Collect all the Things!
This is Disneyâs most ambitious foray into the world of video gaming to date. In fact a game of this magnitude would probably be daunting to any franchise - nevermind one as lucrative and established as Disney. Released this week, Disney Infinity sets out to create a sprawling virtual universe, packed full of endless gaming entertainment, that is only limited by your imagination. To do so, the game draws upon the vast library of Disney and Pixar films - bringing forth a cast of memorable characters and fantastical worlds straight into your living room.
In the process, it will also cause your wallet to spontaneously combust - because each of these iconic characters and colourful worlds comes with a price-tag. Disney Infinity is the latest entrant in the video game / collectible toy crossover market in much the same way as the Skylanders franchise. It requires a base that plugs into your console that then allows for one, or two specially designed figurines to be placed onto. At which point that particular character will, like magic (or through the science of near-field communication) appear on your screen for you to control or interact with.
Quick, burn my credit card
As a parent, an avid toy collector, a gamer and a fan of Pixar... Iâm totally screwed. Disney Infinity could be responsible for me taking another mortgage out on my house. Buying the Starter Pack costs around $120, which isnât bad considering it sets you up with the software, the base and three unique figurines. But fans of the game will also have their eye on expansion packs which can cost $25 for one new figurine, or $50 for a double pack which includes a gaming environment to explore. The game also encourages you to buy additional discs which are cunningly sold in blind-boxes so consumers canât actively select which one they are buying until they open the packet. Already at launch, there will be nearly $400 worth of merchandise tagged to this game.
Thankfully, the figurines for Disney Infinity are beautifully made and are worth every cent - especially for fans of Disney and Pixar. They range between 2.5 and 3 inches tall and are high-quality, both in their attention to detail and in durability. While the Skylanders figurines look like kidsâ toys - these well-presented figurines wouldnât look out of place in a collectibles stand. The three included in the Starter Pack; Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Sulley (Monsters U), and Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles) capture their charm and personalities perfectly. All of the figurines have been modelled off a minimalistic, but highly stylised cartoon rendering and come complete with their own themed base.
Itâs okay, I struck oil in my backyard last night
So youâve forked out a small fortune on the toys - now what? Weâre pleased to say that Disney Infinity isnât just about obsessively buying little figurines. There is a lot of entertaining, creative gameplay to be had here as well. Immediately after putting the disc in, youâll be greeted by an inspirational introduction sequence where players control a small little spark on screen. This little glowing orb represents your imagination and within minutes, you will have used it to breathe life into magical new worlds that appear right before your eyes.
Disney Infinity sets out to present you with a giant, interactive toy box and, just like you wanted to do as a kid, urges you to chuck as much stuff onto the floor and go nuts. Do you want to have a Mario Kart-esque race through the futuristic Tron universe; or maybe build a side-scrolling platformer in old Wild West; or how about an epic naval battle between Pirates and Monsters? Disney Infinity is a blank slate ready for your imaginative juices, and already users have been creating some mind-boggling scenarios.
Making stuff in... 5 and a half hours.
The problem is, while Disney Infinity technically does allow you to build epic maps and magical adventures, itâs not exactly easy to do so. The game editor can be viewed via a couple of different methods, but neither are instantly intuitive. One allows you to walk around your âempty worldâ armed with a magic wand, where you can summon objects like trees, cars, enemies, etc and position them on the grid in third-person view. In this way you can also create terrain and change the environment, all while exploring your customised map in real-time.
But the problem is the menu system is completely mental - requiring a bizarre control setup that defies logic. Instead of being able to scroll through objects with the left and right D-Pad, the game requires you to use a clumsy combination of left and right triggers and shoulder buttons. Eventually you get the hang of it, but there is still no intelligent structure to how your library of objects are organised. To compound matters, there are literally hundreds of objects that you will unlock and eventually, trying to find a particular one can be a frustrating experience.
For perfectionists, making your ideal map or scenario will take a lot of time and patience - but it is possible thanks to the impressive amount of customisation in Disney Infinity. You can even link up to fifty items together to create a different chain of events; for example you can make a simple football game where if the ball crosses the goal line, you can trigger a scoreboard to increase by one point. For inspiration, you can check out the Disney Infinity YouTube channel as it contains tutorials for creating your own games, including 2D LittleBigPlanet-esque platformers.
But I donât have an imagination
Thankfully, there is more to this game than just a massive sandbox. As well as figurines, the included base that comes with Disney Infinity also allows for a third item to be placed onto it which are called Playsets. Physically these are represented by transparent plastic 3D statues that are themed accordingly; for instance the Lone Ranger one is a sheriffâs badge with a pistol and tomahawk crossed behind it, and the Cars one is racing trophy. To get players started, the game ships with a Playset that brings to life three distinct Disney franchises - Monsters U, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean (appropriately matched with three figurines from each).
Each one of these worlds offers around three solid hours of gameplay, but they do vary significantly in terms of enjoyment. For starters, the Monsters U Playset (a personal favourite of mine from the Pixar universe) was surprisingly dull. While it featured all of the lovable characters from the two films, including Sulley, Mike, Randall and more, the gameplay was repetitive and tedious. Each little mission or activity, set in the Monsters University campus, involved going from place to place and performing basic actions such as scaring people at the push of a button, or shooting toilet paper at trees. Considering the amount of material they had to work with, the Monsters U Playset failed to capture the essence of the movies at all.
Thankfully things got considerably more entertaining with The Incredibles Playset, where you can build your own superhero base, free-roam around a decent sized city and save its citizens from your arch-nemesis Syndrome. But the highlight of the Starter Pack was The Pirates of the Caribbean campaign, which excelled itself by featuring an interesting storyline, sword fighting, and even full-on naval battles as you take control of your own pirate ship to explore islands and engage with enemy ships.
You can enjoy all of this with a friend as well, thanks to both local and online multiplayer. However it is important to note that for Playset gameplay, your character MUST be from that particular universe. So for instance, you canât team up Captain Jack with Sulley and complete The Incredibles missions. Possibly this isnât the end of the world, as you can team up any combination of characters in the sandbox modes. But the initial disappointment is that families who buy just the Starter Pack wonât be able to play through campaigns together - instead theyâll need to get an additional figurine, like Barbossa for Pirates; or Mike for Monsters U.
The Possibilities are Limitless
Already there is an impressive array of Playsets available, even the Cars one was good fun and I didnât even like those movies. One thing I never understood about Cars was - if there are no humans, who made them in the first place? And who built all of those buildings? Why do the cars have door handles? They havenât got opposable thumbs!
But I digress... whatâs really frightening/exciting about Disney Infinity is how many more potential franchises it could take advantage of: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Alice in Wonderland, Wreck-It Ralph, Wall-e, Toy Story... Disney also own Marvel, not to mention Star Wars - which they recently acquired. The aforementioned Power Discs also expand your gameplay experience. They slot underneath each figurine and imbibe them with additional abilities, for example a Jack Sparrow âPieces of Eightâ power disc gives players a greater chance of finding money in chests. Or Boltâs âSuper Strengthâ disc will increase the damage of your attacks by 10%. Remember that these Power Discs are sold separately in blind packets, so you never know what youâre getting at the store.
It melts my brain to think how much money people could throw at this game. So this is a caution to anyone who obsessively collects things. Disney Infinity is a good game, and one that caresses your cranium in a creative and imaginative way. But you will need to throw money at it. Lots of money. Think of the toy buying as a physical DLC add-on, as the more collectibles you obtain, the better your gameplay experience will be. Parents be warned.