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Disney Infinity
Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Avalanche Software
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Editor

Graphics & Sound:
I knew I would both like and love Disney Infinity the moment it was announced earlier this year. I am a massive to the point of obsessive Disney fan, and I loved both Skylanders games, so a combination of the two seemed like a win. Toss in the mention of Toy Story 3: The Game’s stellar "Toybox Mode" and we’re on the verge of "Ricky’s Dream Game!"

Disney Infinity delivers on nearly every front and I couldn’t be happier. The opening intro is one of the most magical, wonder-filled intros I can remember in a game. This sense of magic carries into most of the game yet, like Mickey’s first time under the sorcerer’s hat, there are a few misfires. For example, the overall presentation is a lot of fun, though there are a few surprising omissions. For instance, nearly all of the well-known characters featured in the game (both playable and non-) are voiced. This is awesome, except most of the voices sound out of place and barely work. I almost wish the characters remained silent, especially considering how much personality is packed into character animation. I also love the art style used for both the in-game and figures. They’re a ways off from being "on spec," but the look is – unlike the voice work – a nice change.

While expecting Johnny Depp or Billy Crystal is a longshot, I was really surprised by the lack of authentic music of any sort. The stand-in scores sound alright and match their respective Play Sets, but moments like a naval battle with the Flying Dutchman would have been so much better with the film’s booming score. At the very least, I expected "A Pirate’s Life for Me," especially since uncovering "Grim Grinning Ghosts" was one of my favorite moments in Toy Story 3: The Game.

I am, however, willing to admit these issues are likely an issue of fandom clouding my common sense about how business works. I still wish for more, but I have to admit everything works as a whole.

Just to get it out of the way, Disney Infinity is as expensive as video games get. First there’s the starter pack, which comes with the game, three themed playsets (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, and Monsters University), three starter characters (Jack Sparrow, Mr. Incredible, and Sully), and your first Power Disc. On top of that, there are additional character figures, Play Sets, and Power Discs. Best estimate, a launch set of everything will run about $270 provided you are incredibly lucky with Power Discs, which are sold in blind packs. And, there’s more on the way as we get closer to Christmas. Then there’s the special “crystal” variant characters and, if you have the money, the elusive D23 Special Edition Mickey only available on eBay…

In case you were wondering, this is why I knew I would hate Disney Infinity and begs the question, “Is it worth the price?” Mileage may vary, but the answer is yes.

Disney Infinity’s best attribute is it offers something for nearly everyone. The three starter Play Sets offer slightly different gameplay styles while the two additional ones (Cars and The Lone Ranger) manage to take the differences even further. For example, Monsters University is features a number of mini-adventures contained to 3 – 4 small levels. Meanwhile, The Incredibles places you in an open world as you thwart Syndrome’s latest plot. Pirates of the Caribbean almost plays like a small-scale version of Assassin’s Creed IV, complete with naval combat and exploration.

Each offers about 6 – 7 hours’ worth of playtime, though the number can climb as high as 9 depending on how thorough you want to be with collectables. There is a lot to do and find in each level, to the point it can feel a bit overwhelming. Levels are littered with prize containers, as well as side-missions, challenges, and Gold Stars. A lot of content is great, though the game could really benefit from some sort of completion meter to help players keep track of what’s left in each area. Finding everything in smaller areas, isn’t a big deal, but in the larger areas (particularly Pirates), searching for that last challenge is frustrating.

Gameplay isn’t consistently fun across all Play Sets, though “fun” is really a matter of opinion. Of the starter Play Sets, Pirates was the more entertaining. Monsters University feels a bit like an introductory set, which makes sense since, of the three, it is probably the most appealing to younger kids. The Incredibles is fun, but can get tedious after the fourth or fifth fetch quest, particularly when you have to travel from one side of the city to the other.

Ultimately, Play Sets are a way to unlock new toys and pieces for Toy Box Mode. Arguably, Toy Box is the reason to pick up Disney Infinity and where you’ll spend all of your time once you've tired of repeating Play Set missions. With Toy Box, you (and up to three friends online) can spend hours placing objects in the area just to see what happens, or even create your own games. You can even upload your creations to share with others, or download special Disney-created levels, such as recreations of Disneyland or Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia.

Play Sets – or at least the story-based missions – aren’t much of a challenge at all. There are no difficulty settings and death is a minor inconvenience with no real penalties. Instead, most of the challenge is packed into side-challenges scattered around each level. These typically involve collecting orbs, checkpoint races, or the rare combat challenge. Each features three levels of difficulty and some, namely the race challenges – will test any player’s patience. Thankfully, unlockable content isn’t tied to completing challenges, so at most you’ll miss out on gold (used to purchase stuff in each level) and sparks (Disney Infinity’s version of experience points). Even then, both are easily obtainable by completing other tasks.

Toy Box challenges are similar to in-game challenges in every way. Actually, these are much harder. Snagging a Bronze is easy, but Silver or Gold is a tall order and sometimes requires figuring out little glitches (such as a handy hoverboard jump) to win. Again, nothing major is locked behind any of these challenges, so don’t sweat it if you can’t win.

Power Discs, which are placed under characters, can help offset some difficulties. Think of these as "cheat codes." The TRON disc gives you 10% more Spark while Fix-It Felix’s Hammer speeds up health regeneration. So far, Power Discs offer slight advantages in some situations, though future releases may offer even greater benefits.

Game Mechanics:
Mechanically, each Play Set is slightly different, though all share the same core controls. The only real differences involve the actual physical play. For instance, Monsters University features a lot of ranged combat and vehicles, while Pirates is primarily based around melee combat, exploration and naval combat. I was impressed by how much variety Avalanche was able to squeeze out of each game. Everyone will have their favorites, for sure, but each feels right. The only outlier is Cars, which is 100% vehicle-based.

With the exception of the Incredibles figures, there isn’t much difference between characters. All three of the Pirates figures are identical mechanically. On one hand, this allows you to play with only your favorite characters and not worry about having to switch out every few seconds. On the other hand, I rarely felt the need to use all of the figures in my collection except when I needed one to play a certain challenge. In the long run, this only matters if you’re intent on completing the Hall of Heroes, but I would have loved more reasons to switch. At the very least, I would have liked some mission variation when playing as the villain. Davy Jones out on a mission to stop Davy Jones is a bit odd.

It takes some time to really get a handle on creation in Toy Box Mode, though once you’ve completed all of the Master Builder adventures, the only limit is your imagination… and luck. The ability to "create anything" is a bit of a misnomer, at least when you first start. You start Toy Box with a decent number of toys, though the best and most useful toys are stuck behind an in-game pay wall. You need to buy some using gold collected in Play Sets, while others are found by random chance. When characters level they earn a token, which you then spend on a random chance game.

I don’t mind the concept behind the system, but couldn’t figure out why some really important parts – like different camera angles – were locked into this system. It’s great to say I can re-create Super Mario Bros., but forcing me to grind through challenges and missions for the chance to possibly unlock that one key piece (like the side-scrolling camera) isn’t fair and kills creative momentum.

Disney Infinity is by no means perfect, but it is still a lot of fun and has much to offer. At its best, it is a sandbox game unlike any other where you can create to your heart’s content. At its worst, it is a collection of fun, but flawed, games parents can play with their kids and still have fun. Either way, it is definitely worth the price.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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