To figure out the premise behind Avalanche Software’s Disney Infinity, one need only look at Toy Box mode. When you begin to play Infinity, you will be transported to your youth; to the days where you would have all of your toys scattered about your living room floor – and you would play. It wouldn’t matter what you played, or which toys you used; you would simply spend hours in a world of your own creation. You see, Disney has created a childhood simulator, where you can stand on equal footing with your kids, toss the rules out the window, and just have as much fun as you want! And if you don’t have kids? Well, nobody is going to judge – it’s that awesome.
Infinity is really so much fun because the game offers you a lot of choice. For instance, the game is split into two parts: The Play Sets and the Toy Box. Do you want to play a more structured adventure? Then the mission-based Play Sets are for you. Feel like playing in an open world and being creative? Fire up the Toy Box mode. Even within each of these different ways to play, there are even more options, allowing you to tailor your experience to suit your personality and playing style.
Mike is pretty happy that you’re joining him on campus.
To begin your foray into Disney Infinity, it is necessary to acquire the Starter Kit, which is composed of the base, a Play Set piece, and three figures. This ensemble will be your gateway to the world of Disney Infinity. The base is a USB-powered platform (it plugs into your console) that has sockets for a Play Set piece and up to two figures. The Play Set piece that comes with the starter pack actually contains three completely unique (and fantastically rendered) worlds: Monsters University, Metroville (The Incredibles) and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Each of the three included figures correspond with one of the three gaming worlds listed above (in the same order): James P. Sullivan (Sulley), Mr. Incredible, and Captain Jack Sparrow. The base is well-constructed and is very straightforward to use (pieces can only fit a certain way), and the Play Set pieces are just as solid.
However, the real stars of the show are definitely the character statues. Each figure is very well-made, and while they don’t have articulating or flexible limbs, changing the way they are is unnecessary, as their poses are each completely a tribute to their individual personalities. These statues may not necessarily look exactly like the source material, but all of them look like they were pulled right out of whatever franchise they came from -in mid sentence- and turned into a perfect toy version of themselves (even Jack Sparrow has his pinkie and index finger up in the air). Placing a character statue on the base results in a perfect on-screen, animated toy version of that character, complete with all of their mannerisms and powers.
Look at the fingers! Perfect!
The adventures begin when you pick a setting and an appropriate character. Once in the Play Set of your choice, you will be given missions to fulfill that will increase your experience points and net you some in-game coin. Missions could involve collecting objects from around the level, escorting people around, or even defeating enemies in battle. The missions in each Play Set are unique to that particular world, so there is little fear of direct duplication. Another benefit of completing missions and exploring the Play sets is that you will also unlock toys that you can purchase and save in a virtual Toy Box for your adventures; these toys will also be available for your Toy Box mode. The missions are not usually difficult, and are even better when played in local split-screen co-op. Unfortunately, to play in a Play Set adventure in this mode, you will need two characters from the same playset – so, for instance, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible will be able to play together in Metroville, but Sulley and Jack can’t play together in Monsters University. However (and this is where it gets really cool) if you want to mix and match characters, you can just jump into the Toy Box mode and all bets are off.
The Toy Box, for all intents and purposes, is a level-editor; a sandbox in which you can create your own adventures. The default Toy Box that comes with the Starter Pack is a floating island complete with a race track and a model of Cinderella’s castle. Your characters appear in a open gazebo, with four pressure pads that can be stepped on to access different parts of the menu (you can also access the menu using your controller). From here, you can explore the landscape, add toys or other characters that you have unlocked, change the terrain or even just drive around. Remember all of those levels that you gained and the toys that you unlocked playing the campaign modes in the Play Sets? Well those things do not go to waste here, as each level that you gained earns you a spin in the Toy Vault, which is a random assortment of toys that you can “win” by pressing a button to simulate a lottery. The vault also contains special toys that actually unlock even more goodness that will allow you to further customize the Toy Box. The other toys that you unlocked throughout the game will be available in the Toy Box for any character to use.
Toy Box Mode is where absolutely anything can happen.
