The scope of Disney Interactive’s ‘Disney Infinity’ is mind-boggling, both in a fiscal-sense and within the game. With over $100 million invested over the multiyear development of the title, Disney spared no expense creating a highly customizable and expansive framework for children to explore and to safely create and share.
Disney Infinity takes full advantage of Disney and Pixar’s endless supply of classic and modern characters, offering ‘toys’ from almost every Disney franchise ever made. Along with the characters comes the famous settings, stages, and items, all corresponding with each of the classic stories. That’s just a few of the key elements of ‘Disney Infinity,’ the real magic happens when you start creating with them.
You will hear the word ‘Toybox’ used quite often to describe the nature of the experience, that’s because it is truly one of the best words to describe the gameplay. Disney allows users to create boundless worlds using the tools offered in the game. Not all of the best pieces are available to the player at first though, many of the items require quite a bit of trial-by-fire. I thought this would be frustrating part to the game for a younger audience, but it turned out that the inclusion of an MMO reward-style mechanic to the gameplay (a first for a younger audience) was actually one of the most favored parts.
At the very center of this gigantic, multi-million dollar operation are actual, physical-toys. These are called ‘Playsets’ and they are the first step in playing online. A playset is almost like a standard action-figure, one that you probably had back in your day, but they also come with an important set piece and online function. This piece is simply placed on the ‘Disney Infinity Base’ which the console scans and ports the characters into the virtual world. This is where the true world of Disney Infinite is opened to the child.
Using their new characters, children have the option to set off in the newly created ‘character-themed’ open-world and stages. In this character-world there are special missions, story lines, quests and challenges and other character-specific content to keep a child busy for hours and hours. Now the “themed worlds” are designed to work with the characters that belong in those settings (Jack Sparrow goes in the Pirate world for example) but there is another gigantic section of the game that is truly what the experience is all about. These are the player-created worlds.
In player-created worlds, the game works just like you would imagine a virtual toybox would, with every character that you have unlocked playing together and interacting. Sully can race on cars from Pixar’s ‘CARS’, you can drop Cinderella’s castle in the middle of your world, things like that.
Now since the center of this entire franchise relies on parent buying playsets, you probably want to know what is included, that’s the good news. The playsets aren’t just more characters, there’s the story missions and settings that we talked about earlier, but they also bring new gameplay entirely. Disney made a terrific starter-kit, and I have to say anyone interested in the game should start with it, it’s the perfect beginning to the adventure.
The playsets will bring new things for your child to do in the form of actual gameplay. For example when loading up ‘The Incredibles,’ you will now get super-powers and the ability to battle it out in brawls. If you pick up ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ you will suddenly be swordfighting and swashbuckling. Each of the playsets plays-out in a fairly standard ‘level system’ but none are really alike. When you jump into the Monsters University Playset,’ it will be nothing like Pirates, it’s truly handcrafted to each franchise and Disney did not ‘copy and paste’ anything from one Playset to the next, you get your money’s worth with each purchase, and that’s what parents are going to remember.
[quote_center]A standard playthrough with my young 5-year old niece was a good six hours of giggles and exciting moments whenever a famous character came onto the screen, if left to her own devices, the story would have lasted longer I’m sure.[/quote_center]
The first thing that really made me want to recommend the title were the co-op features. There are so many moments that relied on my neice and I having to work together and parents of multiple children will definitely like the idea of both kids playing at the same time and not having to wait turns. Most of the time this meant one driving and one blasting away, or the two of us taking on an entire stage together side-by-side, that’s what made the game really special. We were doing it together and we were having a blast. Now how ‘deep’ the story goes, depends on who is writing the review I think. If I were to talk about the campaigns to another adult, I wouldn’t say these were epic-quests, but if you were to ask my niece what she thought of the experience, she would talk for hours about each of the moments that she played with the exact same excitement that I would talk about ‘Star Wars Episode V’.
The campaigns might be shorter, on the 5-6 hour scale, but they are also designed for smaller attention spans and short playtimes. Parents usually don’t want their kids spending 8-10 hours on a game a day, and if it took weeks to go through a playset children would most likely never make it to the end. The 5-6 hours is perfect for a few fun nights of story-missions, then it’s off to create a new world on their own with their new characters.
That is the fun story-missions, the toybox will blow your mind.
You have so many options in this virtual world that it is immediately clear how thorough Disney was in the design of the game and how each child might want to play the game differently. If the blank, open-world seems a bit too intimidating to a child (or if they are just a little too eager to jump in and explore) there is the option to jump into prefabricated worlds which you can simply add to. Unlocking more content for your open-world is both challenging and random. You can unlock some content by doing favors (quests or missions) and some is just randomly won. Now this part surprised me the most.
In an adult-centered MMO, there is a way to get a special item. You do this, and craft that, and you get the special character or item. In Disney Infinity there is also a ‘chance dynamic’ and when I thought it would be a problem, it was a delight to my niece. The random chances were just another mini-game to her. It was like playing a slot-machine to her, and losing was part of it and winning seemed to be a thousand times more exciting than just achieving it could ever have been.
When you level up you or achieve something special you get ‘Free Spins’ and a chance to unlock some of best items in the game. Maybe it’s because kids don’t have very much to lose in their innocent minds, but even playing and losing was a blast to my little niece. There was the ultra-excitement when a new free-spin appeared on the screen, then the blast of using it and hoping to win, and if we did get a prize, then the room just exploded with joy. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of the days in Mario 2 when I would hope for extra-lives in the slot-machine game at the end of the level.
The toybox alone is an amazing experience that has countless of hours and endless possibilities, i can imagine kids sharing their ideas with friends, finding new worlds created by others and really opening up creatively by playing it. It’s Disney at Disney’s best. Any child that has played Minecraft or Little Big Planet will easily be able to pick up the open-world creator, but even if they haven’t the UI is very easy to master.
Scrolling through categories you find more and more items to use in your world. You just drop some animals, a house, a few bandits and your character, and you instantly have a game to play. You can even just use pieces that were already made for your other Playsets, like the racetrack from CARS and jump in and play ‘Farm Racers’ or whatever you want to call it.
The entire idea to keep this franchise going is the idea that parents will be extra Playsets and items for their children to use, so yes it means buying more at some point down the road. Luckily the prices are on the smaller side and the content they offer is extensive and worth the price. The Lone Ranger Playset offers all of the story-missions, the characters and themes for your child to play in the campaign and the open-world at $30-$34 depending on promotions, so that’s half the price of a new game, and it could potentially last infinitely longer. Also the Playsets build on one another, so your adding to an experience, now there are that many more pieces to use, that many more characters to play, and you are still playing on the same game, not just buying a new one that will be worthless after a few days.
The game is perfect for these exact reasons, and the true foundation of my scoring it. The game is a blast to play alone and so much more so with friends or siblings. The co-op features all encourage teamwork and fun, while the random prizes offered a thrill and excitement to the leveling process. The open-world toybox is the most extensive player-generated content system in gaming right now for this age-range, and offers an excellent medium to explore creatively and promotes pure fun and artistic adventures. It’s great to see a video-game that offers so much to do, but also allows complete freedom for children to design levels and stages in just moments.
More information on the starter-kit mentioned at : amazon/disneyinfinity