by David Sanchez on September 5, 2013 @ 2:23 pm
It’s hard to blame Disney Interactive for going the game-meets-toy route à la Skylanders. The fact of the matter is that there’s loads of money to be made there, and with properties as massively popular as Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, and Cars, it’s obvious that Disney Interactive can get you to raid your wallet and bank account and get you to utter the old “take my money” adage. Disney Infinity does exactly that, delivering a mix of video game and collectible figures that’s reminiscent of Activision’s wildly popular toy-game franchise. That said, did Disney Interactive and developer Avalanche Studios turn out a soulless product bent on making you broke, or is there actual substance in this new offering?
First, let’s take a look at the Disney Infinity Starter Pack. Right out of the box you get a copy of Disney Infinity, Captain Jack Sparrow figure, Mr. Incredible figure, Sulley figure, Disney Infinity Base (to activate the figures), Play Set piece (which contains the campaigns for each included figure), and a Power Disc. This set, which you essentially need to get started, is priced at $75. That’s a decent price for everything that’s included, and there are plenty of hours of entertainment to be had with just the Starter Pack alone.
To get started on the character campaigns, all you need to do is hook up the Base, place the Play Set piece onto the Base, and place a figure. The first Play Set I jumped into was Monsters University as Sulley. The story here is tied closely to the film, but it allows you get a deeper feel for the college-themed dorm room shenanigans that made the university life for these characters so much fun. You’re tasked with invading rival school Fear Tech, engaging in friendly vandalism, scaring the crap out of unsuspecting monsters, and stealing the Fear Tech mascot. It’s all good, simple fun, and there’s some light combat and platforming sprinkled throughout for good measure.
Next, I delved into the world of treasure hunting and sword fighting with the Pirates Play Set and Captain Jack Sparrow. This one was much heavier on the combat, with a lot of the missions throwing groups of enemies at me. There was also some good old-fashioned sailing, which kind of dragged on in parts and wasn’t always great, with the exception of a few sea skirmishes against other pirate ships. Despite that setback, Pirates was my favorite Play Set as it constantly had me exploring different islands, while the other two were relegated to a single large space.
The last Play Set I checked out was The Incredibles as Mr. Incredible. This one was a lot of fun, too, primarily because I was able to run around a large city, smashing things, beating up bad guys, and tossing innocent civilians around. It was almost like a lighthearted, kid-friendly Grand Theft Auto, though obviously not as deep. The missions were fun, and I’d say I enjoyed this Play Set about as much as I enjoyed Monsters University, which is to say that it’s good, but not as good as Pirates.
Don’t expect anything overly complicated with the Play Sets. Gameplay isn’t exactly complex, but it is fun. Its simplicity is largely reminiscent of the Lego games — everything from combat and platforming is highly intuitive, even if it isn’t exactly all that deep. That’s fine, because a lot of folks are still bound to find enjoyment in the Play Sets as long as they’re not expecting some grand epic. For the most part, you can get through these Play Sets in around three to four hours, which is actually kind of short, but kind of a perfect length as it keeps the campaigns from getting boring, which they certainly would be if they were upward of six or seven hours each.
My biggest gripe with the Play Sets was the erratic camera, which often went from difficult to deal with to abysmal in a moment’s notice. It’s 2013, so we shouldn’t have to struggle with ridiculously bad camera issues taken right out of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation era. A few glitches also reared their ugly heads from time to time, but an even bigger offender was the fact that you can still be attacked while engaged in an unskippable conversation with an NPC. To be quite honest, these setbacks made the whole Play Set aspect of Disney Infinity seem disgustingly sloppy.
You’re welcome to bring a buddy along for the ride and play some two-player co-op. As much fun as each Play Set can be if you delve into the experience alone, you’re bound to have a much more pleasant time with another player. You can work closely together and take on missions cohesively or do your own thing. One player, for example, can be handling the story missions while the second player focuses on snagging collectibles and completing side quests.
The cool thing about the figures is that they’re not platform-specific, and they save your level progress. So if you own the Xbox 360 version of Disney Infinity and have been putting in some serious time with Sulley, you can take your toy, with all of your items and stats intact, to a friend’s house and keep playing on the PlayStation 3 or Wii U. It’s a nice touch that ensures you can get whatever version of the game you want and still play with others on different systems.
