The beauty of Disney Infinity 2.0 may be its curse: The game gives exactly what you put into it, in a very literal fashion. If you buy all six Avengers, and Nova and Rocket Raccoon (the crossover characters from the other play sets), you’ll have more fun in the Avengers play set. It goes the same way for the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man play sets; for the best and most complete experience, you need every character possible; of course, that’s exactly what Disney Interactive wants you to think, leading to you buying more figures.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition), as this September 23, 2014 release is officially titled, is incredibly fun, wickedly inventive, and an improvement upon the first (non-Marvel-inclusive) edition in every conceivable way. In fact, when the worst problem you have is, “Oh man, fans want so much more of this game,” you’re in a pretty happy space as a game developer and publisher.
The success of the first Disney Infinity followed the successful formulas of multiple games that came before it; it took the world/game creation of games like Little Big Planet and Minecraft, added in the Toys-to-Life of Skylanders, and, oh yeah, brought the power of freaking Disney along for the ride. While the Toy Box was innovative, allowing people to create their own Disney-themed mash-ups and worlds with their own mini-games, and the play sets gave gamers a chance to jump into the animated and live action worlds that Disney had brought to life on film, Disney Infinity looks like a beta now in comparison with Disney Infinity 2.0. The leap to 2.0, as first observed at the Toy Box Summit, feels more like a leap to 4.0.
It helps that Disney Interactive’s Avalanche game development studio was thinking about, and working on, Marvel Comics characters before the first edition even came out. Having that extra year to work on them, and especially their play sets, shows in every way. The starter pack comes with the Avengers play set, putting you in New York City with attacks by Loki, MODOK, and Frost Giants to contend with. Despite some surface similarity, each character really does play uniquely, especially once you start customizing them with the skill trees. As you level up, you choose exactly how you want each character to play. Prefer ranged combat? Pump up Captain America’s shield-throwing ability first. Want to get up close and personal? Thor’s hammer does a lot of damage in his hand, not just out of it. While movement for the ground-based characters like Cap, Black Widow, and Hawkeye is essentially the same, unique animations do give that little bit extra character to their motion. Iron Man and Thor, as fliers, certainly make mission completion and the collection minigames easier, and Hulk’s superjump and wall crawl (both things you have to unlock in the skill tree) make him a wholly unique character. As the figure implies, he is also physically larger in the game, and naturally stronger (Note: Hulk is only available as part of the PlayStation-platform exclusive collector’s edition at launch; his figure will be sold separately alongside the Disney Originals figures on November 4, 2014). If you have a favorite Avenger, rest assured, they play, move, and even talk appropriately to the character – the voice cast of Avengers Assemble helps with that.
The Avengers play set also allows two crossover characters to come in and play, once you unlock them by collecting ten coins representing each. Nova comes from the Spider-Man set (he can also crossover to the Guardians set), while Rocket Raccoon comes from Guardians (Iron Man and Hulk, meanwhile can both crossover to Spider-Man Play Set, and Iron Man can also go to Guardians). Their full skillsets are intact, and each crossover character gets their own unique animation/introduction, plus exclusive missions just for them. Nova plays like a slightly faster Iron Man – if your kids (or let’s face it, you and a friend, you and your spouse, etc) are fighting over who gets to be Iron Man at first for his sheer mix of range, flight, and enhanced strength in close combat, just collect those Nova coins ASAP – you’ll have an equivalent character (and really, probably start fighting over who gets to be him instead). There’s also unique dialogue when your crossover character interacts with any of your other, play set specific ones, which is a lot of fun.
We’ll go in-depth with the storylines and unique gameplay in each play set later, but for now, the other major change to Disney Infinity 2.0: Toy Box 2.0. The new Toy Box is a completely different game. With logic toys that simply do what they say they will without any complications on your end, builders and auto-build tools that help you make your unique adventure much more quickly, and the entire scope of Marvel and Disney toys to choose from, it’s finally reaching that “Infinite” promise.
That scope? It’s absolutely enormous. As you place your Disney characters and play sets on the base from the first game, it auto-unlocks all their assorted toys. Marvel toys are unlocked by playing the three play sets, and also through purchases using blue sparks (need more? The Toy Box games we’ll talk about shortly are an excellent source of those, and of experience to level up!). The purchasing is now just a general store (instead of randomized), though it’s tree-based, similar to the skill trees used to unlock new abilities for characters. For instance, you buy the Captain America theme for the new indoor Toy Box area, then you can buy a Cap’s Shield sconce or rug or other goodies that branch off of it.
