With a roster full of impressive and beloved characters, Disney is the king of child-targeted entertainment, and for good reason. After all, the studio and its peers have worked tirelessly since the 1920s, in an attempt to both establish their brand and deliver quality slash memorable filmmaking that children and their family members can enjoy together. Though some of those releases have dipped in quality as of late, it’s hard to complain about what Walt’s legacy has given this world, as what he started all of those years ago has brought us a wealth of incredible classics. Of course, there are also the fantastic theme parks, which millions enjoy every year.
When Activision and Toys for Bob released Skylanders a couple of years ago, their interesting take on action/adventure gaming, action figures and marketing showed Disney’s executives that they were missing out on something potentially great. Thus began the creation of a Disneyverse take on the design, entitled Disney Infinity. Today, that very experiment is available on store shelves, with a Starter Pack that sells for seventy-five dollars and additional extras that sell for between thirteen and thirty-five dollars before taxes. Now, the big question has changed from, “When will we get our hands on it?” to, “Is it worth the money?” Thankfully, there’s good news here, as the answer is yes.
Although it’s similar in fashion to its main competitor, Disney Infinity pushes individualized creation more than anything else. The game, which begins by talking about imaginative spark and what it enables people to accomplish in life, goes as far as utilizing the same concept for levelling up its characters. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though, so let’s step back and talk about exactly how things work.
Upon purchasing and opening the aforementioned Starter Pack, one will find a portal and three figures (Sulley from Monsters University, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and Mr. Incredible from, of course, The Incredibles). Delving further into the packaging will then unveil a see-through play set piece and a power disc. While the latter item adds extras like vehicles, environmental effects and more when it’s utilized, the former must be used instead whenever one wishes to play story content.
Once the portal, which works a lot like the ones from the aforementioned Skylanders games and offers supports for two local figures, has been plugged in, a relatively short interactive introduction plays before gameplay can ensue. The first thing I did afterwards was explore Toy Box mode, which is exactly what it sounds like: An open-ended, virtual playground, wherein kids can create their own worlds. This option forms the core of Disney Infinity, and is well-crafted, offering interesting tutorials that cover basic creation techniques, as well as both driving and combat. None of those aspects ever became too complicated, meaning that the ten plus audience that Disney has targeted will be able to follow along and come to terms with how their new game works, without needing too much help.
Although there is a pre-made version of the Toy Box, one can choose to create his or her own at any time by loading an empty template. While said floating landmass is tiny to begin with, many different expansion options exist, and more can be unlocked via a vault. The same goes for toys, enemies, civilians wearing iconic costumes and more, but there’s a small catch: In order to actually unlock something, the player must level up a character or complete a special task. Doing so nets them one spin towards a random item, while also offering up the chance to earn stars, which accumulate towards achievement and trophy plateaus.
As an adult, I found that this entirely user created game mode was a bit too basic for my age. However, I went into this experience with an open mind as I always do with games targeting the younger crowd, and was impressed by the amount of content that it boasted. Even after hours of gameplay, I still haven’t come close to unlocking the majority of the extra items, and haven’t even started to realize just how many animated contraptions can be made by combining items then linking them to weighted platforms. On top of that, I found the ten or more activities that the mode offers to be quite fun. Each character has his or her own, but they share the others, all of which offer gold, silver and bronze rewards. Examples include surprisingly challenging timed races and combat scenarios, plus more creative options like a collection race, a paintball game and a civilian protection milieu.
Of course, this is about as much of a marketing venture as it is a video game. In fact, the only way to get the full experience is to purchase additional figures, play sets and power discs. Doing so will give your child more characters to play with, new worlds to interact within and additional items to customize with. However, if you’re only interested in, or can only afford the Starter Set, it will do you fine.
Like its peer, Disney Infinity has certain challenges (and chests) that only individual characters can interact with. They’re spread out throughout the play sets, which act as story modes. You don’t need to bother with them, but can if you’re willing to fork over extra dough.
The general idea in play here is that all three of the included characters offer their own worlds, or sets, which are presented as sandbox stages with varied locations to romp through. Spread throughout said worlds (Monsters University, a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed seaport location and The Incredibles‘ home city of Metroville), are mission givers, who help to progress each storyline by providing basic quests that players can complete. The Monsters University missions generally relate to a battle between the main characters’ school and its rival, so you’re constantly pulling pranks, scaring other students and getting rid of foreign banners. Conversely, Jack Sparrow’s quest to rid the world of the Kraken has him scouring both land and sea, aboard a customizable ship that is user controlled and offers cannon firing capabilities.
While those two detailed worlds and their familiar characters are entertaining and recreate their franchises well, The Incredibles‘ world is certainly the best of the three. Its plot line, which tasks the heroes with fighting against their arch-enemy and a group of criminals he’s saved from captivity, offers quality, action-packed gameplay, and really highlights the great potential that Disney Infinity possesses. That’s not to sell the others short, though, as they all present entertaining and polished content that will keep kids busy for hours.
Generally speaking, the three play sets are very reminiscent of the great Toy Box mode from Disney’s Toy Story 3 video game. That’s not much of a surprise, though, considering that Avalance Software developed both games, as well as the very solid Cars 2 video game. They deserve commendation for their work, because they’ve quietly gone about their business, while delivering some of the best licensed games we’ve ever seen.
As with Toy Box mode, the unique worlds’ core mechanics can be summarized by using the terms third-person, action/adventure, sandbox and platformer. Players assume the role of themed characters (you can’t use Sulley in the Pirates world and vice-versa), and complete fetch quests, battle scenarios and collection-based challenges given by NPCs. Doing so earns an opportunity to purchase new toys and weapons, such as vehicles, masts and creative guns like a toilet paper launcher and a paintball gun. Those can be used at will, complementing the characters’ basic attacks, which include swordplay (Jack), melee attacks (Mr. Incredible) and scary roars (Sulley).
Kids will also have a lot of fun employing the use of Mr. Incredible’s wings, which can be used to glide off of tall buildings. It’s a neat mechanic that adds some good natured fun to an already thoroughly enjoyable game, which thankfully supports four players through the Internet. A Disney account must be linked to one’s PSN ID or Gamertag in order to get that working; however, doing so will also allow you to share content with others through the World Wide Web. That system paves the way for an incredible amount of potential, community-driven content and replay value, on top of all of the new figures, play sets and power discs that are planned for store shelves. It’ll be interesting to see what everything leads to in a few months’ time, or even a year from now.
Everything that Disney Infinity offers is complemented by impressive voice acting and incredibly colourful visuals that pop, thanks to a wealth of colour and detail work. The digitized play sets look really good, especially in comparison to what I went in expecting, but the Toy Box mode isn’t as visually polished. That’s to be expected, however, because of the type of mode it is, what with its open-ended nature and all. What’s most important, though, is that the presentation accurately depicts each included movie franchise. That, and the game’s lack of glitches. I only noticed two, though one forced me to repeat an activity, while the other made me wait a minute before playing a challenge and then froze its timer.
To conclude, I find it easy to suggest that, if you know a big fan of the Disneyverse then you should certainly check out Disney Infinity. As a first effort, the game is an admirable release, but it’s a bit on the expensive side. Then again, when you consider how much play time kids will be able to get out of just its Toy Box mode, and note the sturdy quality of all of the included components, it makes the seventy-five dollar price tag much easier to comprehend.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.