Toy-based video games like "Disney Infinity" and "Skylanders" are massively popular among youngsters, though those titles typically cost around $69 and require a console to play. Jakks Pacific's Hero Portal brings similar functionality to the entry level, allowing little ones to interact with toys based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, DC super heroes and Power Rangers for just $39.
We went hands-on with the Hero Portal at Toy Fair 2014, where we tried out the Ninja Turtles-themed version of the system. The console itself is a small black square, which features a dome-shaped base that looks appropriately like a sewer cap.
Topping off the setup is the character portal, which dictates your in-game character based on the figure on top of it. The Hero Portal includes a small plastic controller, which has a simple button layout consisting of a directional pad, start button, and three action buttons.
We played the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game that comes loaded with the console, which is a simple beat-em-up style affair that reminded us of the old TMNT arcade games. We played as Raphael and when we swapped him out for Michelangelo the in-game swap was instant. Each Hero Portal includes two characters, and you can buy additional figures in packs of two for $10. In the case of the Ninja Turtles, you'll be able to expand past the four main characters with such favorites as Master Splinter and April O' Neil.
We liked Jakks' more affordable approach when it comes to figure-based games, but the toys can cost you in the long run if you want to play as everybody. Each Hero Portal is exclusive to its branded characters, so you won't be able to use a Superman toy on the Ninja Turtles console and vice versa.
We suspect this limitation is due to licensing, but it's a tad disappointing when games like "Disney Infinity" allow you to choose from a large character roster within a single game. Still, if you're looking for an affordable way to entertain your young one, the $39 Hero Portals are worth keeping on your radar when they launch in August 2014.