Disney has also given players the ability to create their own Toy Boxes from scratch. In fact, there are 100 Toy Box slots available to store your creations or to download pre-made ones from Disney. Believe me, one of the first things you do when you get Infinity is to download some of the developer-made Toy Boxes. Currently (as of posting time for this article), there are at least ten different Toy Boxes available to play with. From side-scrolling platforming levels to racing, there is probably something for everyone contained within the list. My current favourite is the one that combines Tron (complete with a Recognizer that you can fly around) and Sugar Rush (from Wreck-It Ralph). The quality of these creations is pretty spectacular, and they are each well-worth a Toy Box slot. To enhance your characters even further, you can purchase booster packs that allow you to add abilities and tools to your character, as well as themes to your Toy Box levels. These come in packs of two and are random, so you don’t know what you’re going to get. Most of the environment re-designs I could give or take – but some of the rare boosters are actually a lot of fun to use and add a lot to Toy Box mode.
In terms of the graphics, Disney Infinity sits in an interesting space. It’s not trying to be the next Assassin’s Creed or Gran Turismo. What it does manage to do is present the solidly-designed characters really well. All of the elements of the levels look fantastic in the context of the worlds that they are in, and the animations are smooth for the most part. I have experienced very little glitching, and have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the production. Audio is also fantastic – music is based on the original properties and I’m having a hard time determining if some of the voice actors are actually the originals. The controls are also really easy to pick up. Smallest Thumb had absolutely no difficulty picking this up and playing – just ask the people that she slaughtered at this event.
When Jack is feeling lonely, he calls up his pals to go a-plundering
I need to reel all of this imagination back to reality for a moment and talk about the collectible aspect seeing as that directly affects co-operative mission play. As I said before, to play Disney Infinity, you need to get the starter pack (which runs at about $75). A good rule of Toronto Thumb is to plan to have between 4 to 6 hours of game-play per character for the campaign mode. However, as I also mentioned, you cannot play in a Play Set with a character that does not belong in that world. Thus, for each Play Set that you’d want to engage in co-operatively, you will need to own at least one more character from that environment. So it all boils down to how valuable Play Set co-op game-play is to you (since the Toy Box doesn’t have a character restriction). An extra single Disney Infinity figure costs about $13, while a set of 3 (that compliments the Starter Pack) is $30. It’s a tough choice to begin with, especially if you have children (you know that they’ll want them all). Muddying the water even more is the fact that owning more than one character in a set actually has in-game consequences (it’s awesome listening to Mr. and Mrs. Incredible talk to each other from time to time); and owning all of the characters of a set and having each character interact with a hidden vault in their specific Play Set unleashes a spectacular bonus. Let’s not also forget that there are other Play Set Packs available that include two figures and a Play Set piece…
And what if you don’t want to drop money on new figures and Play Sets and boosters? You don’t have to! That’s the beauty of Disney Infinity. The Starter Pack on its own is definitely worth the cash. With the three characters, you’re looking at a fair amount of single-player fun, plus all of the extended goodness of the Toy Box. There are enough unlockables for you (and your friends or family) to enjoy without breaking the bank. The catch is that you have to be cool about not being able to access every single thing in the game – and it’s hard. Character vaults are all over the place, and if you don’t have the appropriate character, it plays a cut-scene of all the cool things that specific character can do. I have two words for you: be strong.
If you get tired of the first three Play Sets…
I mentioned before that Disney Infinity was like a childhood simulator. When you watch kids play with toys, they do not always use the toy in its intended role. I remember putting together a LEGO The Lord of the Rings set (the Mines of Moria) while Smallest Thumb was playing with her LEGO Friends Corvette. While I was building, those upstart LEGO friends drove in, accosted Legolas and then took off with him. That’s the beauty of being a kid: within the confines of play, there are no laws that state that one character cannot be used in a different context – and that is what Disney Infinity is all about; it’s about unleashing the full power of your imagination by using the toys as a launch point. With a great amount of play per character figure, both in Play Sets and in Toy Box mode, as well as the ability to have 2-person split-screen local multi-player (Play Set) and 4-person online (Toy Box – and you can even have a mix of local and online), the re-playability of this franchise is astounding.
I could go on and on about Disney Infinity (as could Smallest Thumb), but I’m going to cap it right here except for a final thought. As it stands, the Starter Pack is an experience unto itself (and worth every penny). Every character and Play Set that’s added simply adds more to the game (the value of which is judged by you, the player – which determines whether you purchase the items or not). However, I have a funny feeling that this is only the beginning. There are already indications of a number of cool characters coming soon (like Rapunzel and the Snow Queen); but Disney has tons of properties that they can leverage for new content. Star Wars? Indiana Jones? The Marvel Universe? None of these have been announced officially – but it certainly gets the imagination going, doesn’t it?