“Infinite Possibilities. Endless Fun.” Establishing itself in the recently birthed toys-to-life category with the help of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before Disney Infinity turned to even more lucrative IP to help draw consumer attention away from leading rival Skylanders.
Disney’s acquisition of Marvel cost an eye-watering £2.5 billion, but has allowed them to dominate the box office with a string of massively profitable successes – Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy in the past year alone. That momentum continues with 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, and so the somewhat awkwardly named Disney Infinity 2.0 Edition has been positioned to smartly ride on that as we steadily move into the frenzied run-up to Christmas.
It’s inevitable that children and grown adults alike will be scrambling to tear open presents to see whether Santa has brought them Rocket Racoon, Spider-Man or Captain America, and the strikingly conceived toy designs continue to be wondrously crafted. Although sadly, Disney Infinity 2.0 Edition itself is rather anaemic – especially in comparison to Disney Infinity’s debut last year. More worrying is that lead developer Avalanche Software continues to have been assisted by five studios – Blind Squirrel Games, Heavy Iron Studios, Ninja Theory, Panic Button and Studio Gabo – with the result still amounting to a resounding disappointment.
You’ll be utterly sick of seeing Frost Giants by the conclusion of Marvel’s The Avengers Play Set, the only story-driven experience that players will be able to blast through out of the box. Meanwhile, Disney Infinity had seen you sail the seas with Jack Sparrow, defend the streets of Metroville as Mr. Incredible and be caught up in an all-out fraternity war at a university as Sully. It is clear that Disney Infinity 2.0 Edition has suffered the pressures of shorter development time, especially when you begin to spend your time playing the one Play Set that it does provide.
New York has once again fallen under threat from Loki, with the city’s streets frozen as the Asgardian God looks to rebuild the Casket of Ancient Winters while the Frost Giants terrorise the citizens. There’s a brief appearance from MODOK who is apparently assisting with such dastardly schemes, even though the Marvel supervillain is never to be seen again throughout the entirety of the Play Set. It’s baffling, and if the narrative doesn’t enthral you there’s an even greater lack of thought behind the adventure that players are propelled on.
Repetitive missions – which largely revolve around simply defeating ever-growing groups of Frost Giants – will see you regularly having to journey from one side of New York to another. Your heroism is put to use to clear ice from the path of a stranded bus, disable weather machines, hurl citizens into the safety of armoured vehicles, or defend heat generators from incoming enemies as they power up. For a game that is supposedly entirely born from sparking your imagination, this is the dreariest experience that I’ve had to wade through in quite some time.
What makes it even more tedious is that the Mission Log has been made entirely redundant. While Disney Infinity allowed you to accept multiple missions to work your way through, Marvel’s The Avengers Play Set decides against that. This means that you can only embark on a single mission at any one time from Nick Fury, Wasp, Captain Marvel or Sif, aborting whichever you’re currently on if you wish to pick up another and necessitating nearly constant traversal of the city.
With the Starter Pack containing Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow, you can at least be safe in the knowledge that you will be able to tackle the Play Set co-operatively without needing to buy anything else. And you now have far greater control over how each of your characters plays, with a well-calculated Skill Tree letting you choose which areas you wish for them to build on – increased health, dealing greater damage, activating shields to make them tougher, or unlocking their special attack.
Yet, when characters die, you will have to switch your character out for another. This can lead to unfair situations must swap your more highly-levelled character for an under-levelled one, or return to the last checkpoint. Newly introduced Crossover Coins scattered throughout the environment will also allow you to play as characters that would otherwise fall outside of the Play Set, letting you jump in as Rocket Raccoon and Nova in this instance. It’s great that players are being encouraged to use more varied toys, even if it continues to feel partly restrictive in comparison to the game’s competitors.
Still, the Play Sets were always the crux of the experience for me and this becomes Disney Infinity 2.0 Edition‘s most underwhelming aspect. Even the joy of frantically unlocking Toy Box content is no longer there, with capsules instead replaced by those that grant health, experience, special attack power or stars.
Power Discs continue to expand the Disney Infinity universe, as well as the twentysomething toys that have so far been announced for the Marvel-centric sequel. That can be costly, but for those that are enjoying what they are doing allows them to steadily expand and differentiate the way in which they tackle everything that the game will throw at them.
Evidently, it is in Toy Box, Disney Infinity’s creation mode, that most time has seemingly been spent in upgrading that which came before. Spruced up tools ease the burden on eager creators and allow your imagination to run even wilder, calling on automated builders to generate landscapes to help inspire you. Specify what you want them to work and they’ll steadily build their own creation – be that race tracks – which you can then tweak, allowing you to concentrate on individuality to perfect your designs. Pre-set templates can also be employed, whereas you can now take your Toy Box experience indoors with editable ‘INteriors.’
Once you’ve finalised your creation you can share it with the community, classified by categories and filters that will help make them more searchable by others doing the same. This reliance on the community to extend the experience beyond the lacklustre Play Set is a troubling one, and so we’ll see how the additional Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man Play Sets fare in our separate reviews.
In the graphical department, Disney Infinity 2.0 Edition looks particularly sub-par on Wii U. The cartoon-inspired characters designs which work so well, aren’t matched by the uninspiring environments that they find themselves in. This is detrimental, especially when inconsistent frame rates rear their ugly head, and it lacks the polish and spark that we saw in Disney Infinity.
We were once taught that “with great power comes great responsibility,” but Disney Infinity 2.0 Edition fails to capitalise on the iconic collection of heroes that have been assembled for its latest expansion. Toy Box still packs enough punch to entertain those who wish to explore their own creativity, but those looking for an epic Marvel adventure most certainly won’t find one here.