Platforms: PC | PS3 | PS4 | Wii U | Xbox 360 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Avalanche Software | Ninja Theory (combat)
Publisher: Disney Interactive
There's no such thing as a "good game for kids." There are only good games, some of which are more accessible than others. Take Minecraft, designed to encourage experimentation and creativity regardless of age. Or Mario, beloved by millions despite punishing each pitfall with instant death.
Half of Disney Infinity 2.0 gets this absolutely right. The toybox mode is utterly fantastic no matter how old you are. Create your own levels, invite some friends and then watch your favourite Disney and Marvel toys come to life. It's genuinely magical.
Sadly the other half displays the same lazy level design, shonky mechanics and lack of care that typifies so-called kids games. "Who cares? It's just for children."
Fun fact: everyone deserves quality software. So thank goodness that Disney Infinity 2.0's better half is also its biggest by far!
As a Marvel and Disney fan myself, perhaps the most pleasing improvement of Infinity 2.0 is the figures themselves. They're much chunkier and more solid than the first wave, designed to feel satisfying and substantial in hand. They're also more unique in game due to the new skill trees, which lets you increase various stats and unlock signature skills lifted directly from the films and comics, meaning that your Groot will be different from your friends'. "I am Groot," after all.
Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow come included with the starter pack, while a huge number of extra playsets and boosters are already available. You'll have to pay a premium for the brilliantly oversized figures (such as Venom and Hulk), and the most gorgeously detailed (Rocket Raccoon, Stich and Donald Duck etc.) in standalone blisterpacks, but every character looks and feels fantastic.
You'll then summon them directly into the game by placing them on the new base. It's a cinch, though you'll also need to plonk down a playset counter to unlock the Avengers, Guardians Of The Galaxy (sold separately) and Spider-Man (sold separately) content. The idea being that you'll enjoy a curated campaign designed by Avalanche themselves, with input from Marvel master Brian Michael Bendis, and see your heroes take care of business on their own turf.
This went horribly wrong.
I have reviewed the Guardians Of The Galaxy playset in a separate article, because it's one of the worst gameplay experiences I've suffered through in half a decade and has the gall to charge an additional fee, but the bundled Avengers content is easily the best of the bunch... because it's only boring, dull and crushingly mediocre. You'll trudge through an amateurish hodgepodge of limp badly-acted tripe for a few hours, engaging in repetitive arena combat and fetch/carry objectives against a tiny variety of copy-pasted foes, and occasionally navigate an enormous empty and primitive slab of open world in which there's almost nothing to do.
Difficulty is all over the shop, bosses are terrible and kids will be bored senseless. Put simply, it's worse than most shoddy licensed shovelware, let alone the superb LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
At least the characters all feel unique and levelling them is a joy... until you enter combat and roll the dice to see whether your character is actually viable. Ninja Theory -- yes, THE Ninja Theory -- have disgraced themselves with a clunky and cumbersome combat model that feels unresponsive, sluggish and unfit for task when using a slower character. Lengthy input lag and noticeable pauses between animations abound. The likes of Black Widow and Gamora are fast and fluid enough to compete, but Groot and others can feel useless without hours spent grinding against a limp extra tower defence mode.
Investing a few skill points will help matters as damage and durability increase, but even then, piloting vehicles, moving the camera during boss fights and chaining double-jumps together under pressure is an absolute pain. Meanwhile lower level/unlevelled characters sometimes have to be brought into battle if your mainstay gets taken down, leading to hopelessly unbalanced odds.
"Who cares? It's just for kids." I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. For the record, I was raised on Uridium 2 and Megatraveller.
Instead, I'm going to explain how the Toybox saves the entire package and then some!
Toybox Mode is more than just a level editor. It's a TRUE sandbox that four players can romp around, summoning design elements, vehicles and unlocks while creating genuinely new content. Whether you're collaborating on an amazing singleplayer level to share with the community or just messing about with your kids or friends, it encourages creativity at every level.
You're still free to spend hours sculpting every pixel of every polygon to your specification, creating multi-themed levels out of free 3D brushes and unlockable buildings, but now the process is much more accessible. New brushes can bring entire zones of city or forest into being in seconds, after you choose an area and let the software do the rest. Creator AI procedurally creates complex content, such as complete race tracks, which you can then tweak to your heart's content or leap on with your pals. Better yet, themed 'builders' (adorably based on the lost boys) can run amok in your sandbox creating detailed buildings -- from treehouses to Agrabah and everything in between -- in front of your eyes, while you romp all over it, spawn enemies or just delight in each bizarre unpredictable new thing.
New INteriors let you create sprawling layered environments, labyrinths, homes, castles, labs, and multi-floored zones linked to doors in your exterior levels. You can decorate it, inhabit it with scripted characters and even use teleporters to make simple RPGs. A great addition, and one that will only deepen with time.
Setting up a Disney Interactive account may be time-consuming and clumsy, but it allows for fast content sharing and access to plenty of well-curated UGC levels, some of which are bonkers, brilliant or both.
But it's not quite enough. Sooner or later you'll want to drive on your racetrack. You'll want to fight the goons you've spawned in the level you created. You'll be forced back into those torrid playsets to unlock the content you want to create something brilliant. And you'll run headlong into those infuriating core mechanics that should have been so much better. Here's hoping that Disney Infinity 3.0 delivers better core gameplay, wit and writing to match the source material.
- Fantastic chunky figures
- Toybox is sensational, whether seriously creating content or just larking about
- New Toybox features improve depth and accessibility
- I am Groot
- Terrible playsets waste the license, gate content
- Shoddy core combat, driving and camera mechanics
- Middling graphics and performance issues*
- Best/fan-favourite figures sold separately
- I am Groot
The Short Version: Fabulous figurines and expanded creation tools make Disney Infinity 2.0 a sensational if inconsistent toybox. We'll probably have to wait until 3.0 for the playsets and core gameplay mechanics it deserves, but a little imagination can go a long way here.
*On performance issues: I tested Disney Infinity 2.0 on Xbox One and encountered a number of performance problems, not limited to frequent and marked frame rate drops while changing characters, autosaving and loading content. Loading times can be astonishingly lengthy. I also found that the game frequently didn't recognise the peripheral after booting up, forcing me to unplug and reattach it in order to continue.
It's a problem, but it's also possible that the latter issue is due to incompatibility with Xbox One's 'resume game in progress' functionality and the fact that I'm running preview firmware - so bear in mind that this could well not be the case on other platforms or once the October firmware is officially rolled out.