Who doesn’t love to create a world where they are in charge? I know for one that I don’t mind it, nor do many of the children out there who love to create with their imagination, my own kids included. Now take this and add the world of Disney to it and you have Disney Interactive’s newest game, Disney Infinity. One part adventure, one part world creator, one part figure collector, this game has a lot going for it. We previewed the game back in June of this year and we’ve finally had the chance to play the full retail version on the Xbox 360. It arrived at my home office a bit later than expected, but alas I have had enough time with it that I think I can give you fairly educated opinion of what Disney Infinity offers.
Many people will compare Disney Infinity to Activision’s Skylanders franchise. Where their similarities lie is the fact that you have figurines that are transported into the game via a “portal”, the figurines level up, characters can be switched up anytime during gameplay, and the figurines are cross-platform compatible. The major differences are that you cannot mix and match the figurines with different Play Sets (e.g. Monsters University characters cannot play in The Incredibles Play Set, nor can any other character), power ups are not only found in game, but also purchased through Power Discs found at retail outlets, and Disney Infinity has a creation mode. All in all it is good to see that the two franchises have some fundamental differences making for different experiences, as Disney Infinity is indeed its own game.
Disney Infinity has a starter pack. Here you get three figurines, three Play Sets and the Infinity Portal. The three figurines are Sulley, Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible. As would be expected the Play Sets match those of the figurines, so you get Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles. In terms of the game’s content, Disney Infinity is essentially broken into two parts, the Play Sets and the Toy Box. The Play Sets are basically the campaign mode of the game while the Toy Box is the creation mode.
The Play Sets are quite neat. You play though each themed universe and they have different play styles. In Monsters University you’ll find a lot of stealthy/action oriented gameplay, where as The Incredibles Play Set has you fighting evil robots and exploring an open world. Finally, in Pirates of the Caribbean you’ll be involved in exploring tropical island settings and getting involved in some pretty neat ship-to-ship warfare. For me I enjoyed the more action oriented adventures while my kids, aged 7 and 9, enjoyed it all. That latter statement says something given that Disney does tend to cater to the kids. You’ll find that rushing through the each Play Sets main “story” takes about 4-5 hours, and you can stretch this out another 4 hours or so depending on how many side quests you do, and how much you plan to collect in each Play Set. I put the word story in quotes as each Play Set is not heavy on narrative given that most of what you do can be broken down into tasks or simple quests. That being said, each of the Play Sets does have some semblance of a story, it’s just not very deep or focused so to speak. All in all I had fun playing through the adventures found in the starter pack Play Sets, as did my son and daughter.
The crux of Disney Infinity seems to be the Toy Box mode. As I was describing it to a fellow COG staffer the best way I could think of describing it is was Minecraft in the Disney world. Here you are able to create to your heart’s content, be it on a blank slate or one that has been already pre-loaded for you. And unlike the Play Sets, here you are free to mix and match anything from the Disney Universe. From the likes of Tron, Wreck It Ralph, to Cinderella, Dumbo and even Scrooge McDuck, feel free to use whatever you want. Now in theory this sounds great, but alas you do have to open up all of the items that come from specific Disney franchises, as well as other pieces that you can use in the Toy Box (e.g. fences, grass, rolling hills, etc.). You can attain these one of three ways. The first is by collecting them during your adventure in each Play Set as you find them throughout each level. The second manner is by earning spins in the Disney Vault. Here you are given 16 items and when you use your spin ticket it’s kind of like roulette as you hope your spin lands on the item you want. You earn spin tickets by completing Play Sets, levelling up, and finding them in the Toy Box. Each spin is a ‘luck-of-the-draw’ so to speak. The third and final way to earn items is through the aforementioned Power Discs. Unfortunately this method is costly as each pack of discs cost $4.99 (+tax). They are sold in blind packs of two so you never know what you are going to get. I wanted to see what these packs were about, so I bought three packs. When I opened them up I ended up with three identical discs, one from each pack. Now that seems like a waste of money, and indeed it is, so if you want to try to get all the available power discs, purchase packs with caution.
As I tried to build my own world within the Toy Box I found myself filled with a few different emotions. The first is that using the controller could be frustrating now and then. There are a lot of menus to go through to find what you want to use or place onto the map. You can also use a “wand”, but alas it’s not as accurate as it could be. Regardless, I found myself taking more time then I had anticipated doing what I wanted to. When putting the controller into the hands of one of my kids, I found they too could get frustrated, even after watching the included tutorials with me. That being said, watching their face when they managed to create something on their own in the Disney universe was priceless, as it was their creation combined with the magic of Disney that came to life on screen. From a simple racetrack to a crazy village full of so many different Disney characters or themes, they loved what they made, even though getting there could be tough on their patience at times. Being able to explore, or play, in their world was pretty cool, as was playing in my own creations.
