Disney Infinity vs Skylanders Swap Force – How Disney Interactive’s game stacks up against Activision’s successful series

in Disney, Entertainment, Merchandise

Disney Infinity is the new toy-meets-videogame title that works a bit like Activision’s popular video franchise Skylanders. Many have been quick to compare the two since Disney Infinity was first announced. But while the surface similarities are obvious, the two differ in many ways.

If you’ve not come across the games before, they both use toy figures, purchased separately, to access in-game characters. For Disney Infinity, a Starter Pack provides everything you need to play the game, with new characters, items, upgrades and various Disney worlds able to be unlocked with further toy purchases.

Putting a Disney figure on the included USB peripheral base that is plugged into your console makes them appear instantly in the game. You can then use that character to play the different levels. Progress is stored back on the toy and you can use it on other consoles playing the Disney Infinity game even if they are a different type – Wii, 360, PS3, etc.

This use of toys in the video game via a “Portal” or “Base” peripheral is one of the main similarities that’s drawing comparisons between Disney Infinity and the Skylanders series, the newest of which will come out later this year called Skylanders Swap Force. But scratch beneath that surface and find there are actually quite a few differences between the two games to set them apart.

Disney Infinity base and character figures
Skylanders Swap Force portal and figure

Perhaps the most important difference is that the Disney Infinity game offers a whole range of familiar and favorite Disney characters to play with and as. Characters in Skylanders are largely created for that series, though Spyro and a few others are brought in from previous games. Disney is surely hoping their popular characters, and the unusual ways they will interact together within the game, will make Disney Infinity as big of a success as the Skylanders series.

To begin, Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles are included in the Starter Pack, and there will be a Cars play-set that can be purchased separately, with plans on releasing many more play sets and character figures in the future.

In the game itself, one of the biggest differences is the basis of how you play. When it launches near the end of 2013, Skylanders Swap Force will again stick to local multiplayer with two-players sharing the same screen, like its preceding two games. But Disney Infinity goes a step further by also adding split-screen local play and four player multiplayer online (via services like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network).

Disney Infinity Starter Pack Hands-on

Skylanders Swap Force Starter Pack Hands-on

Disney Infinity also features a unique “Toy Box” mode, another point of difference between the two games. This is where you can bring together all your different Disney franchises and play with them together. It enables you to go into an edit mode and create your own game play with tools, quite similar to those a real game developer would use. The possibilities here are really only limited by time and imagination.

Another difference between Disney Infinity and Skylanders Swap Force is that the Activision game provides its main campaign in one chunk (possible with a few extra Adventure packs), but Disney Infinity is much more modular. By using a Play Set piece on the Infinity Base peripheral you can unlock new adventures and worlds that don’t tie together across one big story, as they do in Skylanders.

Disney Infinity also offers an additional layer of physical product. While Skylanders Swap Force basically sticks to the figures and a few novel items and adventure packs, Infinity has a range of Power Discs. These come in two forms, round discs that can be placed under the figures on the Infinity Base to grant upgrades and hexagonal discs that unlock items in the game creation “Toy Box” mode. I asked Toys R Us Chairman and CEO about these at a recent event, when he compared Skylanders and Infinity:

The final big difference between the two is in the variety of gameplay. While Skylanders’ main game is focused on traditional platforming gameplay, each Disney Infinity Play Set offers a different way to play – strategy, world management, driving, fighting, climbing. Skylanders Swap Force gameplay does introduce some more variety with the Swap Force Zones, and Dual Elemental Zones, but not to the same extent as Disney Infinity. Though thew new Skylanders will also add the ability to “swap” the upper and lower halves of figures to create new combined characters, a first for the series.

Disney Infinity Toy Box mode
Skylanders Swap Force game play

The release of Disney Infinity is not far off, at prices comparable to those of Skylanders. The “Disney Infinity” Starter Pack will be available in June 2013 at a retail price of $74.99, including the game, three figurines, and additional Power Discs. Play Set packs will be $34.99. Individual Disney Infinity figures will be $12.99 or available in Figure 3-Packs for $29.99. Power Discs will be sold in blind packs at $4.99.

Both properties offer a similarity at the surface of integrating real world figures with an on-screen game, but beyond that the differences are nearly infinite.

Andy Robertson runs the Family Gamer TV YouTube channel and is a family gaming expert on the BBC.

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