Review: Disney Infinity 3.0

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As a grown ass adult, I would like to think that I’ve outgrown the need to buy toys. Or rather plastic figures. Most adults would fall into the trap of buying a new car, a boat, or some high end electronic gizmo, but not me. Instead, after avoiding the “toys to life” craze for four years (Skylanders has never been on my radar—and thankfully none of my kids either) I finally succumbed to the alluring temptation of Disney Infinity with the recent launch of 3.0. Not just because I had an innate curiosity about what the game was all about, but mostly because it has Star Wars. The idea of putting a beautifully created figure on a little USB-connected portal which would then bring some of the most iconic Star Wars characters to life in a video game was too much to pass up. While my cynical side tried to feed me the whole buyer’s remorse rigmarole, the analytical side of me wanted to know if the purchase was actually worthwhile. Disney Infinity turns into a pricey investment in a hurry, so is it worth the monetary plunge?

The bundle I purchased included two Star Wars playsets (Rise Against the Empire and Twilight of the Republic) as well as five characters–Luke, Leia, Anakin, Ahsoka, and Boba Fett–as well as the base game Disney Infinity 3.0. The figures have a nice heft to them and are well crafted with a cartoonish look that is sort of a nod to the Clone Wars animated series. The playsets are small, clear plastic models of objects like the Death Star and Lightsabers, referencing the stories told in the games. It is so much fun to take the figures and simply swap them out while playing the game. (This is also forced upon players if a character takes too much damage and needs to rest.)

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Even once the immediate coolness of swapping characters waned a bit, I was still left with actually playing through the playset campaigns. I started with Rise Against the Empire because I connect with the story of the original trilogy much more so than the new trilogy. Initially the only two characters that can be played are either Luke or Leia (the other characters are unlocked by finding coins hidden throughout the playset). Luke starts off with a Lightsaber and a blaster, and Leia has a blaster and a pretty mean uppercut. As the story unfolds the characters earn XP by defeating enemies or by smashing objects in the world. Four types of sparks can be collected: orange (XP), green (health), purple (special attack), and blue (currency to buy toys—more on that in a bit).

Rise Against the Empire is a condensed retelling of A New Hope, Empire and Jedi, spanning the three main planets of Tattooine, Hoth, and Endor. Each planet is basically an open world hub with NPCs scattered throughout who offer side quests as well as main missions to keep the story moving. Missions and side quests are usually fairly simple affairs, either requiring players to defeat a specific number of enemies or collect some object from one location and transport it back to the quest-giver. Moving through the planets is achieved by either walking, riding a mount of some sort (Bantha, land or snow speeder, Tauntaun, speeder bike or AT-ST).  Flying takes a little getting used to and at one point I had to change the inverted controls. (But then I found that also applied to a turret sequence, which was strangely more difficult to complete with non-inverted controls.) Being a kid friendly Disney retelling of the movies, some of the more mature themes are glossed over. More specifically, the confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader ends with Vader simply knocking Luke’s lightsaber out of his hand. Even though this version doesn’t quite hold up to the film canon, it is littered with humor and plenty of nods and references to deeper lore from the movies, making the experience great for both kids and adults.

Twilight of the Rebellion similarly condenses the new trilogy into a more compact and kid friendly campaign, but ends with a much lighter Duel of the Fates battle between Darth Maul and Anakin (Obi Wan chopping off Anakin’s arm and leg and watching him burn horribly would have been a bit much for the kiddies). Twilight starts on Geonosis, home of the original droid factory seen in Attack of the Clones, and then travels to Coruscant, the planet that is a giant city and center of all things Star Wars, and ends on the planet of Naboo. I won’t say that the story is much better in the way that it is told in this game, but it certainly is an improvement over the films. One of the things that is a bit of a bummer, though, is that there are so many little side quest missions that require a lot of fetch type errand boy busywork. At the same time, I still ended up playing everything the game has to offer, even if it did feel like a chore sometimes.

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Any and all Star Wars characters that are unlocked can be played, but leveling up is something best done by keeping one character on the portal for most of the play time. Leveling up earns skill points which can be spent on a very elaborate and well-designed skill tree system. Four different skill tree breakouts are selectable: Health, Special/Force ability, Melee damage, and Ranged Damage. The higher up into the skill tree, the higher the cost of skill points a player must spend, but the abilities are very much worth the expense. There is even an option to reset all skill points spent at level 10 and again at level 20, which is really handy since there were a few skills I started to put points into and then realized were wasted on my play style. As the game progresses, the difficulty really doesn’t increase–presumably to keep it friendly for kids 10 and younger–but rather there is an option to raise the difficulty setting up to as high as Extreme. This gameplay balance is clearly the influence of Ninja Theory, a studio that knows a thing or two about action-based combat gameplay.

Missions and side quests can be revisited at any time with any character to complete some of the additional “feats” which award players with gold stars. Some feats are only possible by playing as specific characters, and that is where your wallet will begin to cringe at the thought of buying additional figures like Han, Chewie, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Obi Wan at $14 a pop. In addition to the starter bundle, I have purchased Yoda, Quorra, and the Inside Out playset (which I haven’t played as of this review), but after spending just over 10 hours on each of the Star Wars playsets, I don’t really see myself going back to completing every “feat” since they don’t actually trigger trophies specific to the playsets.

