Superheroes are all the rage right now, not only in the inked pages of comic books, but also on the silver screen and in kids’ heroic fantasies. On top of that, Marvel is now the property of the House That Mickey Mouse Built, giving Disney the opportunity to use its iconic crime-fighters in its licensed endeavours. Take Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes – 2.0 Edition for instance, as the series that debuted last year with a cast full of animated characters has turned to the rulers of the Comic Book Kingdom for its sophomore effort.
For the purposes of this review, we were provided with the game’s Starter Set, which comes with three characters and one play set. Expectedly, the packed-in content is all Avengers-themed, because those characters are the hot ticket right now. As a result, you can expect to find Thor, Black Widow and Iron Man in the box after you pay the $74.99 admission price. Those figures and only one play set, to be exact. You see, instead of packing in three different worlds full of missions kids can take on, this entry decided to scale things back and hide most of its content behind a paywall.
Although Toy Box mode — wherein kids and their families can create their own populated worlds, complete with race tracks and games — is once again the most talked-about bullet point for Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, we’ll start with the aforementioned play set, which appropriately presents a stylized version of New York City for players to fight crime in.
Right from the get-go, it’s made evident that something is wrong in one of America’s biggest cities. The weather is fluctuating, turning a normal spring day into a winter wonderland, complete with large snowflakes and frozen lawns. Of course, Loki ends up being behind it all, having formed an alliance with the frosty Ice Giants and another devious intellect. Together, they plan to freeze the world and bring a dormant relic back to life. Typical super villainy.
The storyline is as predictable as heroic fiction gets and is really lacking originality, not to mention creativity. Kids won’t mind, because they’ll be too busy flying through the skies as Iron Man, using Thor’s power to levitate, or riding one of the available SHIELD motorcycles as Black Widow, but there’s an obvious dearth of outside-of-the-box thinking here.
Last year, I quite enjoyed this series’ debut, because it was colourful and content-packed. Sure, it wasn’t the greatest technical achievement, but I was lenient there because it was a first attempt at creating a huge, toy-based video game in the Skylanders vein. This time, however, I’m going to be a bit harder on the game and those behind it, because the final product is definitely a step backwards from its predecessor.
Getting just one toy box for seventy-five dollars would be easier to digest if it was a great, lengthy and memorable one, but that isn’t the case here. Instead, you’ll find yourself completing the same quests over and over again, as you battle Frost Giants and Loki himself for four to five hours. The missions are so repetitive that they almost all task you with going from one section of the map to another and beating the snot out of a bunch of frozen foes. Sure, the objectives change slightly, from protecting citizens to destroying weather machines or keeping Jarvis safe while he deploys a nanovirus, but you’re still just beating the crap out of bad guys. Nothing ever feels different, and the altered tasks are simply varied excuses for action.
Of course, action is key in super hero lore, but there needs to be more to a campaign if it’s going to be any good. Challenges help, but a lot of those are also locked behind a paywall, thanks to character-specific requirements. There’s just nothing to this thing in terms of creativity and it really suffers as a result. You can only enjoy flying through the air as Iron Man for so long. After that, you come to realize that you’re just avoiding playing something that could be called, “Press Y: The Game.”
Speaking of that, why someone decided to make Y the basic attack button for the Xbox versions is beyond me. It feels strange pressing it instead of X, and there’s no way to adjust that. I got used to it after a while, but would’ve liked it if I could’ve customized the controls. That said, it doesn’t help that the game is somewhat clunky in and of itself, making for driving mechanics that feel incredibly floaty and result in lots of collisions.
Getting back to the characters themselves — of which there will be many, with other play sets available for purchase and more coming — it’s important to note how things have changed. You see, Iron Man and company have been gifted with skill trees that let them upgrade their health, attack power, defense and abilities after each level-up. It’s a welcomed system that allows for some player choice, but it’s not revolutionary, nor is its impact on the game. Getting to level 3 does unlock each character’s special move, though, allowing Iron Man to fire a barrage of missiles out of his shoulders, and letting Black Widow turn invisible. Gaining access to those in combat requires finding purple orbs or defeating multiple enemies, which is to be expected, so you’ll be pressing Y and using a trigger button to shoot projectiles at enemies until the meter fills. You know the drill.
