Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition Review
Two years after Disney Infinity made its debut, the game is now in its third release with Version 3.0. Last year's game tapped into Disney's Marvel license, bringing super hero gameplay into the mix but not changing much overall when it came time to venturing beyond the Play Set adventure levels and into other areas of the game like the Toy Box. Disney Infinity 3.0 also brings a new Disney license into the game, Star Wars, but this time out many areas of the game have been given an overhaul. The most notable of these is the Toy Box, which has replaced its lifeless and virtually empty hub of old with an almost Disneyland-like area that offers plenty to do before you even load-up a Toy Box game.
For those of you who own one or both of the previous games, you'll be happy to hear that all of the figures that you own will be compatible with the new game. While you won't be able to send Spider-man into the game's Star Wars Play Set adventure, you'll be able to have him team up with Yoda in Toy Box levels or a Toy Box Adventure. The portal remains the same as it was in previous releases, so if you purchase the Starter Pack for Disney Infinity 3.0 you're going to end up with two portals on hand although the game only supports one at a time. The better thing for you to do is to purchase the game on its own which can be down digitally, and then purchase the Twilight of the Republic Play Set which is available separately on its own.
The starter pack comes with two figures, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano, and the Twilight of the Republic Play Set (a collection of story-based adventures in the parlance of Disney Infinity). Twilight of the Republic is set during the saga's prequel films/Clone Wars era and features multiple locations that will be familiar to Star Wars fans. Yes, you read that right, multiple locations. Previous Disney Infinity games featured Play Sets that were located entirely within a single hub location. Infinity 2.0 added some interior areas to explore during missions, but you were still confined to the same hub area for most missions and free play in the Play Set. Twilight of the Republic gives you multiple hubs on worlds such as Tatooine and Coruscant, and even gives you the opportunity to venture into space for ship-to-ship battles; don't worry, the spaceships are all part of the game and don't require you to buy spaceship toys in addition to the figures. Another new feature of Disney Infinity 3.0 is that all of the Star Wars character figures will be playable in any and all of the Star Wars Play Sets released. You'll need to find tokens to unlock the ability to use each character in each Play Set, which you will be able to earn while playing through the game, but there aren't any restrictions that would prevent, say, Darth Vader from fighting side-by-side with Anakin Skywalker in the Twilight of the Republic.
There are story-based missions to the Play Set, but overall the gameplay is pretty freeform. A map in the lower left portion of the screen shows the surrounding area and the location of new missions, both of the story and side varities, or other activities, and you're pretty much free to decide what you want to do next. Or you can simply explore the area looking for hidden places and collectibles. You can even abort a mission in the middle of it if you change your mind and want to do something else. Your performance in story-based missions is rated on a three-star scale, with the first star awarded for completing the mission. The other two stars are tied to optional objectives during the mission, which sometimes entails using a certain character to complete the mission. While you won't need to "three-star" everything to move forward in the game, those of you out there who are completionists may have to purchase additional characters along their way to earning every star the game has to offer.
The missions and activities are certainly geared towards younger gamers. While they're enjoyable enough for adults while playing through the game with a child in co-op mode, they're not going to present much of a challenge to seasoned older gamers. The kid-focused nature of the game applies to the locations in the game as well, so don't expect to explore the grittier side of the Star Wars universe here. For example, Coruscant is a sunny, happy place where cute critters scurry underfoot and floating amusement parks dock just outside the Jedi Temple.
The new Star Wars characters are a lot of fun to play as, at least partly because all of the characters initially available have Force powers - using Force Push to break open crates and knock enemies on their backs never seems to get old. Lightsabers and Force powers are a potent combination in a fight, and they are made more so by a surprisingly robust combo system. Don't expect anything as complex as what comes with a hard-core action game, but the combo system does give you the ability to pull of some pretty exciting attacks featuring moves like juggles, ground slams, and finishers. The combo system is something that's designed for younger gamers to grow into since it's not necessary to succeed in the game. Little kids can gleefully button-mash and get away with it, while older gamers can time the button presses to perform attack combo sequences that execute smoothly and naturally and that are just plain fun to watch. Disney Infinity 3.0 also includes the character progression system introduced in last year's entry into the series, so as your characters level-up they'll gain access to new powers, some of which are unique to each character. There are special locations in the Twilight of the Republic Play Set that allow you to set-up friendly two-player battles between the two characters on the portal in an arena-like zone, and it can be a lot of fun to unleash two Jedi Knights on each other. In one play session, my six year old niece was having so much fun jumping and flipping Yoda all over my Obi-Wan that it was all we did one evening, never venturing out of the arena to take on a mission.
