With its techno-magical USB hub and toy figures that spring to life when placed upon it, it's hard not to compare Disney Infinity to its obvious inspiration: Skylanders. There's certainly little doubt that Disney has eyed the billions that Activision has made from selling toy versions of Spyro and chums, but Disney has been smart enough not to just produce a lame copycat.
Indeed, Infinity is not so much a single game as a bespoke platform designed to host multiple games based on as many characters as Disney can muster. As far as the starter pack is concerned, that means The Incredibles, Monsters University and Pirates of the Caribbean. Rather than mashing all these characters together, each offers access to a self-contained and generously proportioned game of its own. This is because the Infinity portal doesn't just detect characters, but also "playsets" - small clear plastic sculptures that open up a new adventure.
Wish Upon A Star
For Mr Incredible, this means you get to explore a free-roaming Metro City, fighting to stop Syndrome and other villains from causing mayhem. You can unlock new buildings and abilties from an in-game Toy Shop, or just pootle around under your own steam, looking for secrets. As Jack Sparrow, you embark on a voyage to find a mystical item that will help you beat squid-faced bad guy Davy Jones. You get to sail the (fairly) open seas, and upgrade your ship to better survive battles against enemy galleons. Finally, as Sulley from Monsters University, you prowl the campus in light stealth gameplay, trying to outwit your rivals from Fear Tech.
Each of these adventures is a decent size - a good five hours or so, not including time spent poking around for bonus stuff - and they're all presented in a similar cartoon style so the experience feels consistent across all the characters. Each of the worlds is nicely designed, but also strangely lifeless - these are all funny and exciting movies, but the simple "go here and press a button" missions don't really make the most of the iconic characters.
This system means that expanding the game is a question of buying more toys and playsets. Already available are worlds based on Cars and The Lone Ranger, plus you can buy additional characters for the playsets you already have. All of the Incredibles can be added to your collection, along with more Pirates and Monsters characters. Since you can only ever use characters in their own playsets, that means anyone hoping to enjoy some two-player co-op will need to spend extra in order to do so. That's a little bit cheeky.
You can also pick up little power discs, which can be placed underneath characters and playsets to alter abilities or stats, or maybe add new vehicles and visual elements. Such things add a little extra wrinkle to the game, but are easily ignored if you don't want them. The toys themselves, however, are worthy of praise. They're hefty and solid, and dynamically sculpted. There's no articulation so you can't pose them, but they're stylishly designed and very collectable.
If you're a parent, and feeling a sharp twinge in the wallet at the prospect of Infinity's title proving scarily accurate when it comes to how many toys you'll end up buying, take comfort in the fact that Infinity has another element to its gameplay, and it's one that offers a lot of long-term fun.
The Toy Box is basically a Disney themed combination of LittleBigPlanet's level editor and Minecraft's explore and build aesthetic. The whole game is littered with little capsules, each of which unlocks a new element for use in this mode, while more can be earned from a random prize machine in the creative hub.
You can use the Toy Box to create your own playground, your own adventures and even your own games. Races, chases, even pinball - the simple grab-and-drop control scheme means that even very young kids will be able to put something fun together, with a little help from a grown-up. Even better, the Toy Box lets all of Disney's characters play together, so it's here that fans will be able to put together their own dream team of movie icons.
There's a lot more to Infinity than just "Skylanders but with Disney". For kids who take the time to explore and earn more stuff, it could very easily turn into an obsession. That might not be good news for adults who will have to buy more toys and playsets to keep the fun alive, but if you measure value for money by smiles and fun, it's money well spent.
GAME's Verdict: 8/10
- Strikes a fine balance between scripted games and freeform creativity
- Toys are beautifully designed
- It's hard not to look forward to whatever characters are added next
- Playset adventures are a little bland and repetitive
- Infinity's potential is directly linked to how much you spend
- Restrictions on character use will annoy kids