The Wonderful World of Disney
As a massive Disney fan, I was skeptical about Disney Infinity. I’ve seen too many Disney videogames that ranged anywhere from terrible to mediocre, with truly great ones few and far between. Nonetheless, I tore into Disney Infinity with an open mind and imagination, and what I found was a satisfying, if imperfect, beginning to what ultimately could become an amazing experience.
For the uninitiated, Disney Infinity is a multi-component game that uses figurines as part of its gameplay. Put a figure (or two) on the play base (called an “Infinity Base” here), and that character will appear in the game. The Skylanders series has found great success with this formula using original characters, so the thought of what Disney could do with its extensive catalog of beloved properties is nothing short of astounding. It’s what these characters can do inside the game that makes Disney Infinity stand out—and gives it the potential to satisfy Disney fans of all ages. Well, if you have the necessary time and money to really take advantage of all it has to offer, that is.
The game begins with Sorcerer Mickey leading you through a world filled with various Disney-themed areas. There’s little to do here but stare in wonder at everything popping up as you run about. This sequence introduces you to some of the common play mechanics—jump, double-jump, climbing, and so on—and whets your appetite for what’s to come. From there, the game branches off into two modes: Play Sets and Toy Box.
Play Sets are pre-packaged adventures based on specific Disney properties, and three are included in the game’s Starter Pack: Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University, and The Incredibles. Another two, Cars and The Lone Ranger, can be purchased separately. Meanwhile, the Toy Box allows you to take items you’ve unlocked in the Play Sets and create your own adventures, in a similar fashion to Sony’s LittleBigPlanet.
Before I got my hands on Disney Infinity, the Play Sets were the concept that worried me the most. The game offers more than 1,000 items to unlock for the Toy Box, so to get the most out of this feature, you’ll have to play through each of the game’s campaigns—a daunting process if those campaigns aren’t any good. Fortunately, they are.
Now, none of the Play Sets would win an award for best platform game, but they’re all brisk and moderately diverse, representing the various properties well. Avalanche Software didn’t treat them as throwaway components, instead crafting large worlds with a lot of ground to explore—and so many things to collect and unlock, your head will spin.
The best of the currently available Play Sets are Monsters University and The Incredibles, both of which offer funny scripts and great voice work. The worst is undoubtedly The Lone Ranger—likely because, much like the moviegoing public, I just didn’t care. I didn’t see the movie, and I wouldn’t have played through the Play Set if it weren’t for the cool things to unlock for the Toy Box.
All of the Play Sets offer a similar structure: Your character accepts missions and gains points for completing them. These objectives vary in complexity, and admittedly, some of them are pretty lame. When the game makes you move objects from Point A to Point B, and said objects and points are all within 10 in-game feet of each other, it feels like a pointless 30 seconds of your time. However, some missions are challenging, and anything that gets you exploring the landscape is a good thing.
Players will also find capsules—ones that look like they come from vending machines—scattered about every level. These contain various toys for the Toy Box and can be as simple as a mustache for a character or as complex as parts to build a pirate ship. It feels great when you snag a reward, no matter how small, and figuring out how to reach some of the more elusive capsules is half the fun.
There are a few points of annoyance in the Play Sets, however. Since they can be played in any order, you’ll receive many of the same tutorial instructions at the beginning of each campaign. Hearing the narrator explain that you can accept multiple missions at once for the third (or fourth, or fifth) time made me want to throw something at my TV.
Each Play Set also includes unlockable missions, challenges, and even chests that require certain characters. This forces players to purchase extra figures to complete the Play Sets. Plus, you’ll have to replay certain areas multiple times to get some of the best goodies. I found a vault in the Incredibles Play Set that requires all five characters to open—quite the investment of time and money.
You’ll also have to purchase a second character for each of the three Play Sets that come with the Starter Pack if you want local multiplayer, since only characters associated with the specific property can play within the Play Set (you can only mix and mingle in the Toy Box).
