, once unlocked, can also be used throughout the game. You might bring, for example, portals, batteries for powering objects and solving puzzles, or, from Hot Fuzz, the ability to tap into CCTV. Each character has its own melee and ranged weaponry (some of which has been designed to inject an element of comedy), and 10:10 Games promises that it will be packed with hidden collectables and Easter eggs.

Parsons adds: ‘If you were just to complete the core story arc, I would imagine that it would take around 12 to 14 hours. But to unlock everything and find all the different outfits, variants, complete all the side quests and everything else, it’s going to take two or three times that amount of time, maybe even a little bit more.’

Funko Fusion is also playable by up to four people co-operatively, to bring that Lego vibe of parents and offspring playing together – although unfortunately co-op play is online-only, with no couch co-op enabled, at least at launch. The overall gameplay combines third person shooting and puzzling, along with boss battles. 10:10 Games took pains to point out that it hasn’t recreated entire movies in Funko Fusion but has tried to stitch together their best and most memorable moments.

Parsons has clearly enjoyed the process of making Funko Fusion, as well as building up a new studio, and, he hopes, a major new gaming franchise: ‘In a period when the industry is not having the best time, for there to be a success story in the northwest region, which has always been a hotbed for video games, I think is terrific. The plan was always to grow a studio that is self-sustaining. We’ve got a really strong core creative experience team, but then for over 50% of our team, it’s their first venture in the industry. So, fingers crossed we can be a poster-studio for the games industry.’

In terms of gameplay, Parsons says the game is aimed at: ‘A casual, mid-core market that wants to kick back and have some fun, but there’s hidden depth in there for those who like gaming the system to find the hidden content and extend their time in the game, so we had to make quite a lot of careful decisions along the way.’

It goes without saying that the distinctive Funko look permeates throughout the game – new characters you unlock come in familiar Funko Pop boxes with the artwork throughout looking very on-brand. Plus, Parsons confirms that Funko Fusion will be backed by a range of physical Funko figures of various types: ‘The Funko Pop line accompanying the game was one of the most exciting things about partnering with Funko. There are IPs in it that have never been made as Funko Pops, such as Hot Fuzz, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Shaun Of The Dead. They aren’t just standard Pops; they’ve also got Pop Deluxes.’

Funko Fusion’s gameplay, with its mash-ups of characters that can be used anywhere and its non-linearity, is surprisingly ambitious for such a mainstream game, so it has every chance of being a hit – even if Funk Pops clearly aren’t as universally loved as Lego. Given the pedigree of a large contingent of the development team, the irony may be that one of this year’s biggest new franchises is filled with other much more familiar ones.

Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC
Publisher: 10:10 Games
Developer: 10:10 Games
Release Date: 13th September 2024
Age Rating: 12

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