The Walt Disney Company has mastered the art of capturing the essence of childhood and repackaging it into entertainment. Its latest foray into videogames is no different, taking the hallmark Disney touch that we’ve come to expect and using it as a foundation for a project that can be described as nothing less than ambitious. While much of Disney Infinity resembles Activision’s Skylanders series, the game play separates it as a unique offering. At every turn, Disney Infinity introduces a breath of fresh air into the stagnant genre boxes publishers pack video games into. Infinity breaks down the expectation for videogames to take you on someone else’s journey, and instead place you in the middle of your own show. Whether you’re a longtime fan of Disney movies or a world builder extraordinaire, this is one game you can’t miss.
There are three main parts to Disney Infinity’s virtual universe: The Toy Box, Play Sets, and Adventures. All of the modes are accessed through the Disney Infinity Base, a new console accessory provided in the starter pack. Most of the content is delivered piecemeal through the character figurines. The way it works is easy and intuitive – simply place a character figurine on the base and the game automatically senses it and the content it provides, swapping out your current character for the new one and granting access to that specific character’s exclusive adventure and corresponding Play Set. In an otherwise wireless world, it’s annoying to have to get up from the couch, but the tangible figurines with their brightly colored plastic do have a certain charm makes it worth it.
At the center of Disney Infinity is your virtual Toy Box, where every character type and franchise is welcome to mingle to create worlds. The Toy Box world feels huge and open to endless possibilities, combing the same sandbox, game-building fun previously introduced by predecessors such as LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft, while being less intimidating. You can share and save other players’ worlds through the online feature. Friends can join you through local or online play to build a collaborative playground or simply run around and interact with the world you already built. The sandbox world-building is appealing, even for those not automatically inclined towards Disney’s current franchises. If you’re new to this style of play, or find game building not your forte, Infinity provides a handful of pre-built worlds that are just as fun to play around in.
Unfortunately, this sandbox of unlimited potential ultimately ends up feeling oddly limited, if not slightly broken. Those seeking an immediate builder’s utopia will be sorely disappointed with the small number of starter objects. While you can send objects miles into the sky, the lack of object snapping means you will be hard pressed to connect anything up there in a meaningful way. And with a maximum number of objects allowed in any one Toy Box, you will inevitably find yourself forced to pick efficient functionality over eye candy. You will constantly try to push the boundaries, as the game encourages you to, but the limit is quickly reached through something as silly as plopping 50 woodland creatures in your brand new enchanted forest, a player can find their imagination stifled pretty quickly if they lack efficiency or self-restraint.
Add an interface that, while simple enough for players of all ages to simply pick up and create, doesn’t present the information well. A catalog of 1,000 objects can become unmanageable when presented only as icons that you must flip through one page at a time. The lack of cataloging and sorting means you’ll spend more time looking for the object you need instead of building. Finally, players who find sandbox world-building central to the game’s fun will immediately be frustrated by the need to play through all the other content in order to collect the tools you need to build. A majority of the objects are awarded through a mechanic reminiscent to slot machines, using a currency earned in Play Sets and Adventures for a new item awarded at random. Despite these issues, you will find yourself spending countless hours arranging and rearranging the toys in your virtual playroom.
Where Adventures are basically just glorified mini-games, Play Sets are story-driven adventures in structured worlds, each with roughly 4 hours of single-character story line to play. The starter set comes with Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles, each offering a unique experience. You can live through Sully’s freshman orientation at Monsters University, as you perfect your monster scare tactics through stealth adventures around campus, preparing yourself for the ultimate college rival showdown – an assault on Fear Tech’s home turf. When sneak attacks become too slow paced, jump into Pirate of the Caribean’s swashbuckling adventure and hack, slash, and canon fire your way through a dark, ship filled world as Captain Jack Sparrow.
While the design and function of Play Sets feel almost flawless, they depart from the magical trans-franchise nature of the Toy Box by only allowing play with characters from within the Play Set’s franchise, a limitation which feels out of place. And since every player needs an associated figurine to get in the game, the starter pack is Play Set co-op compatible with its figurine assortment. It’s a notable step back from the endless world that’s the corner stone of Infinity‘s bragging rights, especially when you find yourself wondering how the swashbuckling swagger of Jack Sparrow would handle an Omnidroid battle royale in the midst of The Incredibles’ modern day Metroville cityscape.
Content aside, the Play Sets and Adventures do a great job of giving you ideas – and the tools to execute those ideas – about what you can create in the your Toy Box. The Toy Box presents players a blank canvas and seemingly unlimited creative potential, with an approachable set of tools and objects that are easy to use.
Had a blast in the Cars themed racing adventure? Head back to the Toy Box and create your own ultimate racetrack through Sleeping Beauty’s castle before dipping into the Cave of Wonders toward a treasure filled finish line. Prefer the FPS experience of Sully’s paintball shootout? Create an FPS of your own between the maze-like shrubs of Alice’s dark Wonderland. Feeling social? Trick out your own Pride Rock into party central with dynamically activated boom boxes and firework machines, and invite your friends to join you in your amalgamated Disney’s tinted outdoor club. This is where Disney Infinity shines the brightest.
Bottom Line: Even with its few missteps, Disney Infinity is a magical experience that succeeds in immersing adults and children alike in a robust universe where you will spend countless hours making your childhood dreams into videogame reality.
Recommendation: Disney Infinity is a must-have game for gamer families with children of all ages and those who love the Disney fantasy universe.[rating=4]
This review is based the Xbox 360 version.
Game: Disney Infinity
Genre: Action Adventure
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii, 3DS
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)