Outside of its base campaign, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes – 2.0 Edition offers its trademark Toy Box mode, on top of some mini-games. Toy Box, itself, has been revamped and improved, but it still chugs along at a snail’s pace a lot of the time. Seriously, the frame rate is atrocious. That said, things usually only dip to single digits when a world is being loaded, and that puts a lot of stress on the game.
Players who take their time with Toy Box can create some pretty cool things, but quality is still an issue. For a mode that wants to piggyback off of the success of Sony’s LittleBigPlanet franchise, it still has a ways to go. However, that’s also coming from an adult’s perspective. Kids will likely enjoy being able to build their own racetracks within their own unique worlds, which can be populated and decorated as they see fit. I just don’t really see the appeal a year removed from the mode’s debut, mainly because things feel so similar.
The big selling point, though, is a new Interiors mechanic, which allows users to create their own digital abodes. It’s appreciated, but you can only get so much entertainment out of adding rooms to a house and placing furniture within it. Then again, perhaps I’m just a grumpy bastard.
As you’d expect, you can once again download others’ creations. Not only that, but you can also use Disney Infinity 1.0 characters within the Toy Box realm. There’s nearly endless replay value there as a result, but it depends on whether you enjoy this type of thing or not.
Undoubtedly, the best part of the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes experience happens to be one of its Toy Box mini-games. You’ll find the disc in your Starter Set, and will be able to use it to open up a new extension of the game world. Therein, you’ll get to play as your heroes, as you try to stop enemies from breaking a coveted item. To do so, you must employ tower defence tactics, and take advantage of things like freeze pods, turrets and blockades. It’s a fun diversion that works quite well, though something like this shouldn’t be the best part of a seventy-five dollar game.
One other Toy Box game is included in the package, but it’s not as good. That one tasks you with escaping from Klyn, who’s captured you inside of one of his technologically advanced prisons. There, you’ll need to work together with egg-like sidekicks, to defeat enemies and solve basic puzzles. It’s decent, but ultimately lacks staying power.
Branching off of the prison motif is something called Exploration Survival Mode, the last part of the puzzle that I need to speak about. As its name suggests, it makes you look around a map for enemies, who you must then dispose of. However, in order to complete it, you’ll need to spend three hours fighting enemies on fifty randomly-generated maps – something that gets boring pretty quickly. This mode could’ve been a winner if it had been handled better, but the enemies are so spread out and put up such little resistance that playing it soon becomes a chore. I gave up after ten rounds, because there was no way I was going to sit there for fifty.
Presentation-wise, things are a mixed bag, as Infinity 2.0‘s problematic frame rate and egregiously long loading times routinely mar the title’s attempts at creating an immersive digital experience. That said, the game still looks and sounds okay, though it’s been held back by cross-gen development. As such, you can expect pixellation during cutscenes, and can also look forward to cutscenes that look worse than the gameplay they follow. It’s easier to turn a blind eye to the somewhat dated visuals because this is a kid’s game and one that happens to be open world in a lot of respects, but don’t go in expecting a looker.
Now, I know that I’ve been incredibly hard on Disney Infinity‘s sophomore effort throughout this review. I won’t hide from that. It’s just that I hoped to get so much more out of the game, especially since its debut was so colourful and unique. The energy that existed in that entry is missing this time around and it’s too bad. Gone are the colourful characters and their three different (Starter Set) play sets, and in their place is a game that takes a step backwards. Not an awful game, mind you, but a disappointing one that doesn’t seem to have taken full advantage of its extra year of development. Kids will certainly still have fun with it, but I got bored rather quickly. Still, I spent about eight hours with the sequel, during which I beat its campaign and put a decent amount of time into its other options.
Since all has been said and done, I’m now tasked with scoring Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes – 2.0 Edition in a way that shows how much I recommend it to people within its target audience. However, since I’m not a part of the age group that these games are made for, it’s unsurprising that I wasn’t blown away by its latest release. Of course, I went into it with an open mind and wanted to be as honest as possible with this review, so as to accurately portray my thoughts. In the end, though, I do think that kids will enjoy this outing, so I’m going to score it a bit higher than you’d think. That said, parents need to understand that they’re not going to get a major upgrade for their money, and need to expect to have to fork out extra cash for any additional content.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes - 2.0 Edition isn't the great step forward that we'd been hoping for. Instead, it's more of the same, and less of it. Still, younger gamers should find the game to be relatively entertaining and will likely get enough time out of it to justify its high price tag.