"Disney Infinity" is probably the last Disney video game we'll ever need. Really, the folks at Disney Interactive absolutely nailed what the Magic Kingdom, as a whole, is all about -- imagination, wonder, and fun. Though it skews young, between 6 to maybe 12 year-olds, "Infinity" gives players every tool they'll need to play make believe with some of the most beloved characters in Disney's roster. That said, if you're a parent or a Disney fanatic, prepare to feel it in the wallet.
There's no denying the similarities between "Disney Infinity" and "Skylanders." The device used to digitize your figure is nearly identical to Activision's toy-meets-game crossbreed but despite the functional resemblances, the games differ greatly. Instead of an overarching plot, each set comes with a clear holocube that signifies a particular universe. The starter pack has a three-in-one cube featuring Monsters, Inc., Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean along with a representative figure from each world.
DI graciously provided a few of the character and powers sets to help boost my gameplay. These packs consist of one to three playable characters that can be used in their respective franchise. for instance, Dash can be used in the Incredibles game but can't cross over in to Monsters Inc. I fear that this might be lost on younger players who might have a favorite Disney character and will wonder why Sully can't join Jack Sparrow on a high seas treasure . Of course, any character can jump into the Toy Box mode so players can create their very own adventures. A good comparison would be to check out the "LEGO Insert Property X" games, whereby you have a wqide selction of simple to control characters each with a particular tool to advance the story. So if you liked those, then you'll love "Infinity. "
The figures are high quality each painstakingly sculpted and brilliantly painted. They amost look alive ready to jump off their little platforms. Of course, part of the charm is that "Disney Infinity" does indeed bring them to life within the game. Though I hesitate to label them toys so much as mini-statues because there's no articulation. Still, I appreciate the attention to detail and the care given to each figure as they litter my desk, cheering me up at work.
The problems with "Infinity" begin to appear as you explore each pre-set world. Controls, while simple, can be a little frustrating do to some unclear tutorials. It's not especially egregious but can result in a lot of trial and error when tackling a specific task. Furthermore, there's no way to turn off friendly fire. While it's fun to be able to beat up your friend, it's equally aggravating when you are knocked off a ledge because your buddy accidentally targeted you.
Without the ability to customize buttons sometimes results in some baffling mapping layouts. For instance, the Incredibles' Incredicopter is nearly impossible to operate. The vehicles take a little getting used to but buggies fair slightly better but it would be nice to be able to remap controls how you see fit. I will say that the Pirate's boat felt really nice and actually impressed me with how intuitive and fun it was to steer while blowing enemy pirates out of the water and sinking them into the briny deep.
I take it that a lot of the quirks and semi-polished nature stem from the rushed nature of movie tie-in IP development. "Infinity" isn't attached to a particular license per se but having to create -- at launch -- five different playsets with different mechanics probably agitated the QA department to tears. The aforementioned control issues coupled with some overall middling quality -- Soft sound with some muddled VO and blurry text and texture resolutions -- mar what is otherwise a very fun and entertaining game. Realistically, if you have a 7 year old complaining about poly count and descaled textures then you might have to file a missing persons report because your child has been replaces with a Changling.
For what it's worth, each pack-in set is pretty fun and despite the general sameness -- expect a lot of running back and forth between points collecting baubles -- there is enough variety to want to keep exploring. Pirates seemed to have the most going with an entire ship upgrading mechanic to pimp out your fearsome vessel as you sailed the high seas looking for treasure. Monsters, Inc. was my favorite as my friend and I ended up laughing a bunch causing some lighthearted mayhem in the form of rival school hijinks.
When you first boot up "Infinity" you're showcased a world of possibility as your formless, star-being brings life to the digital world. It's a beautiful rendition showing the true magic of this game; but at the same time, something of tease though, because a bunch of what's shown isn't available yet and just screams "bug your parents to buy!" And this is my main beef with "Disney Infinity" -- it's very, very expensive. Individual characters are priced at $13.99 with two characters and a playset piece at a eye-bulging $39.99! That's nearly a whole new game in itself and while you get two figures along with extra textures and some new adventures with Toy Box items; I can't with a straight face say this is a reasonable deal. If you where to go out, right now, and purchase everything it would cost you nearly $250!
But what does all this get you? A brilliant Toy Box mode for one. All the available bells and whistles and some nicely painted figures for two and three. The Toy Box mode, simply put, is why you want "Disney Infinity." This virtual chest is filled with enough building materials to basically create your own game. Playing through the pre-built adventure nets you even more stuff to recreate anything you can imagine. You can even share with friends and take your world online to play!
Building is simple, too. Because this is a kids game, the controls need to be intuitive and quick to master and for the most are. I only have a couple of minor complaints as I feel analogue movements seem a bit touchy, so nestling a piece exactly where you want can be slightly troublesome. Thankfully, there are visual cues conveniently color coded to let you know if a piece and placed and which other pieces it's flush against. Generally, though, getting in and building is effortless and rewarding for players who love to create.
It's ironic that the one thing everyone has access to in real life -- imagination -- comes at such a high price in "Disney Infinity." Perhaps, that's a bit too harsh. The Toy Box mode provides a universe of possibilities, even if you can't afford the physical DLC; and in a way, even promotes some sharing between friends. As with any game supporting a vast network of user generated content, time invested searching, producing, and sharing run hand in hand with your overall enjoyment. Basically, you get out what you're willing to put in -- and there's already a lot to enjoy. It reminds me of childhood times when you invited your friends over, dragged out that huge wooden chest full of junk and just started making up your own games.
You have to think of "Disney Infninty" as a system rather than a single game. Ideally, what you're buying into is dozens and dozens of hours of fun, customizable content with the promise of even more physical add-ons regularly debuting at the toy store. Though a deep investment from the parential bank, children and adults should equally find something here to keep them playing for months -- if not years -- to come.
Score: 7 out of 10
"Disney Infinity" is available right now for PC, PS3, Wii U, and Xbox 360. REview copy provided by "Disney Interactive Media. Reviewed on Xbox 360.