Sadly, you can’t mix and match characters from different franchises, so there’s no way for two players to take, say, Mr. Incredible and Captain Jack Sparrow and delve into the land of Pirates. Disney Interactive defended this move by saying that it wouldn’t make sense, and while that certainly holds true, it kind of takes away a bit of the whole imagination thing that Disney Infinity is aiming for. Even if it doesn’t make sense, it would still be totally cool to run around as Mike and Mr. Incredible in Monsters University. Instead, you need to purchase additional characters at $13 apiece or $30 for a three-pack.
As far as side quests go, while these are technically considered optional, they’re really not all that optional if you want to reap some serious rewards that are directly related to the Toy Box mode, which is where you can unleash your creativity and build away to your heart’s content. For starters, Toy Box pieces are littered everywhere in the Play Sets, so you need to go out of your way to accrue more of them. These pieces unlock characters, landmarks, themes, and environments, and can be used to mold your very own creations. If you want a lot of edit features to work with, however, you’ll have to work for them.
Another issue that arises is the Random Spin. Like Toy Box pieces, you can also find Spin Tokens all over the Play Sets. These give you a chance to spin for random Toy Box pieces. Unfortunately, the quality of the prizes varies greatly, and because the Random Spin is, well, random, you don’t always get what you may have had your eye on. Looking for some cool new caves, racetrack themes, or characters? Well, too bad, because you just got a brand new tree courtesy of the Random Spin! It’s obnoxiously lame and terribly disappointing that you can’t just use Spin Tokens as a type of currency to trade for the items you actually want.
Speaking of the Toy Box, it really is a robust sandbox mode for you to craft some really awesome things, and deserves a fair amount of praise. You can build racetracks, platformer stages, dungeons, and so much more. You have access to various assets from across Disney’s vast library of IPs, so you can go crazy if you want to and make worlds that make absolutely no sense. It’s a lot of fun, and if you’ve got that creative itch, the Toy Box mode will undoubtedly provide you with what you’re looking for. If you like, you can team up with up to three other friends online to build things as a group. Hell, they can even build their own things while you toil away on that Hyrule recreation of yours.
Annoyingly, you can’t just download user-generated content at will. Disney Interactive is heavily monitoring what gets uploaded, so you can’t immediately see everyone’s creations. Instead, you need to wait for Disney Interactive to pick and choose the different user-created levels and then download them once they’re available. It’s easy to understand how the company wouldn’t want anything crass in its database, but still, it’s kind of a hassle to have to wait for content, especially if you’d much rather download than share.
Back to the Play Sets, Disney Interactive is looking to stretch out Disney Infinity for a good number of years as more of a platform than a game, so expect loads of content down the road. Already you can purchase additional Play Sets such as Cars and The Lone Ranger for $35 apiece. These come with the Play Set piece that includes the story-based content and two characters. Think of it as really pricey DLC. If you’re a parent, though, you can probably think of it as really pricey DLC that you know you’re going to have to get for your kids so they won’t cry. Unless, of course, you’re a practitioner of tough love, in which case those little buggers won’t be getting their brand new Cars Play Set.
It can definitely get expensive, but probably the most questionable practice is the use of Power Discs. Round Power Discs are placed under your figures and boost specific stats, while hexagonal Power Discs provide you with more Toy Box goodies. The gross thing about the Power Discs is that they’re being sold in blind packs, which means you never know what you’re going to get. You can disregard the round Power Discs as the Play Sets are easy enough without the stat increases, but if you want more Toy Box features, relying on blind packs for hexagonal Power Discs comes off as a horrid scheme that you may just give in to. At $5 per two-pack, the cost of these damn things can definitely add up.
I played the Wii U version of Disney Infinity, and I found that this particular iteration utilized the GamePad in some neat ways. You can access your items, weapons, and moves in the Play Sets with a simple touch of the screen, eliminating the need to cycle through items using the shoulder buttons. Where the GamePad shines greatest, though, is in Toy Box mode. You can use the Wii U’s touchscreen controller to select different edit items, and build from there. Additionally, if you’d like to play on the GamePad’s screen, you’ll be glad to know that Disney Infinity supports off-TV play.
Ultimately, if you’re a diehard Disney fan or have kids who love the company and its many brands, this massive project is a worthwhile investment. The Starter Pack alone is a good value, featuring three campaigns and the enticing Toy Box mode. Obviously, folks who plan on collecting more figures, and those who just want more Toy Box assets will be forced to shell out some major cash. Even then, Disney Infinity makes for a fun time that’s flawed but still worth checking out for a lot of people. Having the word “infinity” in the title may be pushing it a smidge, but there’s no denying that this is one of the best endeavors Disney Interactive has taken on in a while.
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