Disney Infinity Review – A promising start

When Disney Interactive announced Disney Infinity at the beginning of this year, people were thrilled with the idea of being able to play with various Disney characters in a single world and being able to build adventures with the toys that they provide. This excitement was somewhat confused, however, with the announcement that you won’t be able to do this sort of thing in the game’s play sets. But in Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode, they say, the sky’s the limit.

This confusion seemingly prevails with some of the design decisions and the immediate future of Disney Infinity. Regardless of these concerns, Disney Infinity proves that it’s here to stay, and serves as a promising start to the future of a long line of figures and games for years to come.

Disney Infinity Platform Officially Unveiled

Real world collectibles

The Disney Infinity Starter Kit includes the game and a play set cube that contains three play sets, with three figures also packed in representing each of the included play sets: Mr. Incredible, representing The Incredibles play set, Captain Jack Sparrow, representing the Pirates of the Caribbean play set, and Sulley, representing the Monsters University play set. Also included with the package is the Disney Infinity base, which allows you to place two characters and a play set cube. Outside of the Starter Kit, play sets, and figures, you can also purchase Power Discs that will allow you to either modify the Toy Box’s sky box and environment art to that specific franchise, provide weapons for use in Toy Box mode, or give buffs to your characters. You typically do this by putting the Power Discs in between the Disney Infinity base and the bottom of your character, or on top of where your play set cube usually sits. Additional play sets can be purchased and usually include two figures.

Disney Infinity - Alex's stash
All the currently available Disney Infinity figures and play sets (except Violet, which I picked up later)

For this review, I managed to purchase every single Disney Infinity figure and play set available. The other two available play sets are based on the recently released Lone Ranger movie while the other is based on Cars. All in all, there are a total of 17 available figures, which includes all the figures that are bundled in play sets. I haven’t collected all the available Power Discs, but it is worth noting that collecting them is quite tricky, as they are packed into a foil packet, similar to trading cards, and only contains two Power Discs. To sum it up, I spent roughly close to $300 getting all the available figures and play sets, including the Starter Kit itself. For the sake of this review, I will be covering mostly what comes with the Starter Kit, and elaborate on expanding your gameplay beyond the Starter Kit close to the end of this review.

Let’s play

Disney InfinityWhile not completely the heart and soul behind Disney Infinity, the play sets provide a fun adventure for players to be able to experience some of the different franchises that are represented in the game. Because each play set is heavily themed based on their respective franchises, Disney has prevented any figure that doesn’t belong to that franchise from being loaded into that play set. So no, you won’t be able to load in Mr. Incredible into the Monsters University play set.

Common to all characters is a basic set of moves: a double-jump, an attack, a dodge roll which, when the corresponding button is held down, will initiate a block, and an inventory menu. The inventory menu allows you to choose from various items you’ve unlocked during your time with the play set. Each character can be leveled to a max level of 15, and their progress is reflected on their Hall of Heroes statue.

As you might expect, the gameplay remains consistent throughout each of the different play sets, with a few twists. The Pirates of the Caribbean play set feels like Disney’s version of Assassin’s Creed, sans assassinations, complete with intense ship battles, sword fighting, and wall climbing. The Incredibles plays like an open world beat ’em up and allows you to save people from Syndrome’s machinations. Monsters University has somewhat of a stealth mechanic that allows you to sneak up on someone and scare them from behind, as well as some mild extreme sports elements that you can do with your bike. The motivation for a lot of the play sets’ adventures are pretty trite in comparison to other games aimed at a younger audience, as most of these are not urgent, but it’s this non-committal approach to the progression of the story that gives players an excuse to explore every nook and cranny of the world they’re in. And while you’re able to complete said story for a play set between 3-5 hours of gameplay, this doesn’t mean that you’ve found everything that play set has to offer.

