They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. A few years ago, Skylanders — with its adventure game and action figures — came out of nowhere to become a big best-seller. Now Skylanders has a challenger called Disney Infinity.
(Disney Interactive for PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, 3DS, PC; Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older)
Replay Value: 9.4
Overall Score: 9.0
Pros: Toy Box is brilliant; so much to do; amazing beginning.
Cons: No online play; some frame-rate drops; adventure mode needs work.
Disney Infinity is somewhat different from Skylanders because of its fascinating Toy Box mode. You can buy various Playsets, each with three characters. These let you enter adventure worlds based on certain Disney movies.
So how about the action figures? The first thing I noticed with Infinity figures is that they don’t seem quite as detailed, colorful or elaborate as the Skylanders figures. In one case, the silver paint from Mike’s retainer splashed onto his teeth. That shouldn’t happen: This is Disney, after all.
Then again, playing as Captain Jack Sparrow or Mike or one of the Incredibles superheroes has its own kind of super-cool factor.
Here’s why: You already know these movie characters. You’ve thought about them. You’ve probably even made up your own stories in your head about them. They are super-cool before you take them out of the box.
So, once you get them inside the game via a Base that plugs into your console, how great is the experience? Does the Disney and Pixar sense of wonder translate to adventures that are interactive on disk?
THE BEGINNING’S AMAZING
Yes and no. The game’s beginning is probably the most awesome kids’ game introduction that I’ve ever seen. Instead of a cut scene that tells a generic story, this really sparks the imagination. And boom, boom, boom! It even got my heart beating in anticipation.
At first, you see a bright white spark on the screen. It’s the spark of imagination and creativity. As you move the spark around, pine trees and flowers grow. Waterfalls appear. You meet Mickey, and then your spark becomes a human made of many sparks.
You rush through a sparklingly curious Disney world where you briefly meet Jack Skellington. Soon you enter the desert world of Toy Story, the campus of Monsters University and the world of The Incredibles (defeat monsters!). Then, you meet Jack Sparrow (get shot through a cannon!).
All the while, you’re learning a bit of the game. But it’s intuitive and exciting, not like a boring school class. Take the time to look around in these areas instead of just following the characters. The environments are intensely beautiful. There’s no other way to describe it; this intro is utterly masterful, a real step forward in videogames.
BUT WAIT: THE ADVENTURE STUTTERS
I put the Captain Jack Sparrow figure on the Base and entered his world of scurvy pirates and cannonball mayhem. I noticed that the adventure game portions of Disney Infinity are good. But they don’t break the mold like the game’s opening does.
After an hour, I had enjoyed the game play and leveled up a few times. During missions, I found lots of pieces of clothing, parts of characters and even parts of a ship. I discovered areas to zip-line across, and these were fun, if not stimulating. But they reminded me of another game series, Sly Cooper.
I released a prisoner during my time in this pirate world, but he didn’t seem happy enough to be freed from a dungeon high atop Buccaneer Bay. Even after downloading an update, I noticed some frame-rate issues and camera-angle problems. The adventure portion, while full of things to do, clearly needs more exhilarating thrills. Tightening the game design and programming would help, too.
INSIDE THE TOY BOX
But the biggest deal with Infinity is the Toy Box mode. Introduced in a smaller way in Disney’s landmark Toy Story 3 game, the Toy Box lets you do an infinite number of cool things. In fact, it almost reminds me a bit of Minecraft — Disney style. (Soon, there will be an app that will let you edit your world anywhere via your iPad.)
In the Toy Box, you can build your own version of all things Disney. When I entered, right away I got six spins for toys that let me accumulate Muppet characters to populate my world. Then I got ramps that would help if I wanted to build a race track. I also chose a giant waterfall. Immediately, I put up about five of them my world. I just love water features.
I christened the world “Owl Land” since I admire these birds of prey more than any other. Hopefully, I’ll find some owls in the Toy Box, too.
Once you’re done with your world (this will take some time), you can’t upload it online for others to check out. Too bad! But you can download some Disney-created worlds.
A VERY WORTHY COMPETITOR
I’ve only begun to explore the vastness that is Disney Infinity. I still have to check out the others worlds more fully, like Monsters U and Incredibles. I also have a three-figure villain pack, which will add some mild evil to the experience. And I can’t wait for some Nightmare Before Christmas characters.
While the adventure portion will need a fair amount of polish in future editions, the Toy Box nearly makes up for the various adventures’ lack of passion and emotion. But all told, Infinity is a very worthy competitor to Skylanders.
Let the battle begin!