Review: Disney Infinity (Wii U)

A game with huge aspirations that ends up feeling too bland too much.

By Evan Campbell. Posted 09/05/2013 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fun and creative Toy Box mode (with online multiplayer); crisp visuals with a cohesive and stylistic aesthetic (including the toys); and ambition
Poison Mushroom for...
So much content locked away; no play set co-op out of the box; bland play set objectives; clunky camera; and not much use of Wii U's strengths

Disney means family-friendly fun to people across the world. But with Disney Infinity, the company seems to have misplaced most of the fun, instead focusing on ways to lock away content behind toys, play sets and card packs.

The ambitions behind the game are huge as well as inspiring: Avalanche Software (though Heavy Iron Studios handled the Wii U port) brings the characters and worlds of various Disney properties together, thanks to a stylistic, and an almost claymation-esque, art style. But while Mr. Incredible can mix and mingle with Jack Sparrow in Toy Box mode, they can’t step into each other’s play sets, which are traditional, objective-based video game campaigns. And here is where things go astray.

Disney Infinity ships with a base for bringing the toys into the game, three play sets– The Incredibles, Monsters University and Pirates of the Caribbean– and three figures– Mr. Incredible, Sulley and Jack Sparrow (there’s also a power disc thrown in). The game definitely skews toward a younger demographic, or Disney superfans, but either way, co-op seems like the best route for playing. And that’s fine, for Toy Box. But out of the box, playing cooperatively with friends or family is a no-go unless you plunk down extra cash for more characters native to those universes. That’s hard to swallow.

If you bite the bullet and purchase more characters for co-op play on Wii U, the game limits you to using the GamePad for the first player and Wii Remote and Nunchuk for the second, even though the back of the box clearly showcases the Wii U Pro Controller and the Classic Controller. This is especially annoying because, among other reasons, the game utilizes a third-person perspective in a 3D world. The lack of two sticks for the second player to manage their viewpoint makes things even more difficult in a game that offers a fussy, less-than-ideal camera. Oh, and I must not forget that even after mandating use of the GamePad, Disney Infinity doesn’t capitalize on a major strength of the system by offering off-TV play in two-player mode, forcing users to split the screen (off-TV is thankfully supported while playing alone).

After dealing with these annoyances, the Toy Box does showcase the strengths of the idea and design. Unleashing a Minecraft-like experience to players but overflowing with Disney goodness, it is a sight to behold, even for the Disney doubters. Running and jumping around a split world that offers Wreck-It Ralph locales on one side and Tron environments on the other is surreal but also pretty awesome. Add online multiplayer for up to four people to the mix, and game play becomes more varied, finally leading to some fun. I enjoyed racing around in cars and blasting my younger nieces with toilet-paper guns for close to 45 minutes, even though we live on opposite sides of the country.

Toy Box is aptly named and showcases the most promise for Disney Infinity. I’m by no means big into creating my own worlds or messing too much around with the tools available, but seeing what Disney– as well as my nieces– is making demonstrates the true strength of the idea and game. But Disney and Avalanche unfortunately lock a lot of the creation content behind play set requirements, meaning that players must venture through the traditional campaigns to acquire items and characters on a specific world, like Pirates of the Caribbean. This sounds OK on paper but is a terrible decision.

The play sets define mediocrity and basically equate to collect-o-thons for the famous Disney denizens. Yes, Jack Sparrow can command a ship and sail from island to island, which is neat at first. But what awaits on land is more “follow the green arrow” boringness. And the sea battles become bland sooner than expected. Avalanche tries to counter the blandness with different gameplay flavors in each play set– stealth aspects in Monsters University, action combat with The Incredibles– but the characters control too similarly, the camera acts wonky and it all bleeds together. I get it, the play sets cater to a younger demographic, but I’ve had plenty of fun with the Lego games and understand this could be much better.

But Lego games don’t have toys, you might be saying. Yes, and even with all my reservations about Disney Infinity, the toys are top-notch. As I said earlier, the art style is truly remarkable, not only because it blends so many characters and worlds together, but also because, after what must be an arduous process, they look attractive. The figurines– with incredible likeness to the animated characters– are detailed yet feel solidly built. I could see countless Disney fans displaying their characters throughout their homes, long after putting away the game.

But that’s the problem. The game cuts its own legs out from under it by locking content so many different ways– whether it’s via toys or play sets. And possibly the worst offense is the lottery system within Toy Box, which holds back cool items like helicopters or assets from Tron (can you tell I like that universe yet?). Disney Infinity shows a spark of brilliance with the Toy Box mode, but everything else in game is rough, raw or boring.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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