Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes Review
It's understandable if you find the title of this iteration of Disney Infinity a little confusing. Saddled with the unwieldy title of Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition), it's not entirely clear whether the game is a full sequel to Disney Infinity, a super hero expansion for Disney Infinity, or an exclusively Marvel game. Let's start by clearing all of that up for you. The game is indeed a sequel, but one in which all of the Play Sets (Disney Infinity's equivalent of mission-driven, story-based campaigns) are Marvel themed. The starter set comes with an Avengers Play Set that has you attempting to thwart a frost giant invasion of Manhattan unleashed by Loki. Additional Play Sets available for purchase separately include ones based on Spider-man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Like the original Disney Infinity, the game also comes with a Toy Box mode in which you can create your own games or worlds, or download ones created by Disney Interactive or other gamers. The Toy Box mode in this game has been given a number of enhancements over the original, and so is referred to as Toy Box 2.0. All of the figures that were released with the original Disney Infinity are all also compatible with Toy Box 2.0, but the new Disney figures such as Tinkerbell and Donald Duck will only be compatible with the new game. Now that that's all been sorted out, let's look at what I will refer to as Infinity 2.0 from here on out.
First off, what do you get with the Starter Pack? Well, for about $75 (at least at the time this review was writer) you get the game, a play base, three figures (Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow), the Avengers Play Set, and two Toy Box Game Discs. If you don't know what all of that means, don't worry; I'll explain it all before we're done here. Additional Pay Sets, figures, and Power Discs are available for purchase separately, but we'll look at those in separate reviews and concentrate on what you get with the Starter Pack in this review.
The base that comes with the game plugs into a USB port on your PS4 console. There are three spots on the base - one is hexagonally shaped and used for your Play Set token, and two are circular and used for figures, supporting two players simultaneously. Power Discs, which are available through blind packs sold separately and are used to add new items, powers, or skins to the game can be stacked under the figures on the base or on the Play Set spot. There's no option to buy just the game alone, so you'll need to buy the starter set whether or not you already own a Disney Infinity base. The bases appear to be completely identical and compatible between Disney Infinity and Infinity 2.0, though.
Like its predecessor, Infinity 2.0 is essentially two games in one (or rather three in one, but more on that in a bit). On one side you have the Play Sets, which are essentially the game's story modes and provide a themed world complete with missions, challenges, and small open worlds to explore. These Play Sets each only support a handful of the available figures, although Infinity 2.0 features hidden collectibles that can be gathered to allow one of a couple of 'guest' characters to be played with a Play Set, so you'll have a chance to fight frost giants in Manhattan with Rocket Raccoon.
The other half of the game is the Toy Box, Infinity 2.0's sandbox game-builder. In this mode you can use the game's powerful tool set to create anything from an arcade platformer to a racing game, or download games created by Disney or by other gamers. You can play games in the Toy Box with any figure, including those from the original Disney Infinity.
The third 'half' is something new to Infinity 2.0 - the Toy Box games that are played using a Toy Box Game Disc and placing it on the hexagonal spot on the base that is used for the Play Set token. Two of these are included with the Starter Pack, Escape from the Kyln and Assault on Asgard. Escape from the Kyln is a Guardians of the Galaxy themed action-RPG game that's played from a three-quarters view perspective (think Diablo III). Assault on Asgard is based on a Thor's world theme, with tower defense/action gameplay ala Dungeon Defenders. Both of these games are a lot of fun to play, and can be played with any available figure, including those that came with the original Disney Infinity. While neither of these games is as deep or expansive as a full Play Set, I'd be hesitant to call them mini games because there's a lot more to them than the few minutes of repetitive play that you get out of most mini games. If you played the original Disney Infinity, you'll remember that each figure came with a Toy Box game (albeit one not as extensive as the two in Infinity 2.0) that could be launched from within the Toy Box. Those seem to be gone in Infinity 2.0 (or at least I could never find how to launch them), so the disc-based Toy Box games appear to be their replacement. If so, I hope we'll see more of these made available in the future. I am a little disappointed that the fun of discovering what game a new character would unlock in the Toy Box may be a thing of the past, though.