For all of the missions, activities, and events that Twilight of the Republic provides, it's all a decidedly finite experience when compared to the other half of Disney Infinity 3.0, the Toy Box. The last two incarnations of Disney Infinity featured a Toy Box hub area, but it was absolutely barebones - hotspots to launch you into different areas and a Cinderella's Castle area that didn't do much beyond spawning an occasional enemy to fight. Thankfully that hub space is gone, replaced with a much livelier and larger hub world that feels more like something created for Disneyland than the empty Cinderella's Castle ever did. There are themed areas inspired by franchises such as Star Wars and The Nightmare before Christmas, and a Main Street USA styled area that replaces the glowing hotspots of old with entire buildings. The new hub isn't just somewhere to stick an access point to specialized areas of the Toy Box, either; there are missions that help teach different aspects of Toy Box games, side missions just for the fun of it, and hidden items to discover that encourage exploration.
The ability to go to buildings in the different areas of the hub and instantly have access to a set of similarly styled Toy Box games is a good addition to the game. Now if you're in the mood for some racing, you can get into a racing game without have to browse through a system of menus and game lists looking for a racing game. As for those menus which give you access to new Toy Box games developed by both Disney Interactive and other gamers, they're easier to navigate in 3.0 than in previous versions and you can quickly see what's new, recommended, and popular. Digger deeper than that still takes a little time and effort, though. It's really amazing that such a variety of games can be created using the Disney Infinity toolset - platform, action, racers, shooters, arcade, and even genres like tower defense are all represented here. All of the tools for you to create your own games are also here, but there are a couple of caveats that come with becoming a Toy Box designer. First of all, the tools will take a little work both to learn and to use. The tools are not inherently difficult to use, but they are handicapped a bit by the fact that a console doesn't provide the best interface for what is essentially a mod kit. Also, the game doesn't make everything available to you from the outset; you need to play through the Play Sets and Toy Box hub missions to find and unlock everything. And, of course, designing a compelling and fun game isn't necessarily easy in and of itself, but if you're not looking to produce something that's downloaded by thousands of other gamers, it's easy enough to put something together and have fun playing it since it's your own creation.
There are a couple of other new things in store for the Toy Box this year. Toy Box Adventures are add-on games that content-wise sit somewhere between a full Play Set and a Toy Box game. These require a separate purchase that gives you a game marker to place on the portal to launch the game. Since these are separate purchase items, we'll review them separately in a feature article. The other new addition is support for sidekicks. If you have played a Disney Infinity game in the past, then you'll be familiar with all of those little characters that ran around the Play Sets. Now a few of those characters have been given a special sidekick designation, meaning that they will tag along with you in Toy Box games and provide you with some support such as fighting by your side or providing you with some healing when you're in a pinch. Sidekicks level-up just like your figures do, and you can even give them special abilities by feeding them special kinds of food - food you can grow yourself in the Toy Box Hub's farming zone. Sidekicks are a fun addition to the game, and kids will enjoy the care and feeding of the little 'pets' that follow them around while they are playing.
With Disney Infinity 3.0, the series is evolving its gameplay in several ways. The characters are becoming more distinct and less of a collection of clones wrapped in different skins, thanks to special attacks that make them feel more unique from one another, a more enjoyable combo-based fighting system, and branching skill trees that allow them to be customized to suit your style of play. More imagination has been put into the Play Sets and Toy Box hub, making them more enjoyable to play and giving you better entertainment mileage out of each one. The game is still very focused towards younger gamers, though, and while it's enjoyable to play the game along with kids, older gamers drawn in by the Star Wars content will probably find it all too easy and too cute. Ironically, the Toy Box game designer still feels a little complicated for kids while adults may enjoy trying their hand at game design. And, as with all collectible toy games, completing your collection of figures, Play Sets, and Toy Box Adventures requires a large investment for a video game, although the Toy Box games will probably help you to get more gameplay out of the whole thing than with other toy-based games. And in a design decision that many will appreciate, none of the game's content is gated-off because you haven't purchased the correct figure yet. Disney Infinity has come a long way since its first release, and while there's still room for improvement your kids will still have plenty of fun with the game.
Final Rating: 88% - Disney Infinity continues to improve with each release.