The Starter Pack for video game 'Disney Infinity.'(Photo: Disney)
If your kids are fans of Skylanders and Minecraft, they are going to love Disney Infinity. Like Skylanders, Disney Infinity uses real toys placed on a portal to introduce characters into a video gaming world. And like Minecraft, Disney Infinity offers kids the ability to design and create their own worlds to explore.
Disney Infinity is a toy-based video game that works by connecting the Infinity Base to your video game system, and then placing a game piece and toy figurines on the base to start the gaming. It's best to think of Disney Infinity as having two separate parts. It has traditional video gaming, involving the toy characters within their world going on missions. That part is referred to as Play Set gaming. But it also has an open sandbox mode, where you can throw all of the toy characters together to mix and match them any way you want. This part is known as the Toy Box mode.
At launch, families can purchase a Disney Infinity starter pack, which comes with The Infinity Base, a game piece containing three Infinity Play Sets (Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles), three Infinity toy characters (Sulley, Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible) and one random power disc which, when set under a character on the Base, serves to boost the character's abilities. This pack costs $74.99. Add-on Play Sets for other Disney franchises are sold separately for $34.99. At launch there is one for Cars (Lightning McQueen and Holley Shiftwell and a Play Set game piece) and one for the Lone Ranger (Lone Ranger, Tonto, and the Play Set game piece). More Play Sets are coming. The game is also expandable, with additional characters and power discs.
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To start a traditional "Play Set" video gaming experience, you place the hexagonal game piece on the Base and add one or two characters from that world. Each Play Set offers between 6-8 hours of story-driven, mission-based gaming within that world. These missions vary, depending on which world you are in. For example, in the Monster U Play Set, the missions relate to using Sulley's scare powers to clean up Monsters U after rival Fear Tech pulled some pranks. Kids will be using Sulley to "holler" toilet paper off of trees around the campus. In Cars, the missions are driving-base; whereas in The Incredibles, they are about defeating bad guys and destroying robots.
As you go on missions within the themed Play Sets, you will do things like jump, climb, fight and drive. Each character has special abilities, so depending on who you have on the Base, your play style will vary. There are coins to collect as well as capsules that unlock special content within the Play Set and in the Toy Box. The capsules carrying content for the Toy Box include characters, vehicles, upgrades, gadgets and more.
Players can have many missions open at once and choose to work on them in any order. When two players are playing together in split-screen mode, one can be working on one mission and the other on a separate one. To help finish a mission, kids can turn on a green arrow that constantly points the way to completion. The missions are fun and varied, but don't move the needle much.
Where this game shines is in its Toy Box mode. Kids can simply explore (and find more digital toy capsules); design and customize their own worlds (ala Minecraft); and create their own games, whether that be racing, sports, platforming or other. All of these play possibilities are introduced through clever tutorials known as Mastery Adventures.
Kids will really enjoy bringing characters from different worlds together to play. They can mix and match powers and abilities. Thus Sulley from Monsters U can don Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear's jet pack to fly around. The Toy Box has 250 toys unlocked from the start; but kids can unlock hundreds more by playing in the Play Sets mode. The toys include teleporters, vehicles, scoreboards, critters, mounts, balls, tools and more. Also, each character you own has a special character adventure that can be accessed in this mode. For example, with Sulley, it's a game about playing paintball.
The Toy Box features lots of wide, open spaces - some located on floating islands - which players can manipulate, using a special tool called a magic wand. They can build bluffs, place bridges over chasms, plant trees, and even install a Super Cannon, which sends you launching across gaps. Special power discs can be placed on the Base to have a world painted to look like a specific Disney movie such as "Wreck it Ralph."
The coolest part of the Toy Box are the Creativi-Toys, which are toys that you can program. Players can assign orders or behaviors to these toys and sequence them together to create games or fun interactive bits. For example you can program a special Step On Trigger to start a Falling Object Generator so that when you step on the trigger a ball falls out of the air. Kids can even program their own soccer game, by tying the ball going into the goal to a scoreboard.
Two kids together on the same console can play in the Play Sets and two more can join over the Internet in the Toy Box mode. Kids have the ability to upload their Toy Box worlds to Disney. They can also download other user-created worlds to explore. Both the user-generated worlds and the toy characters are console agnostic, so your child can take his Sulley to play on any friend's system.
Disney Infinity is appropriately named. The sky's the limit in this digital toy box. If you can think it up, you can design it. While most of the Play Sets available at launch are very boy-centric with lots of shooting, combat and action, more Play Sets are coming. All of this cartoonish violence has earned the game an E10+ rating from the ESRB. As a consequence, there's a disconnect between the age appropriateness of the Infinity toys, which are appealing to young kids, and the age for playing this game.
Score: 4 stars (out of 4)
Rating: E10+ (Cartoon Violence)
Best for: 10-up
Publisher: Disney, www.disneyinfinity.com
Platform: Wii, Wii U, 3DS, Xbox 360, PS3
Cost: $74.99 for Starter Pack
Jinny Gudmundsen, Special to USA TODAY