Disney fans will even get a sneak peek at the new textures and toys associated with upcoming figures like Aladdin and Jasmine – a complete Agrabah set is ready and waiting for you to unlock here (and all through purchases – you don’t have to wait until November 4, when the new Disney Originals characters start coming out for that!), along with themed sets around Big Hero Six’s San Fransokyo, Peter Pan’s version of London, and more. The drag-and-drop creation for things like racetracks, castles, and treehouses, coupled with the adorable townspeople builders who will just sit and build insanely elaborate structures for as long as you let them, make it easy for anyone to look like an expert builder (So watch out, Pirate Steven, your competition is about to get a lot more varied). Like playing in downloadable Toy Boxes more than building your own? The winners from the Toy Box Summit, plus boxes from the new Community team are ready to download day one (or rather, even before it, right now). One of those Toy Box Summit toy boxes added an easy 2 hours of gameplay to the game, and it was created in about 18 hours. Knowing what these masters are going to create when they have a week or two to work on a masterpiece (or longer), it’s easy to see the Infinity name living up to its potential now.
The Toy Box Games included as hex discs also offer an infinite amount of replayability. Whether it’s the Guardians-themed dungeon crawler or the Asgardian tower defense game, being able to use any combination of characters from the Marvel lineup is a blast. It’s a great way to build up characters a bit before you jump into the play set storylines, too, where there are a couple of bosses that are surprisingly tough to beat. In the dungeon crawler “Escape from the Kyln,” each level is procedurally generated, so you’ll never have an identical experience from the time you played before.
So what doesn’t work here? Well, combat is relatively simplistic – this game is technically made to be accessible for all ages, after all – and the camera sometimes gets lost in the action, especially if you’re not a seasoned action/beat-em-up gamer. Friendly fire (where two players playing along side each other can and do hit each other) is a big problem in the much more action-oriented storylines than seen in year one. With much more dynamic and bombastic powers, it’s literally impossible to not hit your friend or family member with an attack or two in the heat of battle. In a game geared towards family play, that seems an odd thing to have turned on all the time, but perhaps a future update can change that. All in all, the gameplay has inched closer to that of the popular LEGO action games, meaning it’s a little tighter, but still basic with a melee button, a range button, and the new superpower button. The game has the appropriate amount of guidance at the start of each play set to get people started, but some things, like webslinging for Spidey, flight, and recommendations on the start of the skill tree, would be helped by more in-depth tutorials for inexperienced or younger gamers. Perhaps this is a case of Avalanche/Disney Interactive simply anticipating the much higher ratio of adult gamers they’ll pull in because of the Marvel characters, but it’s important to note that your kids, when it’s their turn, may need a little more help here than they did in the first version. Conversely, in Toy Box, with the new tools your kids will have massive, exciting, and dynamic sets of their own in no time, so it’s a trade off. The extremely varied power levels between characters may put some people off, as well, but Marvel purists will actually like that, I suspect. Of course Nova is more powerful than Hawkeye; of course Hulk is the strongest character in the game – it’s a little bit of faithfulness, but luckily the gameplay is varied enough to keep your running, melee-focused characters just as exciting as your godly and cosmic powerhouses.
Disney Infinity 2.0 brings the franchise to a shocking level of fruition in just its second year. The most common question people will probably have after playing this is “where the heck can they go from here?” And of course the answer to that is likely “well, to a galaxy far, far away of course.” But as far as the tools of creation, the gameplay, and even the character variation, it’s going to be a much harder task for Avalanche to improve this drastically when the next iteration rolls around. For now, this game is easy to recommend for Disney fans, Marvel fans, collectors, casual gamers, hardcore gamers, builders, creators, families, solo gamers, people who want to just relax and build or destroy, and people who want a deeper gaming experience. Basically, it’s really hard to think of anyone who would ever regret buying this game. The monetary investment required in collecting all the figures so that you can try each play style is the biggest setback – basically, it’s far too easy to spend lots and lots of money on this franchise (and that’s not to speak of the randomized blind power disc packs).
Regardless, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) is the realization of a creative vision in a way that Disney has built an empire on. With recognizable, varied characters, enhanced gameplay options, and the best world/game builder on the market, this game truly presents fans of these properties with infinite possibilities.
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 using product provided ahead of release by Disney Interactive. The game releases to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U on September 23, 2014