Returning to the Avengers Play Set, the three figures that come with the Starter Pack are all playable in the Play Set. In addition, Hulk, Captain America, and Hawkeye are all immediately playable in the Avengers, and you can also play as Rocket Raccoon (available separately) and Nova (available with the Spider-man Play Set) once you find all of the tokens spread across Manhattan to unlock them. Surprisingly, Nick Fury is not compatible with this Play Set, perhaps because Nick Fury hands out the missions in the Avengers Play Set and it would be odd to have him handing out assignments to his doppelganger, but has been assigned to the Spider-man Play Set instead.
As noted earlier, the Avengers Play Set is set in Manhattan which is under siege by frost giants. Manhattan itself is an open-world area that you're free to explore between missions, but this is more a fantasy-lite version of the city than a recreation of the real thing. You'll be able to make your way to the top of the Empire State building and admire the Statue of Liberty offshore, though. However, beyond collecting tokens to let the crossover characters join in the fun and some timed challenges there's not a lot going on in this Manhattan. Sure there are a lot of cars driving on the streets and pedestrians on the sidewalks, but rarely do you have to do anything to protect those citizens when you're not playing a mission. Once you've made the rounds a couple of times, Manhattan becomes a little boring.
The missions themselves are a mix of interesting and not so much so. The missions that take place off of the streets of Manhattan in interior locations unique to those missions are the interesting ones. There's more of a story element to them and the objectives are more varied. The Manhattan missions tend to fall into a small number of categories that are oft repeated - escort something from X to Y, kill Z number of bad guys, that sort of thing. These missions feel like, and probably are, filler designed to pad out the length of the Play Set's story. The original Disney Infinity came with three Play Sets, but the three figures that came with the starter pack had to support each Play Set and so the game didn't support multiplayer play out of the box. Infinity 2.0 takes the opposite approach, giving you a single Play Set in exchange for multiplayer support out of the box. Extending the gameplay of the only Play Set in the new starter pack probably led to the filler missions, but in the end they feel like they've diluted the story more so than they've extended the Play Set.
Kids should have fun with the fully developed story missions. There's a lot of action but the difficulty level is relatively low. Failure during a mission carries only a minor penalty - either swap in a new figure and continue from that point on or revive the current character at the last checkpoint. The smaller Manhattan missions have enough of a difference in their veneers that kids may not notice that they're repeatedly doing the same basic tasks. Adult gamers will surely be attracted by the game's Marvel theme and collectible figures, but the game's low level of challenge, repetitive nature, and relatively short campaign will inevitably leave them a little disappointed in the game.
I really like the figures that come with the Starter Pack. The Marvel figures have some heft to them that make them feel more, well, heroic than the first set of Infinity figures. The action poses are great and capture a little of the personality of each hero - Iron Man looks steadfast as he prepares to unleash a bolt from his repulsor beam, Thor exudes strength as he winds up to strike with his hammer, and Black Widow looks agile and athletic as she prepares to pounce on a foe. In the game, each of these characters is fun to play in their own right. Iron Man has the power of flight, deals good ranged damage with his repulsor beam, and has a special attack that releases a salvo of missiles that seek out multiple enemies. Thor can also fly, has a strong melee attack with his hammer, and can also throw the hammer to hit multiple enemies at a distance, both on the throw and on the hammer's return trip. Black Widow's melee attacks are fun to watch as she unleashes a flurry of punches and kicks, she has ranged ability with her pistol that can be upgraded to dual-wield, and she can cloak to disappear from enemies' sight.
Wait a minute? Upgraded? Yes, upgraded. One of the more disappointing aspects of Disney Infinity was that leveling characters didn't amount to anything tangible in the game beyond changing the color of a character's statue in the Hall of Heroes. That's changed with Infinity 2.0, though. Each time a character gains a level you'll be awarded with skill points that can be spent to upgrade that character's skills and abilities. Each character's skill tree features four progressive tracks, so you can customize your character by concentrating on health or special attacks, or by going for a well-rounded approach by spreading the skill points around at the cost of not unlocking the top-tier upgrade in any of the tracks. The skill trees even apply to figures from the original Disney Infinity, and your higher level figures will be stocked with skill points for you to spend as soon as you bring them into the new game. The upgrades for the old characters are more generic than those for the new ones (speed, health, etc.), but it's nice to see that they haven't been forgotten when it comes to the new upgrade feature.
