Article by Matt Harper; Media by Miles Priester
When Avalanche Software and Disney Interactive released Toy Story 3: The Video Game in 2010, expectations were low. Actually, that’s an overstatement. There simply were no expectations. It’s long been known among gamers that, much like game-to-film transitions, film-to-game transitions are almost always abysmal. When those who were brave enough to try out the new Toy Story game got to actually playing it, though, they found themselves enjoying one of the most inventive, purely enjoyable gaming experiences of that year – the rare movie game that was successful, largely because Avalance felt no need to rehash the story people surely already saw in the film and instead gifted the world with a creation known, quite fittingly, as the “Toy Box.”
The Toy Box, you see, is a mode that allowed players to set up their own little worlds with whatever props, characters, weapons, and more that they wanted to use. It was a video game version of any creative child’s playtime, basically. When Disney saw the highly positive reaction that this game mode received, they secretly put Avalanche Software to work on a new game, one that would expand the Toy Box beyond its somewhat limited scope and its one major problem. That problem, you see, was that only Toy Story characters and props were available to gamers. Disney Infinity is the name of the new game from Avalanche, and, I’ll be frank, it’s bloody brilliant.
Disney Infinity was released on August 18th for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the Nintendo Wii U. It must be made immediately clear to anyone interested that it is a very pricey endeavor – the game comes in a $75 “starter pack,” which gives you the game disc itself, the “Infinity Base” (which I will explain momentarily), and three figures of beloved Disney characters. Those figures are Sulley, from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University, Mr. Incredible, from Pixar’s The Incredibles, and Captain Jack Sparrow, from the enormously successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. You might be wondering why the game comes with figures, and the answer is that these are how you select which character or world you would like to play in the game.
Basically stealing the concept of the popular Skylanders franchise, Disney Infinity gives you the Infinity Base, a small plastic stand that plugs directly into your game console and features three small pads upon which to place one of your figures, a power disc, and a play set piece. Placing a figure on this stand lets you become this character, but, as cool as that is, it’s not the best part. Each figure you receive with the starter kit, you see, has their own standalone adventure. Basically, each character gets their own game. These games are about 5 hours long, if you tackle everything there is to tackle, and they’re a lot of fun. The Captain Jack adventure is an Assassin’s Creed-esque adventure with swashbuckling action, incredibly easy-to-learn but still quite challenging sea warfare, and some old-school platforming action. Sulley’s adventure is a stealth action game set on the entire campus from Monsters University, as well as rival school Fear Tech’s campus. Mr. Incredible’s adventure is an open-world superhero game set in Metroville, hometown of The Incredibles.
It’s incredible how unique each of the characters’ adventures manages to be while still carrying over some familiar elements. It’s easy to believe that, for many children, Disney Infinity will serve as a tool to teach them various game types that they’ll encounter in their life of gaming. Each character’s adventure allows you to unlock loads of props, vehicles, weapons, enemies, buildings, and more to use in the Toy Box. You can’t play as Captain Jack in the Monsters University adventure, you see, but you can unlock a lot of Monsters University-specific things for Jack to play with in the Toy Box! If it sounds like a lot to wrap your head around, it is. I guarantee you I’m not explaining it as well as it deserves, but you must realize it would be hard to do so. You are receiving three different games and one giant world to play around with and do whatever you want in the starter pack, to break it down into the simplest terms I can think of.
Sadly, we need to go back to that bit about the game’s pricey nature. This starter kit is just that… a start. Over the coming weeks, months, and years, Disney will be releasing additional figures and play sets for Disney Infinity. Each figure is going to run you $13, and most of the play sets are a whopping $30. What’s important to remember is that, for those thirteen bucks you drop, you’re getting yet another 5 hour adventure and various toys for your Toy Box. The play sets come with not one but two new figures, meaning a whole 10 hours of new adventures for you and your family and friends to enjoy, plus, as always, more toys for your Toy Box. The Toy Box, and this isn’t something you can say about almost any other game, will never run out of new things to do. You will be able to keep adding to it, making as many worlds as you want with as many characters as you want, over and over and over again for as long as you choose to invest your time and money into the game that Avalanche Software has created. It’s mesmerizing stuff, when you look at it on that grand scale, and I can tell you right now that I’m already head-over-heels excited about the early October, Walmart-exclusive release of Woody from the Toy Story franchise’s figure, whose adventure mode looks like a fantastic time in the Wild West, where he is, of course, the rootinest, tootinest cowboy. Woody isn’t alone in October, either, as later that month, a Jack Skellington figure will be released for you Nightmare Before Christmas fans. And there’s a Mickey Mouse figure on the way, and several Cars figures already available, and Wreck-It-Ralph, and Tangled… and, oh, yeah, Marvel and Star Wars fans: Disney owns those franchises, too, so don’t be surprised if those worlds and their characters start popping up!
It’s going to be hard to summarize this review, because it’s a very strange sort of writing endeavor. The game is so unique that it’s hard to explain, and I’m afraid to throw too much praise on it without having experienced at least a year’s worth of additional figures and play sets. For example, I have yet to even mention that you can download your friends’ (or anyone else’s) Toy Box worlds for free if you’re connected online. I do want to mention that, though each figure comes with their own 5 hour adventure, there’s the chance that you might not like said adventure. If you don’t like stealth games, you probably won’t enjoy sneaking around as Sulley. If climbing things and throwing “pirate bombs” doesn’t sound fun, you might want to avoid Captain Jack’s journey to defeat Davy Jones. It’s wonderfully refreshing that all of the character’s receive stories that are wholly independent from their respective films, a trait that’s sadly incredibly rare among big name property games, but it’s also true that each game does have an issue here or there because so much of Avalanche Software’s time was spent focusing on making the Toy Box work. In the end, you’re just going to have to try Disney Infinity for yourself. It’s like Skylanders, except the game that comes with those expensive little toys is actually good. It’s like your childhood rolled up into one expensive but ridiculously fun package. It’s simply Disney Infinity, and I guarantee you that every Disney lover is going to remember why they fell in love in the first place.
Current Rating: 4/5 Future Rating: To Infinity and Beyond/5