STAFF REVIEW of Disney Infinity (Xbox 360)

Thursday, August 22, 2013.
by Stephen Cameron

Disney Infinity Box art As the fearless Buzz Lightyear would say… “To infinity and beyond!” – We welcome Disney Infinity!

Right off the bat, the masses won’t be able to help themselves but to start comparing both Disney’s Infinity and the popular genre veteran, Activision’s Skylanders. Activision were the first ones to release the action figure/video game combo genre this generation, two years ahead of Disney. But, let me just clear and say, the only thing these two games have in common are the toys; that’s it, but I’ll jump into more details later.

The toys/character themselves are the front and center of marketing with Disney Infinity and they look incredibly nice. When you open the starter pack, you’ll find three characters: Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Sulley (Monsters Inc.), and Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles), the game and the base and one “Power Disc”. The characters each has his or her own adventure via a “Play Set”, but more on that later. We’re told the toys are made of a vinyl material, although they are beautiful, the assembly quality seems to be hit and miss. Personally, I’ve had two characters come unglued from their pedestals, nothing good ‘ol fashion crazy glue couldn’t fix. This game is geared for small children, thus the characters should have been build a tad more rugged. Again, they still look amazing, and the game will continue to function, but keep those purchase receipts.

The base, or the Portal of power for you Skylander fans, is different. It has two circular spots for two characters, and one hexagon spot is for the “Play Set” pieces and/or power discs. It’s also noticeably thinner than the portal of power which I like personally and a lot less bulky. When you place a character on the base it’s a lot less eventful as in the on screen theatrics are less exciting than Skylanders. There's a lot more exciting introductions with Skylanders characters, which I personally preferred as it gets the kids pumped!

There are two types of “Power Discs”. First are the hexagonal ones that are used to add various items in your toy box. For example, I got a Finding Nemo sky painter which will make the environment in the “Toy Box” look like the bottom the sea of Nemo's world. Second are the round discs; these are used to add various boosts for your characters and they sit underneath the base. They can be used on any character to give them extra power or loot.

In order to get started with any “Play Set” you need to grab at least one character and one “Play Set” piece that are tied together via the same universe (it’s the one with the hexagon base). While I was playing I discovered to be only one save per “Play Set”, meaning if one of your kids want to do the adventure and the other wants to play thru also, it will blast away the other child’s saved game. This is not the best design. Having three saves per “Play Set” would have been ideal.

The Incredibles game feels a lot like “Crackdown-Lite”, but if you fall in the water you get the Assassin’s Creed syndrome. Our heroes can save day but can’t swim to save their own lives. I personally thought the Pirates of the Caribbean game was the better experience overall of the three as it seemed to have the most variety in gameplay and most fun.

The “Toy Box” mode is where you'll get lost the most in Disney’s Infinity, why? You can build almost anything you want and just sink countless hours horsing around in there (which reminds me lot of Minecraft). And yes, it does feel like you’ve dumped all your toys on the carpet to let your imagination go wild! My eight year old son, had a hard time wrapping his head around the logic objects so just he stuck with dropping in buildings and other knickknacks then spent most of the time driving and jumping around like a homemade Mario level contraption with his five year old sister.

Out of the box the “Toy Box” mode object selection is a bit weak, although you do get a lot to choose from, it’s a lot of the same things and you need to play thru the “Play Sets” to unlock the bulk of them. The adventures are fun, with your kids, however my son and I thought they were quite repetitive. Grab a quest/mission from NPC, go do it, level up, rinse and repeat. You are doing all this inside that character’s universe which is pretty cool. Personally I would made the “Play Set” adventures more linear, and let the kids cut loose inside the “Toy Box”.

Also, the “Play Set” pieces do not permanently unlock those levels in your game. Unlike Skylanders, you have to put it back every time. In Skylanders, once you place a piece that unlocks a level (not the exact same thing), the player can bring it back to their house, and the friend has it unlocked forever. So if you forget the “Play Set” piece and bring a character from that world, you’re not playing him (at least not single player). For example, it you decide to buy Matter, you will not unlock the Cars “Play Set”, however you can play him in the “Toy Box”.

The Xbox Live multiplayer is a little strange in general as it seems to only work for character challenges and the “Toy Box” mode. The lack of Xbox Live coop in the “Play Set” adventures is a disappointment though. But, on the flip side, playing on the same couch with your kids is what’s it’s really about. It’s a mix of couch co-op and some aspects of Xbox Live, so just be cautious on the multiplayer, as it all depends on how you want to play. The one pet-peeve that creeped up was the lack of being able to find your coop partner in the world you happen to be in, as there was no arrow or mechanic to point you in the right direction to meet up with them. It was very frustrating at times, and it would lose the purpose of playing coop in the first place.

The game did crash on me twice, however there was a day one patch (because I got the game a few days before), and it hasn’t done a face plant since. Keeping those fingers crossed.

From a family gaming perspective, my kids fought a lot more with this game than other family titles. At first I wasn’t sure why, then it revealed itself: In the adventure and toy box modes you can damage the other player! You can start punching or shooting the other player in split screen or Xbox Live and have them restart over and over. There should be an option to remove (or have the option) any damage done to the other player, heck you can only have two. It caused a lot of friction between my kids.

The whole thing will set you back $74.95, and each “Play Set” cost $39.95 (Cars and Lone Ranger), character toys are $13.95, and a toy three pack cost $29.95, and lastly the Power Discs are $5 per pack (for two). Only time will tell, if the Infinity will have the lasting power Skylanders has had.

Overall, is Disney Infinity worth picking up? Yes, and no. Yes, if you’re kids are crazy for anything Disney’s anything, then grab it, however, I’d personally wait. Why? It’s very easy to get all caught up with Disney’s awesome stable of characters, trust me I’ve got kids! Plus, this title has come out at the end of the Xbox 360 life cycle, which tells me there will probably be an Xbox One version coming soon, and I’m guessing everything will transfer over. The timing would have been more relevant last year. Personally, I’d wait until it comes to next-gen. However, start collecting those toys now for sure! Some stores will have exclusives and you can start piling those up! And if they are anything like Skylanders, they’ll be gone off the shelves very fast. Then you’ll be ready to play, and you’re kids can start playing with the toys themselves right away.

What I’d personally like to see is an improved game next year, more complete multiplayer and maybe add deeper “Play Set” experiences, maybe with Marvel, and Star Wars.

Overall: 7.7 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.7 / 10


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