Each play set has a Toy Store that you’re able to buy exclusive items with using the currency that you’re able to gather in that play set. Purchasing these items will also make them available in Disney Infinity‘s Toy Box mode, which I’ll be talking about soon. Some of these items are modes of transportation, like bikes or cars, or can be cosmetic, such as different decorative skins for Jack’s pirate ship. There are some items that are locked behind treasure chests with portraits of figures that belong to that play set, which can only be unlocked by playing that character in that play set. Thankfully, if you have that character, you can hot swap that character for the one you’re currently playing should you need to. There are, however, other treasure chests that do require all of the figures that belong to that play set to unlock, which is a sneaky ploy for players to actually buy the rest of the play set’s figures.

What’s in your Toy Box?

Probably one of the biggest draws of Disney Infinity is its Toy Box mode, which promises gamers an infinite amount of possibilities with the ability to mix and match pieces from various franchises. The game’s introduction of Toy Box is nothing short of magical, showing you the various things you can do and the kinds of characters you’ll be meeting (or buying). It also includes a fairly comprehensive set of missions that teaches you how things work in the general scheme of things, like placing characters, objects, and buildings, but doesn’t go into the same detailed depths as, say, LittleBigPlanet, when it comes to the more complicated kinds of object manipulation and logic.

Disney Infinity

But unlike LittleBigPlanet, Disney Infinity doesn’t pretend to be a fairly comprehensive physics sandbox. You can place environment pieces in mid-air, without any support whatsoever, and they’ll float. There are some exceptions to the rule, of course, like enemies generated from an enemy generator, or vehicles, for instance, but this flexibility lends itself to a lot of experimentation. The design of the game’s editor definitely has a younger crowd in mind, and that in itself makes Toy Box a lot more accessible to anyone who just wants to play around with the game’s collection of objects. That being said, there’s an inherent openness with the approach that the developers took with Toy Box mode that is less game-like and more, “What if we do this?” that is at the center of Toy Box mode’s core.

A fitting example of this “What if we do this?” type of gameplay was when my roommate and I started a brand new Toy Box map, with the basics installed like Cinderella’s Castle in the middle and a hub platform, which you can use to visit the Disney Infinity Vault, the available play sets, and the Hall of Heroes. When we finally spawned on the map, she felt that she needed to place pillars around Cinderella’s Castle in such a way that they’re surrounding the castle. I’m not sure what she was trying to do, but I tried to sabotage her plans by filling the screen with a bunch of costumed Davy Jones characters (a smaller version of the figure she was playing as), in which they proceeded to waddle around and ultimately prevented her from placing more pillars in the scenery. She then learned that she could make the pillars float in mid air, with no supports, so she proceeded to create a set of pillars that spiraled around Cinderella’s Castle. Much to her dismay, she was unable to jump from one pillar to another, as they were too far apart. I then decided that, just beyond the castle, we should build a recreation of the Matterhorn from Disneyland. I got lucky and unlocked that very object from the Disney Infinity Vault a few days prior and proceeded to plop it down on the ground. I then decided to ride the rails on the Matterhorn and started shooting at my roommate with my pop gun when she came into view. This was all happening, of course, while fending off an enemy generator that filled the level with either Syndrome’s robots or the card soldiers from Alice in Wonderland.

Perhaps the only real negative of this mode is that the one place where you unlock items, the Disney Infinity Vault, functions like a slot machine with luck seemingly favoring unlocking mundane pieces or objects for use in Toy Box mode. In fact, a lot of the game’s logic objects are tucked away in the many pages that the Disney Infinity Vault randomly generates for you to try and win pieces from. In order to get an opportunity to spin and unlock a piece in the Vault, you’ll either have to get your character to the next level and earn a spin in the process, or look for Disney Infinity spin tokens scattered across the various play sets, where they are commonly seen, or in the Toy Box itself, where they are few and far between. Sure, you can reshuffle infinitely and get brand new pages to unlock, but I would have preferred a more fun way of obtaining these unlockables and giving players a feeling like they’ve unlocked something cool, versus unlocking yet another random obscure geometric piece.

