Review: “Disney Infinity” brings out the kid in all, combining creativity, collectibles, and cartoon chaos across wildly fun gameplay

in Disney, Entertainment, Merchandise, Reviews, Video Games

Since its announcement eight months ago, Disney Infinity has captured the attention of Disney fans worldwide, eager to see what fun could be had by combining characters from across classic animated and live action films into one giant video game universe. And with its recent release, there’s much to be excited about with seemingly endless possibilities in this open world adventure that’s only just beginning.

The concept of play isn’t foreign to anyone. Children can find enjoyment in almost any toy, given the right amount of imagination. Disney Infinity encourages exactly that type of experience, largely doing away with linear storytelling in favor of letting gamers simply have fun with a few favorite faces. Whether it’s playing “Pirates of the Caribbean” with Jack Sparrow or defeating “The Incredibles” bad guys using the superpowers of the entire Parr family, there are few limits to be found while exploring the virtual reaches of this game.

Disney Interactive created the unlimited possibilities of the game’s open-ended Toy Box mode, allowing players to unlock thousands of characters, costumes, vehicles, and building blocks and combine them with a bit of inventive logic to create just about anything – from a go-kart track to a wacky roller coaster to a super-sized basketball court to a castle in the sky. This mode is my favorite, removing almost any restriction that other games hold over their players, allowing me to simply let my brain go wild with rule-free fun.

My first time hopping online in Toy Box mode with two friends resulted in connecting the Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds roller coaster to Scrooge McDuck’s money bin, alongside an ESPN-themed castle-turned-sports arena, next to a series of targets that each played a different classic Disney song, across from the Cozy Cone Motel, and nearby a teleporter connected to a floating series of platforms. The point? None whatsoever. But it was a whole lot of fun to assemble these bizarre concepts and simply play around with them. In the end, all our “work” was deleted, as if putting away the toys to play another day. There was no goal other than to just share a few laughs as we chased each other around, one in a Dumbo ride vehicle, another in Cinderella’s carriage, each firing rockets while avoiding falling canon balls. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not supposed to. In this way, Disney Infinity is the purest form of fun.

But those looking for a bit more structure will still find it in the game’s Play Sets – the other half o Disney Infinity. Out of the box, Disney Infinity comes with three play sets based on three successful Disney film franchises: Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Incredibles. Two others are available, The Lone Ranger and Cars, with each of the five featuring its own unique characters and style of gameplay across sets of mini-missions.

Monsters U allows players to sneak around campus, scaring rival Fear Tech students and going crazy on sorority row. Pirates of the Caribbean offers more traditional hack-and-slash gameplay with the extra fun perk of helming a pirate ship amidst all the swashbuckling and sword fighting. The Incredibles takes the game to new heights, sprawling across and urban expanse, utilizing superpowers to defeat evil robots sent by villain Syndrome. The Lone Ranger brings out the wild west with customizable trains, galloping horses, and plenty of gun slinging. And Cars turns Disney Infinity into an animated racing game, with opportunities to win challenges and leave opponents in the dust of Radiator Springs.

The missions of each can range from a quick 30 seconds to 5-10 minutes, depending on the complexity of the task. Whether toilet papering Fear Tech trees or saving a burning saloon, play sets offer enough variety to keep them interesting without ever being bogged down by too much story.

Between these two gameplay modes, there is enough variety to keep any type of gamer entertained, as long as they’re willing to suspend the usual linear path that so many games take. The fun of Disney Infinity is found in hopping around between experiences, accomplished easily by the real-world items required to play.

Character figures and play set pieces are purchased and placed atop the included Disney Infinity base to activate them in the game. It’s a mechanic first made famous by Activision’s Skylanders series, but now enhanced with Disney’s library of characters spanning decades. Also adding in power discs as power-ups, there’s a world of collecting unlocked in conjunction with on-screen gameplay. Disney Infinity’s detailed stylized vinyl figures would look great on a shelf on their own, even if there was no video game component to them.

