Let’s start off by talking about the elephant in the room, shall we? You know, the comparison of Disney Infinity to Skylanders. Both are vastly different and each stand their ground on their own terms, but there are some similarities – mainly the physical-to-digital figure collecting. Each game has their strengths and weaknesses, but the comparison will be made regardless. With that said, Disney Infinity is off to a rough start if it plans to dethrone the disposable income absorber known as Skylanders.
Disney Infinity is sold as a set that includes the game, Infinity Base, three figures, a play set piece, and a power disc. The play set piece features worlds of each of the three included figures. There’s Monster’s University for Sully, Pirates of the Caribbean for Jack Sparrow, and world of The Incredibles for Mr. Incredible. The Infinity Base is what you set your characters and play set pieces on. There are two slots for two figures, meaning couch co-op is just an additional figure away from happening on-screen. I would have preferred the option to be able to switch between the two figures placed on the Infinity Base since I’m not known to share my toys with others.
Disney Infinity (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii, 3DS, PC)
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive Software
Released: August 18, 2013 (NA), August 23, 2013 (EU)
I’m not sure if all the power discs included in the set are the same, but I got Stitch’s blaster-gun from Lilo and Stich. Additional power discs can be bought in blind packs and the cost is around $5 for two of them. Maybe it’s because I’m not an Otaku who gets his jollies from capsule machines, but I can’t stand not being able to see what I’m buying. Simply put, I won’t be buying any power discs, which is a shame because there’s some cool items to be found in them. Those items can be used in Toybox Mode and don’t necessarily serve any purpose other than to just play around with them, so I don’t think anyone should feel like they are missing out by not sinking the contents of their wallet into the power disc aspect of Disney Infinity. Each time a character levels up in the game, you get a token that’s worth a spin in a vault that is home to around one-thousand Toybox pieces of content, so if you play the game enough you will rack up some cool items that rival those that can be found in the power disc blind packs.
The obvious main appeal of Disney Infinity is Toybox Mode, a sandbox mode where you are free to build worlds to your heart’s content. Unfortunately, to unlock its full potential you are going to have to spend a lot of time playing through your character’s story modes, which can be a huge drag. There are some fully voiced action-oriented missions, but even those feel more like secondary missions than some of the actual secondary missions, which are also boring as all hell. Doing the same meaningless tasks over and over again across all of your character’s worlds is enough to drive even the most dedicated MMO player insane.
If there is anything Skylanders does right, it’s make each individual character feel unique. Regardless of the vast diversity between Disney Infinity’s characters, they all feel pretty much the same. Character archetypes fall into one of three types: melee, ranged and vehicle. As you can guess, the characters from Cars are all drivable and handle the same, which is actually understandable given the context. However, most melee and ranged (which are just melee with an added ranged attack) characters feel the same as well, which is ridiculous considering their backstory and powers. The Lone Ranger and Jack Sparrow are essentially the same guy with a different coat of paint and the same could be said for Mike and Sully from Monster’s University. They may look different, but they certainly don’t play different. Each character may have a unique special move, but that’s far from exciting when the most of the time spent playing as them offers little more than a “been there, done that” level of boredom.
As much as it pains me to say this, Disney Infinity is a game aimed at children, which is ridiculous considering my slight Disney obsession gets me all the ladies. I wasn’t expecting the combat to be deep and engaging, but I expected it to at least work. Sadly, that’s not the case. When brawling with multiple enemies your character will randomly lock on to unintentional targets, leaving yourself vulnerable to attack and sometimes even drawing you close enough to an edge to drop you off along with the enemy. This headache is amplified when playing melee-based challenge levels that require you to break objects in a set amount of time. Imagine comboing something with seconds left on the clock only to suddenly shoot a couple of yards away where you start fighting an enemy, causing you to fail the challenge. Yeah, that’s just fan-fucking-tastic and you have no choice but to get used to it.
Among the slew of traditional melee-focused characters, there are also those who like to spice things up with ranged attacks. I’ve always been a fan of ranged over melee, but unfortunately the ranged mechanics in Disney Infinity don’t hit their mark. Free-shooting is essentially “spray-and-pray” in the general direction you’re standing in. Much like with melee, ranged also has an annoying lock-on system. You have to be lined up almost directly in front of your enemy at a relatively close range before you see the lock-on target that’ll guarantee your shot will be a hit. At that range, why not just go up and hit him with your fist? Honestly, that’s what I end up doing almost most of the time. You can hold down a button to zoom in for what I would assume would be more precision, but it’s too sluggish to use effectively.
Vehicles and the Cars cast don’t handle much better, sadly. They are extremely sensitive and all it takes to turn them in a direction is a little nudge. You don’t steer them as much as you nudge them in different directions and hope you didn’t nudge them hard enough to cause them to run off of the road. Out of the three playable archetypes, vehicles actually control the best, but that’s not saying much.
This may be a bit nitpicky, but I found it disappointing that you can’t play with characters in different worlds than their own. That means you can’t create the Jack Sparrow/Monster’s University crossover you’ve always wanted. Sure, there’s cross-play in Toybox Mode, but given the disappointing missions structure of the franchised play sets, they could only benefit from the potential wackiness of characters from different movies interacting with one another. It just seems like a huge missed opportunity.
Now, this is what I consider a serious design flaw that makes the game feel incomplete – unlockable items that can only be unlocked by unreleased characters. There are two types of character-specific unlockables in Disney Infinity. One is a gate that requires all of the characters from a set to open it one by one. The other is little crates that have a specific character’s face on them. I’ve encountered some of those that had faces of unreleased characters on them. Granted, the rewards from these crates are minor, so I don’t feel like a chunk of the game is being held from me, but it’s aggravating to the completionist in me who wants to unlock everything as I go.
I believe that the toys themselves outshine Skylanders in terms of quality. Disney did the unthinkable and managed to create an art style that bridged the gap between all of their existing franchises, including those that are live action, and the characters in the game look identical to those on the power portal. The toys actually feels like they are coming alive when you place it on the Infinity Base. They don’t look and feel like toys, they look and feel like collectables. They are something even non-gaming Disney fans could proudly display on their shelves without fear of persecution.
This may be a silly analogy, but stick with me. Disney Infinity is a lot like your college girlfriend. You love her deeply, but she doesn’t know what she wants in life. Everything she sets out to do is half-assed and it sometimes makes you feel ashamed to love her as much as you do. She has no direction in life, but that seems to work for her. You like it when she’s happy, so you stick with her throughout all the negativity, but you know you will always be left wanting something more, something you know she will never be. That’s the effect Disney Infinity has on me. For as negative as my review is, I absolutely love Disney Infinity! It’s game I am going to keep going back to and sinking countless dollars into. I love what it is, but I know I would love what it could have been a lot more.
Disney Infinity is a product of love, that’s for sure. A lot of its faults can be overlooked simply by putting on your rose-tinted glasses and praising the lord that the game even exists in the first place. It’s an experience that’s unlike any other and it truly is a Disney game fans the world over will be able to cherish for a very long time. Disney Infinity is a wonderful experience, but it’s not that great of a game.