The game's Toy Box mode is a full-featured game editor that allows you to create a surprisingly wide range of games. New features in the form of AI assistants, a streamlined interface, and pre-built worlds to use as starting points for your new game all make it easier to create games in the 2.0 version of the Toy Box than the original. However, 'easier' doesn't necessarily mean 'easy'. You'll still need to put a fair amount of time into the Toy Box editor to become proficient with it, and even then you may be surprised to learn that designing good games isn't all that easy. Luckily it's easy enough to download games created by Disney Interactive and other gamers, so there will be a steady stream of new games to download and enjoy.
If you decide to build your own, you may be surprised to find that most of the objects and skins are locked and unavailable. In Disney Infinity, there was a random slot machine style feature that would randomly dole out the Toy Box items and thankfully it's been removed in Infinity 2.0. However, its replacement is a collection of tiered items categorized by theme and laid out not much unlike the skill trees. Unlocking these items takes the currency that you earn by playing the Play Sets and smashing items and completing missions, so even if you just want to be a Toy Box designer you'll need to spend time with other parts of the game. At least all of your characters share in the same currency pool, so you don't have to stick to one character all of the time just to maximize your bankroll.
Like the Play Sets, Toy Box games support multiplayer. Two players can share a system and its portal and play the game in split screen mode - when two bases are plugged into the console the game will only use one and ignore the other, though. However, you can still play the Toy Box games with four players (not all Toy Box games support four players, though) by connecting with friends over PSN. 'Friends' is the operative word there, because there's none of the matchmaking support you'd find in most games with a multiplayer mode. You'll need to peruse your friends list to see who's online and playing Infinity 2.0 to create a matchup. It's worth the effort because there's certainly fun to be had when you get your friends together and into a game.
Infinity 2.0 introduces a new feature known as the Interior mode. This is a house building mode akin to similar features in games like The Sims or Minecraft. You can add rooms to expand your building, adding textures to the walls and floors and filling the rooms with furniture and decorations. Like the Toy Box items, most of these will need to be purchased in order to unlock them for use. There's not much gameplay to this mode outside of the act of building and decorating, though, so the amount of time you spend with this mode depends on how much you enjoy decorating for its own sake.
A new series of Power Discs sold in blind packs are available for Infinity 2.0 (the original Disney Infinity Power Discs are compatible with the new game, too). These are placed on the base along with the figures. The Power Discs include skins for Toy Box terrain and sky, so you can see what that Toy Box game you've been playing would look like if it was set in the World War Hulk storyline. Some discs add new vehicles or weapons to the Toy Box, while others help power-up characters and can be used in the Play Sets as well. I particularly like the Team-Up Discs, which allow you to call in an ally to help you in a battle. It's good to see the Winter Soldier show up to help out the Avengers in a pinch. Since the Power Discs are sold in blind packs, prepare to get your share of doubles and triples, though. At least some of the Power Discs can be stacked to double their effect.
Overall, Infinity 2.0 makes some improvements over the original Disney Infinity, but it still feels like the franchise has a little ways to go. The Marvel characters are more distinguishable from each other than the characters available for Disney Infinity in a gameplay sense, and the upgrade paths for the characters are a welcome addition to the game. Since you only get a single Play Set with the Starter Pack this time around, I wish there was more to do in Manhattan outside of the story missions. There's not much motivation to roam the quiet streets of the city once you've played through the story. I wish that the Cinderella's Castle hub that was in Disney Infinity hadn't been removed for Infinity 2.0. It made it easier to move between the Toy Box modes and gave the game a Disney feel which has been lost in Infinity 2.0, a feeling that is missing from Infinity 2.0 to the point that the game should probably have simply been named Marvel Infinity. The loss of the hub also means that navigation between modes is done entirely through a text-based menu system, a boring and disjoint way to navigate between modes and one that is in desperate need of some of that Disney magic. This new iteration of Infinity has less of a universal appeal than its predecessor, but young super hero fans should have some fun with it.
Final Rating: 76%. The addition of Marvel superheroes isn't quite enough to make Disney Infinity feel super yet.