There is some multiplayer to talk about. You and a friend can play through the Play Set missions via split screen. You’ll need to have two figurines that are set in the same franchise to play together. You can also play together in the Toy Box. You can also visit the Hall of Heroes. It was fun to play through the Play Sets with my kids and pretty fun to play in the Toy Box with them. There is some online fun too, but it is quite limited. You can play the Toy Box with up to three other players online. You can make levels or play through the Adventure mode (single challenges like gathering collectibles or racing). I played online with a fellow journalist and although the promise of creating with others is cool, I found that I only could do this for so long.
During my preview in June I spoke about the dollar value being fairly good for this game; however, after playing the retail version, realizing what it takes to play through with a friend, and what it will take to collect everything in the game, I have had some second thoughts. Remember, you cannot mix and match characters in the Play Sets, so to play cooperatively, you’ll have to buy at least three more characters each for their own universe. If you want to collect everything you can for the Toy Box mode you’ll have to buy all the characters, all the Play Sets, and all the Power Discs. This will easily add up to a couple of hundred dollars at the very least. Add to this the fact that there are more characters coming and you have what could be an even more expensive game then you anticipated.
On a more positive note I found that the figurines are beautiful and they have a feel and look to them that just screams quality. I was pretty impressed with how each character figure looks and how they look exactly the same in the game. For those collectors out there, these figurines are designed and made by the same company that makes Disney’s line of Vinylmation figures that are highly collectable.
Visually speaking, on the whole Disney Infinity is a pretty good looking game. Each Play Set’s environment is pretty indicative of the franchise it represents. I for one really enjoyed the setting of Monsters University as I was able to explore Monster U., as well as their competing university Fear Tech. Oh, and Frat Row is pretty cool too. As for Pirates of the Caribbean, I was very surprised with how well everything looked here, including the ship-to-ship battles. There was good use of lighting, the water effects are pretty darn cool and having “The Kraken” make an appearance is even better. And don’t worry, The Incredibles looks solid too, it’s just that the other Play Set environments really screamed at me. And as mentioned above, I was very impressed with how the real life figurines look and style carried over into the game.
Although I was fairly impressed with much of the look, I was extremely disappointed with the amount of technical bugs in the game. Within the first 10-15 minutes of starting the game I found a glitch where my character would inexplicably and continually fall through the environment floor and I could not advance. About an hour or so later while playing in the Monsters U. Play Set and the game inexplicably froze during a celebratory scene. Both instances required a reboot of my Xbox 360 slim. There were other hiccups too, with the game pausing long periods of time to load up a certain scene or animation or the camera would not settle in for an optimal view of what was going on. I don’t know if these issues are the game itself, or the fact that the worlds are so big that the current-gen hardware was the bottleneck. For the younger audience these may not be particular issues, but for the older gamer they will be noticeable for sure.
In regards to the sound it was pretty good too. Most, if not all, the voices are actors that sound like the original characters, but that is to be expected it would cost a lot of money to get the original actors. The characters sounded like those from the movies though and this included many of their mannerisms. Sure, there were some that you could distinctly tell were not original voice actors, while others were spot on. Sound effects were good too and managed to convey that of each environment. I was impressed with the use of surround sound as you have various sounds from all corners of your room, if you have that kind of set up. As for the music, props for the dev-team for using what they did. It truly sounds like Disney music and even my son and daughter were commenting that they felt like they were in Disneyland when they listening to a lot of it.
When I first started to play Disney Infinity I had some fairly mixed emotions about how I felt, but the longer I played the more I enjoyed it and came to the realization that it is a good game. Sure, there are some technical bugs now and then, the Play Set missions can be mundane at times, and it may be expensive to ‘buy-it-all-to-collect-it-all’ giving you a bit of “sticker price shock”, but in the end how can one not enjoy what is offered here. The ability to create your own Disney-esque world in the Toy Box is truly amazing, the figurines are very well done, and the thought of future Play Sets is exciting (HELLO…Star Wars, Marvel, or classic Disney worlds). You can rest assured if you are a Disney fan, or have kids who are, you’ll all enjoy this game, as for you others out there, it can’t hurt to try it as you may just like it too.