But with all of Disney Infinity’s pluses, there are a few flaws. On launch day, bugs plagued the Playstation 3 version causing lockups that have since been fixed. But beyond opening day jitters, the game doesn’t always make sense. There is so much to understand, particularly in Toy Box mode, that even the included tutorials don’t explain it all. It can be frustrating to know what you want to build but not know how the tools work to build it – or if they even exist. There is an element of exploration and invention to the game, allowing players to learn as they go, but that learning curve is rather steep.

Sadly most (if not all) of the voice acting of these many famous characters is not performed by the original actors. Johnny Depp is definitely not Jack Sparrow or Tonto, Sulley sounds nothing like John Goodman, and Lightning McQueen only slightly sounds like Owen Wilson. They’re close, but not good enough.

Another frustration occurs during 2-player local co-op mode in play sets. When teaming up to complete a play set, only player 1 receives the credit and thus only that player’s Toy Box gets filled with all the goodies earned during the session, while the second player only gets the satisfaction of helping a friend. If that second player also wants the same items in his or her Toy Box, they must replay the play set while signed in as first player.

And there’s the large cost to get the most out of the game. Having a variety of characters and play sets adds tremendously to the fun of Disney Infinity, but to do so requires somewhere in the range of $200 to purchase everything – for now. When even more characters and play sets come out, those will have to be bought as well to play in those worlds, despite the fact that all of the data already exists on the disc. (And then there are accessories to hold all the figures, base, and power discs…) It’s a lot of money for a single game, though there is the collectible factor figured in as well.

Despite these somewhat nit-picky flaws, the gamer in me is having a blast exploring the possibilities of this truly infinite virtual experience and the Disney collector in me is excited to get my hands on future figure releases like Jack Skellington, Anna, Elsa, and Rapunzel. Disney Infinity succeeds at creating a game that’s simply fun to play and does so on many levels, providing a richer experience than most titles that are played through once and put away forever. I will be playing Disney Infinity for many months to come, excited with each new release of a play set and figure to add to the ever-growing collection.

Disney Infinity is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Wii.

28 Comments

  1. Adam

    It is definitely an exciting step in the game play and trading direction. And with other emerging technologies focused on creation (eg: MakerBot), I’d love to see a collaboration of customization that translates creations from the game to “one-of-a-kind” objects.

  2. Great review about Disney Infinity. I haven’t gamed since the 1980’s when I had an Atari. There were many games that came out over the years that I wanted to play, but it wasn’t until I got wrapped up in all the Disney Infinity hype.

    I have a huge learning curve going from the joystick that we used years ago to a controller, but I’m hooked.

    I love all the possibilities and look forward to many hours ahead learning how to play and discovering new things. Like they say, the possibilities are infinite!

  3. I’m still at that frustration level of trying to figure out how to unlock the potential if toy box mode. My first night of play I discovered that multiplayer only consists of playing with your online friends. I hoped to be able to play with new people and learn what others had done so I had some idea of how to get started.
    I also discovered that the downloadable premade toy box worlds don’t have much you can do until you unlock certain toys. Seeing how Ricky was able to add to the Disneyland area gives me hope that I’ll soon catch on.
    I hope to have Marvel and Lucasfilm characters to play with in the future.

  4. Roddy Barros

    I have friends going to Orlando next week, so I have ordered all my Infinity goodness so they can bring it with them. 🙂 Although I did skip on the Cars play set simply because I don’t really care for racing games (and things were already pretty expensive!). Now all I need is the actual game, that I’m getting down here in Brazil when it comes out (in 3 weeks or so, apparently) because it’ll be dubbed, and that’s better for my 7 year old. 🙂

  5. Jamie O

    Our family was very excited to play Infinity, but unfortunately we’ve been completely let down by the fact that the Wii version is thoroughly nurtured. There is only co-op play in the playset and no on-line connectivity. We didn’t know this when we preordered it. So we we’re very disappointed. We’re not gamers by any sense but we paid attention to a lot of the hype and read up about it. But we never saw that the Wii version was limited in comparison it to the other systems before it came out (we later learn the Nintendo DS is even more limited). I knew the system was getting long in the tooth but since I didn’t see/hear the Infinity was going to be limited so I wasn’t worried about it. We’re pretty bummed out because so much that we were excited about as a family is missing. Not to mention we paid the same amount for a limited version of the game… I could go on and on but I wanted to throw my 2 cents.