Finally, there’s a certain incongruity in the stories if you use characters not intended play a starring role. For instance, I decided to be Davy Jones for the Pirates of the Caribbean campaign. That got very surreal about 10 minutes in, when Davy Jones stole a treasure from the player—in this case Davy Jones. It would’ve been nice if the game recognized who you’re playing as and swapped out the corresponding character in cutscenes.
And one note on the Cars Play Set: Since the vehicles don’t run and climb (they can still jump), this Play Set controls completely differently. It’s actually a lot of fun driving around for your missions, but it’ll take some getting used to, particularly after the other adventures.
Taken separately, the game’s Play Sets would warrant a slightly above-average score. However, once you get into the game’s Toy Box, things really get exciting. The Toy Box lets players design interactive worlds only limited by their imaginations. As of now, you can collect more than 1,000 items (a number that’ll grow as new Play Sets and Power Discs become available) to use in the Toy Box, goodies that include basic props like balls, fences, and roads to Disney-themed items like Spaceship Earth—Epcot’s iconic geodesic sphere—and a bajillion characters to populate your lands.
Additionally, you can use the game’s Power Discs to add even more features to your Toy Box, such as property-specific backgrounds, vehicles, and even power-ups for your characters (these are the only discs that can be used in the Play Sets). These discs are available in blind packs of two for $5.
You can even set in-game goals and assign attributes to them, so that when players complete these objectives, your creation reacts like a regular game. For instance, you can put a spawn point for Syndrome’s evil robots and a counter so that X number of them must be defeated before proceeding. A simple feature, but one that allows you to create compelling levels. Working in the Toy Box is simple and intuitive, and the game even includes a nice tutorial level to help you get a feel for things. The only limits are your imagination—and the fact you can currently only save 99 Toy Box levels.
Unlike LittleBigPlanet, Disney will review submitted Toy Box levels and will only allow “appropriate” ones for sharing with other gamers. This is both good and bad, as parents won’t have to worry about risqué material sneaking through to their kids, but some creativity could be stifled depending on Disney’s guidelines, which haven’t been shared with the public.
The worst part about Disney Infinity is how much money one could theoretically spend on the game. To get the Starter Pack, both additional Play Sets, a complete set of figures (10 additional ones that aren’t part of the Play Sets), and Power Discs (20 in the first series, not counting the Toys “R” Us exclusives) will cost over $300, the price of a new game system. Plus, Disney’s already announced two more series of Power Discs coming soon, the next Play Set—Toy Story—coming in October, and a ton of new characters, including Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey, Rapunzel from Tangled, and characters from Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Phineas and Ferb. Plus, certain retailers will receive special versions of these, such as the Crystal series of figures coming to Toys “R” Us. Completionists, you’ll want to arrange for those second mortgages now.
Disney Infinity is a multifaceted game that offers a lot for Disney fans of all ages. Most of the separate components are well executed and enjoyable, but taken as a whole, the game’s insanely fun and addictive, making it easy to get past its flaws. There’s far too much to cover in a single review, but rest assured, if you’re interested in this sort of experience—and the potential price tag doesn’t scare you to death—you should give it shot.
|Developer: Avalanche Studios • Publisher: Disney Interactive • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 8.18.2013|
The Play Set portion of Disney Infinity consists of average to slightly above-average platformers, with enough collectibles to send players with OCD off the deep end. Things get better in the Toy Box, where the potential for player-crafted adventures really opened up the experience. Overall, Disney Infinity is an excellent addition to the fairly new toy-enhanced game genre.
|The Good||The depth of the Toy Box will allow for some really impressive creations (which I can’t wait to play).|
|The Bad||Some of the missions in the Play Sets are beyond simplistic.|
|The Ugly||What’s with the way Tonto dances when he completes a mission?|
|Disney Infinity is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U, Wii, and 3DS. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.|