As the playsets consist of self-contained stories and missions, the creative aspect is minimal in this mode. Switching to the Toy Box mode, however, is where there is an endless supply of toys to play with and the creativity really shines. A hub world introduces players to different adventures in the form of sidekicks, vehicles, combat, platforming, an interior home, and creativity. Each adventure is provided through a portal with more mini levels showing off the various aspects of each play type. Sidekicks are mini versions of pretty much all of the Disney characters–that’s Star Wars AND Marvel characters in addition to all of the classic Disney favorites–who follow next to whichever character players have on the portal and enact various commands depending on the type of gear players equip them with, such as helmets, spears, gardening hats, watering cans, hoes, etc. Sidekicks also level up various stats and grow a bond with the player. All of this provides a nice reward loop to keep players invested.

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Vehicles offer a wide variety of transportation options: slow, lumbering elephants, quick horses, shiny hot rod cars, puttering transport ships, speeder bikes, zooming X-wings or TIE Fighters, just to name a few. Vehicles can be raced or simply driven around the Toy Box (or tracks can be created with gated race points). Driving speeding cars, Podracers, and speeder bikes is actually fairly exhilarating and enjoyable, although some vehicles are less responsive and prone to knocking into objects in the world. I found myself replaying lots of races both in the Star Wars playsets and in the Toy Box because they provide quick arcade fun.

Combat is very deep and offers a robust combo system the higher up in a skill tree a character evolves. Enemies in the Toy Box can be a bit annoying at times as they will spawn and seek out the player character even at inopportune moments. Plus, if a player is just starting out with a new character with nothing unlocked in the skill tree, some enemies can be a real pain to take on or even try to get away from.

Platforming feels really good in both the Toy Box and the playsets. Jumping, double jumping, and, in the case of Force sensitive Star Wars heroes, Force jumping, all feel really good. Ledges can be climbed and rails can be ridden, providing a fast way to zoom around various sections of platforms (think Ewok village).

The interior hub allows players to expand a house with rooms and hallways which can be decorated with the art styles of classic Disney movies. Sidekicks wander around and offer quests and ask trivia questions. Toys as decoration can be purchased with the blue spark currency, and fans of Sims and Minecraft alike will feel right at home with the decorative options that are available to make the interior feel unique to each player.

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Lastly, the creative hub in the Toy Box offers a wealth of mini missions explaining how to create a fully playable world that can be shared with friends or uploaded to Disney for a chance to be highlighted as a recommended level. Since this is Disney Infinity 3.0, any figures from the first two games (and their playsets) can be imported simply by placing them on the portal. Of course, not everything is immediately unlocked as toys need to be purchased by spending the blue spark currency, but prices for most items are relatively cheap, and the blue sparks shower out of pretty much everything in excess when defeated. My biggest complaint (if there really is anything negative to say about the creative aspect) is that the options are quite daunting. Sure, players can simply put some blocks together and spawn enemies, but the real challenge is creating a living world that responds via triggers when a character walks over them. Like in LittleBigPlanet, spending the time to get everything just perfect can take a lot of effort, but the rewards are pretty spectacular. World creation is overall very easy to pick up, but there is just a lot to initially take in, especially for players without prior Disney Infinity experience.

Part of the create adventure mode in the Toy Box includes a trip to Flynn’s Arcade, which is supposed to allow players to meet up head to head and play out different mini games, but as of this writing I have had zero luck getting a match to actually work. Either the match would be full and kick me back to the arcade or I would see a world load up and all of the objects build out, but then once my character spawned into the game I would immediately get booted. Hopefully the development team can iron out these issues since the idea of taking Darth Vader head on against Iron Man or Hulk or Jack Skellington is pretty awesome.

Disney Infinity 3.0 is an immense, well-crafted game that is good fun for adults and sparks a lot of creativity with kids–my son and younger daughter have spent easily 20 hours each between the playsets and Toy Box when I wasn’t playing. Even though there may be some temptation to want to buy every figure, I would strongly urge players to give the characters that come with a playset a fair amount of time before spending a bunch of additional money on characters that may ultimately not get played to their full potential. Combat straight out of the box may feel a bit too easy, but the ability to increase difficulty and truly take advantage of the combo system will have many gamers grinning from ear to ear, even seasoned action combat fans.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Deep combat system
+ Immense creative world in Toy Box mode
+ Heavy, well-crafted figures
+ Fun, family friendly split screen couch co-op experience

Cons:
– Toy Box mode can be a bit overwhelming
– Buying additional figures becomes pricey fast
– Arcade Mode doesn’t seem to work

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS4, also available on PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios and LucasArts
Developer: Avalanche Software w/ Ninja Theory, Studio Gobo, Sumo Digital, and United Front Games
Release Date: 8/30/2015
Genre: Action-adventure/Sandbox/Toys-to-life
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2
Buy From: Disney or Amazon.com

Source: Game purchased by reviewer.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.