    We do like a lot of what we’ve seen but that almost makes it more frustrating as we watch our 8 year old play while we’re stuck on the sidelines. 🙂

    1. Otto

      Thank you for pointing this out. It’s sad Disney didn’t include an online option in there.

  6. Amy

    Not gonna lie, highly annoyed by the fact that only one of the characters released so far is a woman, and that there are no female characters included in the starter pack.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      There are currently two females, Mrs. Incredible and Violet. Plus Holley Shiftwell, if you consider a car a female. Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna are on the way within a few months.

  7. Since1976

    Is it corporate synergy or serendipity that Marvel’s INFINITY comics crossover event (completely unrelated to the game) was released at the same time?

    Both were in the planning stages for a long time, and were presumably only coincidentally named, but someone at Disney saw an opportunity for some free marketing based on recognition of the word “infinity” alone.

    1. Good eye fellow Marvel fan! Thanos returns!

  8. After playing some multiplayer toy box…. I have to complain about not being able to use the Xbox headset to communicate with the other players. Can’t coordinate on projects and all the other player did was place random objects in the sky.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      You can use audio communication in Toy Box mode. I’ve done it. You have to join Party mode together.

  9. I think this has been a fantastic launch, I am 23 years old but feel that Disney Infinity brings a kids game in to the hands of gamers and Disney fans of all ages.

    The Toy Box mode truly is a brilliant idea, I have already found myself spending hours and hours creating cool little gadgets!

    I just hope that Disney launch more Play Sets than currently has been released!

  10. While Disney and Disney Interactive do seek to eliminate the high risks associated with the development of multiple games based upon the short-term successes and popularity of corresponding movies and/or characters, the point to be made is that Disney could have enriched the gaming properties it already had at its disposal without turning its back entirely upon such games and the corresponding (player) communities whom voice and legitimate concerns were, in essence, “blatantly” ignored.

    For example, players loyal to the game “Pirates of the Caribbean Online” (POTCO) maintained an ongoing petition movement for over a year which involved the gain of some 3,000 signatures from players whom had voiced their legitimate concern about the game and the status it was allowed to be kept.

    To date, in the shadow of this report, no hint of acknowledgement of such concerns were ever received by the POTCO community from an official representative of Disney or Disney Interactive despite a total of 50 individuals whom were strategically contacted whom had worked for the company or its interactive, gaming division. http://revivepotco.org/

    (Note: Pirates of the Caribbean Online, ToonTown, and Pixie Hollows will each be shut down by Disney on Sept. 19, 2013)

    1. Otto

      It’s unfortunate but when there are not enough players to support the game they are shut down. It’s a shame Disney isn’t going to expend this game on the Xbone and PS4 because their PC architecture wouldn’t make it a lot of work to expend to these platforms and with a new POTC movie on the horizon a renewed interest on the franchise could emerge.

  11. Otto

    I think Disney is making a great choice with this platform. Many Disney movie games are bad and with this base they can produce better games. I hope Disney isn’t going to slap on new textures and rehash the same game endlessly.
    For anyone who hasn’t got a console, you have a few option. As said before the Wii version is not complete, the Xbox 360 version needs a yearly service of $60 to play the online component. The PS3 had some upstart problems but is working great now and doesn’t need an online service contract.
    The game will be on Xbox One and PS4 when they arrive. Both console need an online service abo that is $60 for Xbox One and $50 for PS4. The later gives you 2 free games each month (one recurring for some time, the other one new each month). It is said Disney Interactive is making exclusive content for PlayStation 4 but it’s not clear if that are games that only come on the PS4 or exclusive content for Disney Infinity.

  12. Gwarmon

    This game is terrible, not worth the time or money. The game play is ok with the play sets but trying to build a world, well it’s way to hard it’s more frustrating than fun

  13. annonimous

    will there be a playset with the jack skelling figure?

    1. Roddy Barros

      No, the only play set coming out now is the Toy Story one.

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