Disney announced “Infinity” earlier this year at an event at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California. Though the toy/game concept seemed like a natural fit for Disney, comparisons with Activision’s “Skylanders” were inevitable. A surprise hit, Activision’s “Spryo the Dragon” spin-off has been a drain on parent’s wallets for a couple of years now. A new iteration, “Swap Force” is due out in October, so it is no wonder that Disney needed to get the jump on them by releasing “Disney Infinity” now. The truth is that there is actually very little in common with the two franchises beside the hardware.
Looking back a few years ago, developer, Avalanche did an amazing job making a fun game out of the “Toy Story 3” license for Disney. In a lot of ways “Disney Infinity” is an evolution of the “Toy Story 3” game. As far as the gameplay goes, it’s somewhere between that “Toy Story 3” game, “Little Big Planet” and “Minecraft.” Like “Toy Story 3,” “Disney Infinity” is actually two games in one. There are the adventures or “story mode” and then there is the “Toy Box” mode. The starter kit comes with three characters and three playsets. Mr. Incredible, Jack Sparrow, and Sully from “Monsters University” come with the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the afore mentioned “Monsters University,” and” The Incredibles” playsets.
A lot of criticism is bound to be directed Disney’s way for the cost of the game, but did anyone really expect a Disney licensed product to be cheap? There is a premium on many of the properties that they own, and entire business of collecting “Disneyana.” Who else could hold a bi-annual event like D23? I am actually kicking myself for not covering the event this year, since attendees scored limited edition Sorcerer Mickey “Disney Infinity” toy. Besides the slight premium on the toys themselves, add-on discs are sold in blind two packs, which run five dollars apiece, allowing some people to spend hundreds of dollars trying to complete a set.
As mentioned before, the starter kit does come with three playsets. Each of the adventures will run three or four hours. Unlike “Skylanders” which is a sort of a linear hack and slash RPG, “Disney Infinity’s” gameplay is much more open. Each of the adventures is pretty much a sandbox game themed to the movie they’re from. My personal favorite was the “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It just seemed to me, the most complete effort and featured a variety of gameplay, including the ability to sail the open seas on my own customizable ship. Though there are some RPG elements, you are pretty restricted to the iconic characters you’re playing.
“Monsters University” and “The Incredibles” both have high points but for experienced gamers, the adventures will all seem like lite versions of other games you love. To add some incentive to these adventures, there is a ton of loot and challenges for one or two players spread throughout the levels and there is also no shortage of side quests. I did also play the “Cars” and “Lone Ranger” sets and had some trouble figuring out the driving controls until I completed the driving Mastery Adventure. A “Toy Story in Space” playset is coming in October along and the Sorcerer Mickey and Rapunzel figures following soon after. The big payoff of course is earning stuff your toy box. While I must confess that I spent very little time building levels in “Little Big Planet,” it has been the high point of “Disney Infinity” for me so far. Of course the toolset is much more robust.
In many ways, the Toy box in “Disney Infinity” is like an easy to use game engine, one that you can only make Disney stuff in, though. With this much power, it would be really easy to get lost and discouraged, and to that end, I recommend completing the Mastery Adventures. The handful of tutorials walks you through building your world and actually programming it, in addition to some hints on fighting and driving. The programming is nothing to complex, but surprisingly fun. You can create triggers that activate other devices and even build warp points that can zip you around your world. By playing through the story modes, you can actually unlock the playsets of the related properties to play with as you wish. Disney has also released a “Disney Infinity” Disneyland recreation to play in. Of course you can upload your own creations too.
“Disney Infinity” on Xbox 360 allows two players to play together locally and up to four online. The hardware itself, limits the gameplay to two characters on one system. The split screen option is a vast improvement over “Toy Story 3’s” tethering, especially for young children that have a hard time working cooperatively. This is really where “Disney Infinity” shines. You’d have a hard time finding a better game that can capture the attention of entire family and allow them to play together. Part of that is the appeal of Disney’s characters, but the other part is the variety of gameplay. Yeah, it’s expensive and you’ll probably shake your fist at the TV when you get to the treasure chest that requires every character from the series to open, but deep down, you probably want to own the whole collection anyway.
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