The first time I played Beasts of Balance, I became so absorbed in its Jenga-meets-Pokemon gameplay that I lost all sense and track of time; a few hours passed without me even realising.

Beasts of Balance is a magical experience; essentially a fairly self-contained toys-to-life experience that doesn’t require a console (like games such as Skylanders, Lego Dimensions or Disney Infinity), but does need you to have it’s accompanying app on your phone or tablet.

Opening the box, you’re greeted with the mystical plinth, surrounded by the beautifully arranged, slightly abstract animals in vibrant colours. The plinth has a label which tells you to download the app and give it batteries; underneath the plastic tray of solidly built animals is another, which contains brightly coloured elements and other mysterious objects.

It’s a beautifully packaged, wonderfully presented and solidly built game then; it feels magical before you’ve even begun.

Yet the real magic happens when you install the app and connect your plinth to it via Bluetooth; a nicely designed tutorial takes you through the basics of the game, which will see you stacking the animals on the plinth, along with giving them specific elements to keep them alive, making hybrids or even forcing them to migrate out of their natural habitats.

Each animal belongs either to land, sea or air; place another in the same or a different habitat and either one may get ‘jealous’ and lose points. Keeping each animal’s points above zero keeps it alive and stops it from going extinct; you can improve an animal’s points total with elements matching their habitat or – if you make use of the firefly who randomly flits between each animal.

The real joy comes from discovering new creatures as you stack; making hybrids and uncovering hitherto unseen combinations of animals is thrilling, never seeming to become less so over time.

There’s also lots of really amusing biographies for each animal you find in the app’s bestiary too.

There’s more surprises and even a fantastic, surprisingly tactical Battle mode rather than the gentler, default co-op mode – but to say much more would ruin the joy of discovery that comes from just opening up your Beasts of Balance box and playing around with all of its features.

The plinth doesn’t always seem to work as it’s supposed to, which can be a little frustrating – particularly when it’s not registering a piece that has been precariously balanced and any jolt or nudge will topple the entire structure. This, however, does seem to be a rare issue; albeit a frustratingly inconsistent problem.

However, when Beasts of Balance works as intended, it’s an absolutely captivating experience that’s unlike anything else on the market.

It seems to only be sporadically available, but Beasts of Balance is a unique experience that’s well worth tracking down if you can find it.

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