No good deed goes unpunished, and when it comes to crafting a great game, that goes double in this industry. With Activison having a massive hit on their hands with the Skylanders franchise, it was only a matter of time until someone saw else got themselves a slice of that young market. Disney is the first real such competition in the toys to life genre. And by copying someone else, this is the most original work that the house of mouse has unleashed in several years.
Before we even begin talking about the game, let’s address the elephant in the room. Disney Infinity is not going to be cheap. The starter pack alone will see you shelling out around R700, and then you’ve still got extra figures, power discs and playsets that you’re going to want.
Figures cost in the region of R130-R150 depending on the retailer, power discs come in blind blister packs that will set you back about R59 a pop and playsets that unlock new worlds and locations are an easy R250-R300 each. That’s an easy couple of grand that you’re going to spend then if you’re determined to have the full set. Well played Disney.
But here’s the catch: You’re getting some bang for your buck at least. With the Infinity characters, you’re getting inaction figures that are actually well made, and bring their own style of play to the game. While Mr Incredible is a bruiser who hits hard and fast, Captain Jack is an agile swordsman who packs a pistol with some heavy stopping power. And when they’re in the game, they behave like their big screen counterparts.
Jack Sparrow has that strange swaggering walk, Mr Incredible plays like a big bruiser and Sully has that loveable grin on his face. All this, combined with some fantastic voice-acting helps give these characters a spark of life.
But herein lies the rub. Disney Infinity allows for co-op play on local and online services, but if you want to join a friend in some Pirates of the Caribbean action, you’re going to need to own a figure in that set. So if your matey is playing as Captain Jack Sparrow, you’re going to need a character such as Davey Jones or Hector Barbossa to join him for high seas action.
Moving on, we’ve got the power discs and hexagonal discs that can be purchased for the game. You’ll never know what you’re getting in a blister pack, so expect to trade your doubles as you collect them. Power discs provide character bonuses, from extra health to increased damage, and can also unlock worlds and themes to use in the Toybox mode. But more on that later.
You’ve also got your playset pieces, hexagonal shaped keys that unlock the worlds available to you in the game that their respective figures can access. With your starter pack, you’re getting a playset for Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles, alongside figures of Captain Jack, Mr Incredible and Sully.
So you’re finally set up, you’ve stopped awkwardly staring at your Mrs Incredible figure (You will be mine stretch cheeks, you will be mine) and you’re ready to play your game. Not so fast amigo! Disney Infinity is pretty much two distinct games. You’ve got your packaged campaigns, and your Toybox mode, an idea that was first introduced by developer Avalanche in the tie-in game for Toy Story 3 a couple of years ago.
First though, the story missions. You’ve got one main campaign for each character, offering something a little bit different in each story. The Pirates of the Caribbean missions are without a doubt the best, offering naval battles and land-based excursions that feel like a big budget experience ripped straight from those films.
The Incredibles is a decent experience on its own, but compared to what’s on offer with Pirates, the bar has been set a little too high already. Still, unlocking equipment and saving the day from waves of Syndrome’s Omni-Droids isnt a bad way to spend an hour.
Lastly, you’ve got the Monsters University side of the game, which focuses more on university shenanigans and pranks. Animal House, this ain’t, and Monsters University offers the least amount of fun when compared to the previous two.
These levels are pretty much basic though, and will capture the attention of those demographics that Disney has in their crosshairs, possibly alienating older players. They’re not bad mind you, but they’re hardly challenging. But you’ll need to play through them though, in order to get the most out of the toybox.
As you play, your character collects sparks, the XP of the game. Leveling up a character unlocks spins that can be used to grab random objects, but the caveat here is that each chaarcter can only reach a maximum level of 15. So in your initial playset, you’re going to have a maximum of 45 spins, unless you go buy more figures.
It’s a clever way to get sales rolling and damn you Disney for making me use ten spins in order to get that Tron Recognizer that I want so badly for my playset. As you play more though, you’ll also find dozens of hidden eggs, which when discovered add goodies more to your toybox.There are also hidden chest dotted around the levels, but surprise! Only certain figures can open them. Go buy some more.
That’s the gist of single-player though. But the real meat of the game is in the Toybox. This is where you create and share (Depending on Disney Approval) your creations. Want to set up a race between Lightning McQueen and the Lone Ranger? Easy. Want to create your own Angry Birds level starring Wreck-It Ralph? Piece of cake.
Provided that you’ve unlocked enough items in the campaign mode, you can craft whatever you want to in the Toybox. And it’s easy to do so as well. The level designer is competent, providing plenty of decent angles and views with which to make levels, such as my 1000 Acres Wood: Rabbit finally snaps death maze.
Setting up triggers and making your stages more interactive is simple enough, with players able to go down to the ground level, equip a wand and decide which actions they want their equipment to perform. And thanks to a handy tutorial, you’ll be setting up arena fights with booming cannons and laser turrets firing in no time.
Just be warned though: The more you add to a Toybox, the higher the chance that you’re going to be left with some gameplay that chugs along at an unbearable frame rate.
This is where the real meat if the game is hiding, along with the Hall of Heroes which showcases your collection of figures in digital form, and also serves as a handy reminder as to which parts of the Disney Infinity experience you don’t own.
But making a game mode that is equal parts Little Big Planet and Minecraft, is a stroke of genius. Even if you don’t end up buying figures, you’re still going to find lots to do here and unlock, and is the best showcase of the potential that this game has.
Disney Infinity may have a high price barrier, but as far as new franchises go, this could be one to watch. It’s not perfect, but when it comes to kickstarting a new franchise, Disney has something exciting here, and I’m personally hoping to see more of Infinity in the figure. At it’s best, Disney Infinity is a game for families, as the campaign mode won’t keep older gamers hooked, while some of the more subtle aspects of the Toybox could be too complex for the young ones.
Disney Infinity was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a Xbox 360