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Review: Disney Infinity 2.0

GTA may be more graphic, but I’d rather have kids play in that fully realized world, with the wealth of side-missions, beautiful views, and more authentic vehicles, than in this dumbed-down cartoon catastrophe.

1.5
Disney Infinity 2.0

For a game that’s all about unlocking the imagination, Disney Infinity 2.0 has very little. It’s at its most creative only when attempting to sell you things, conjuring up the city of Agrabah from the desert around Aladdin in the Treasure Hunt mode before morphing him into Tinkerbell, as she flies around London; Merida, as she combats bears on horseback; and Stitch, who comically claws his way up a skyscraper. These are mere glimmers of gameplay, however, none of which are actually available in-game: Pick up the pricey Starter Pack and the only thing you’re guaranteed is the Disney Infinity Base, which “transports” the included Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow action figures into the Avengers Playset. You can collect tokens to enable further missions as Rocket Raccoon and Nova, but you’ll have to purchase those characters—and their distinct Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy Playsets—separately. It’s crass commercialism at its finest.

If Disney Infinity 2.0 were more robust, all the things that are missing wouldn’t be nearly as noticeable. But the gray, drab, and redundant Manhattan streets that come packaged in the Avengers Playset fail to capture the eye the way that Skylanders’s worlds do, and beyond collecting tokens for the sake of being a completest, it’s a dead space with nothing of note to see. (Well, okay, you can laugh at how pathetically rendered the Statue of Liberty is.) Even the Brian Michael Bendis-penned story falls flat, with Wasp, Sif, Captain Marvel, and Nick Fury relegated to exposition machines, presenting a series of increasingly repetitive/difficult objectives that largely involve Hulk Smash Everything Here, Then Get Up and Smash Everything Over There. Missions exist more to show players what the engine is capable of making than to show off the developer’s creativity, and this ends up backfiring in any event, as it’s all so underwhelming. There isn’t even enough content in a single Playset to boost a character up to Level 20 (let alone to boost every available character)—though it’s not as if you’d notice if you did, since the majority of skill-tree upgrades are passive health- and damage-boosting effects.

Grand Theft Auto may be more graphic, but I’d rather have kids play in that fully realized world, with the wealth of side-missions, beautiful views, and more authentic vehicles, than in this dumbed-down cartoon catastrophe. Disney Infinity might be even more violent, ultimately, since the only thing Black Widow can apparently do is beat the snot out of Frost Giant foes. The first time you put Thor on a motorcycle and watch him harmlessly flip cars through the air with a reckless defiance of gravity, it’s amusing, but after that it’s just an example of programmers too lazy to include any actual physics. A living, breathing recreation of the Marvel universe apparently isn’t profitable: This is an empty shell of a sandbox, about as entertaining as whatever you yourself bring into it.

The main appeal of this children’s game turns out to be the Toy Box mode, within which players are tasked with making things that are actually fun to do. But good luck with that, given that you’ve just seen the best gameplay a team of professional developers could come up with. It’s like watching the Rangers get slaughtered, and then asking the Mighty Ducks to pull out a win. That might make a great movie, but it’s insulting to attempt in video-game form—and even worse when Disney expects players to share their content-generating results with other players pro bono. There are better opportunities in Minecraft, and more satisfying world-editing toolkits in LittleBigPlanet. The only thing Disney Infinity has going for it are its licensed characters, but when a game like Kingdom Hearts, released over a decade ago, looks and plays better, it’s clear that those licenses have been shamelessly squandered.

It’s hard not to sound like a curmudgeon here, and there’s something to be said for the way the Toy Box mode teaches basic programming skills to kids. After earning or buying Creativi-Toys within the game, the Magic Wand function can be used to draw logic pathways between objects—for example, so that pressing a button activates a fan. But it’s awkward to target interactive objects within the 3D space, and both tacky and frustrating that every feature isn’t available from the start (or without additional purchases). Moreover, given how lackluster the game appears, and how wonkily the AI and the vehicles perform, there’s little incentive to grind through and create more of this very bad thing. No, our imaginations—especially those of the younger demographic this game is targeting—are better than this, and they’ve got significantly lower loading times to boot.

Developer: Avalanche Software Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios Platform: PlayStation 4 Release Date: September 23, 2014 ESRB: E10+ ESRB Descriptions: Cartoon Violence Buy: Game

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