Published on September 5th, 2013 | by Chris Scott0
Disney Infinity Review
Summary: Disney Infinity is a platform that you buy into, a digital toy box that requires physical totems to transport you into its realm. And the realm in Disney Infinity is a really good start, but it has the potential to be so much more.
I am a speck of stardust awkwardly swimming around a night sky. I am a playful speck, swirling around in a carefree fashion. My energy is infectious, and soon other specks join in creating a larger comet of stardust that as appears a shooting star in the dark sky. Suddenly, I’m on the ground, dancing between trees, bushes, and rocks as I collect more and more stardust. The landscape forms in front of the me as I make my way to a structure in the distance.
As the I get to the structure, the world and I transform. Suddenly, I am a child running through the forest. Jack Skeleton jumps out from behind a tree attempting to give me a startle. Rapunzel greets me as I walk by. Familiar faces greet me around every corner, and I feel I am in a comfortable place. I eagerly take quick adventures with Woody, Captain Jack Sparrow, Lightning McQueen, and Mr. Incredible before battling baddies with a whole team of Disney icons. And then Mickey Mouse appears, wearing his sorcerer garb from Fantasia, beckoning me to follow him into a world where magic is real, and my imagination is king. And I do, because it feels right.
For 15 minutes it didn’t matter that I was on the precipice of turning 35 years old, sitting in front of my television with a ridiculous collection of toys that probably made me look a bit like a pedophile. Disney Infinity did what all great Disney experiences do, made me feel like a kid. It is a great experience that is sadly never repeated again during the game, but it certainly put me in the mindset to sit down and try to chase the dragon with the toys in the starter kit. And it turns out, it’s pretty good.
Disney Infinity is similar in a lot of ways to Activision’s Skylanders franchise. It presents players with a gameplay experience that can be altered via real world physical toys. Players can buy toys in the store and place them on the game portal, which allows them to interact with them in the game world. The starter set comes with everything one needs to play the game: the game disc itself, the portal, three characters, and the playset key. The last piece, the playset key, is where Disney Infinity drastically differs from Skylanders though.
Unlike Skylanders, which is a singular game experience where the toys accent the title, Disney Infinity is a multi-faceted experience. The playset key opens up specific worlds for specific characters, with the starter set piece unlocking three worlds for its three different characters. These playsets are fully featured gaming experiences in and of themselves, offering upwards of 8-10 hours per playset.
The starter playset worlds are Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University and The Incredibles, each of which present a fully featured open-world campaign for players to take their characters through. The difficulty for the three vary slightly based on their respective worlds, with Monsters University posing the least bit of challenge for gamers and Pirates offering up the most complex challenges. Make no mistake, though, the level of challenge never gets much beyond anything seen in any of the LEGO games. It is very accommodating for younger players but still fun to play, regardless of skill level.
The caveat to the different playsets is that you can only utilize characters that are native to that particular world, so Jack Sparrow cannot be played in the The Incredibles world. The starter set rightly provides one character from each of the provided starter playsets, but if you want to play the campaign playset with a friend, you’ll need another character native to that world. From a thematic standpoint it makes sense. After all, Sully and Jack Sparrow inhabit different worlds, but from the perspective of the game as a virtual toy box, which is the concept the game constantly tries to sell you on, it actively goes against itself.
I mixed and matched toys as a kid all the time, making my own adventures up as I played, and who wouldn’t want Sully to captain a pirate ship or Mr. Incredible to roll around Monsters University? But this choice also effectively locks campaign multiplayer for players out of the box and requires at least three other character purchases to enable it. That makes Disney Infinity a pricey (over $100) purchase, and while getting people to buy characters is kind of the point, it feels somewhat more sinister when posed this way. That said, if multiplayer is not your thing, you can get almost the full experience without buying another character. I say almost because there are certain treasure chests and challenges in each campaign that can only be accessed by certain characters, which means to fully experience everything the game has to offer, one would need all the characters, but it is fully playable outside of that. As far as completing the game’s story thread, it is doable with the in-box characters.
While the individual campaigns themselves offer up a great chunk of playtime that amount to what many other games provide for $60, the big draw that makes Disney Infinity so infinite in its playable potential is its Toy Box mode. Toy Box mode gives players a wide open canvas upon which to build and explore their characters without the constraints of the campaign mode. In Toy Box mode, Mr. Incredible can race Lightning McQueen around a racetrack that you yourself designed, Jack Sparrow can stand side-by-side Tonto while battling guards from Agrabah, and Sully can put the moves on the curvy Elastigirl. OK, so the last one isn’t really possible, but you get the point. There is a lot that can go on here.
Giving players the ability to do something, though, doesn’t always mean it works great, and Toy Box mode is something of a mixed bag. Creating things is quite simple, and just about anyone can do it, but creating good things is a different story. Making something that you would honestly be proud of is going to take a lot of time tinkering with things to find what works best, and sadly, time is something many gamers just don’t have, or are willing to sacrifice. Thankfully, though, even if creating isn’t your thing, Disney Infinity lets you download other player’s Toy Box worlds to play in and already, this early in the release cycle, there are some really great ones to play with.
Ultimately, Disney Infinity is a pretty cool piece of software that offers tightly scripted adventures and a blank canvas to make one’s own. It’s a bit clunky at times but offers up plenty of content right out of the box with the potential for more coming from additional purchases. Like Skylanders, though, it is a platform that you buy into, a digital toy box that requires physical totems to transport you into its realm. And the realm in Disney Infinity is a really good start, but it has the potential to be so much more. One might even say its potential is infinite.