I also feel that for something as creative as the Toy Box mode to succeed, it needs strong community support. Disney Infinity‘s custom user content is heavily curated, and there’s really no clear place to view other people’s work outside of what Disney approves. While I get the reasoning behind this, I would’ve loved to see other people’s creations a lot faster. Curation means that a group of people would need to be present and able to review a user’s entire Toy Box, which can be time consuming given the size of these worlds. This can allow people to really see the full potential of what a fully realized Toy Box could be. But as it stands, it requires an inordinate amount of time and luck to be able to see what could be done in the game. The featured Toy Boxes that Disney released so far offer a glimpse of what you can do with the mode, but it would be nice if there was a way to unlock a lot of the game’s more important features from the get-go.

I have other concerns too, but all this pales in comparison to the amount of freedom you can do in Toy Box mode. It bears repeating that it’s really truly easy to create anything you want with Toy Box, and you don’t need hours upon hours of tutorials to learn how to construct something that’s playable. The ability to be able to pick up the controller, regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with the game, and be able to join in the creation and play process, is still one of Toy Box’s biggest strengths and serve as a great foundation for the potential future of the mode and its associated franchise.

Out of the Toy Box and beyond

Beyond the Starter Kit are all the other available figures and two available play sets (as of this writing) that you can purchase. Unsurprisingly, each figure plays a little bit differently than the characters you’ll first be using in your play sets, and serve to really incentivize, in a mild way, the products available in stores. Trying to open a locked chest with a portrait of a character you don’t have on your Disney Infinity base plays a little teaser video, showing you each character’s in-game capabilities.

Both play sets are as engaging as the ones in the Starter Kit, with gameplay focusing on racing (Cars) and shooting (Lone Ranger). As you can imagine, these play sets have objects that you can bring into Toy Box mode that would only be possible if you purchased them. The way I see it is that if you want to add more racing functionality into Toy Box, then the Cars play set would be a purchase that makes sense for you. The same could be said with The Lone Ranger play set, if you want to turn your Toy Box into one that has lots of shooting.

Disney Infinity

Disney has been very mum about how the rest of the figures are coming out and whether or not there are play sets associated with them. The last time I checked, my local GameStop confirmed with me that a play set that contains both Woody and Buzz Lightyear will be released in October, called “Toy Story in Space.” Some information leaked recently that both Anna and Elsa, from the upcoming movie FROZEN, will be packed in a “Toy Box” set, which is comprised of both figures and two Power Discs that, I speculate, change the Toy Box environment and objects to themes from said movie.

And sadly, that’s the extent of it… until the inevitable release of the next Disney Infinity title, that is. Unless you really like collecting the figures and feel compelled, via OCD or otherwise, to make all of your characters shimmer in Gold in the game’s Hall of Heroes, a gallery showing all your collected progress and toys associated with Disney Infinity, then there really is no reason to get the other figures that are slated to come out.

Yet with everything I’ve experienced with Disney Infinity, I can’t help but feel that I’ve had fun. Genuine fun. As in the kind of fun you had when playing LEGOs when you were a kid, or building ramps for your Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels and doing death-defying stunts with them, with nary a scratch or bruise to worry about. The play sets are certainly a great way to change up the pace of the game, allowing you to actually proceed in a much more enclosed gameplay loop set in a familiar Disney universe. Despite all this, I feel that Disney Infinity is just getting started, and since I’m already knee deep into collecting all the figures and am aiming to continue collecting the rest, I’m anxious to see how they’ll improve upon the elements of this game in the future.

Alex played through the entirety of the Pirates of the Caribbean play set and completed it within 4 hours. He also played all the play sets for varying amounts of time and spent a considerable amount of time playing in Toy Box with other people, in split-screen. He was not provided a copy by Disney Interactive for review purposes.

8/10+ The currently available play sets are actually really fun to play!
+ The design and style of the game and its characters are able to tie in various different Disney franchises into one cohesive whole.
+ The introduction to Toy Box mode is really engaging.
+ Toy Box mode is a great sandbox.
+ Tons of unlockables.
+ Can be played in local split screen.
-Some frame rate issues.
-The “randomness” of the Disney Infinity Vault seems to lean heavily towards boring objects.
-Only one play set left that’s been announced.
-Would like to have a play set that allows you to use any of the characters you have.
-The game begs for better community features.

Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Wii

Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3

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