To say that Disney Infinity is simply a knock-off of Skylanders is rather disingenuous. The toys may work in a similar fashion at a base level, though the actual gameplay experience is quite different. There’s also a level of nuance with the figurines and discs that goes beyond the groundwork laid by Activision. But are these differences enough to justify going with one over the other?
This game is broken out into two modes: Toy Box and Play Set. In the former, you’re dropped into a world and can manipulate it in a number of ways, from the use of the in-game level editing tools, to the ability to use power discs to add items, or by mixing and matching characters in any manner you like. Here, Mike from Monsters University and Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean can play together, which is something that the game does not allow for in Play Set mode. There’s no real story or structure here, as it’s meant to be messed around with as if you were just playing with your real-life toys. Admittedly, I did not put much time into Toy Box, as this isn’t a mode that appeals to me as a grown-up. I’m sure that kids will get a lot more out of it than I did.
Play Set mode is essentially the game’s campaign mode. There are multiple campaigns built into the game which are unlocked through the use of a Play Set toy. The starter kit comes with a figure that unlocks Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University and The Incredibles, though there are a number of other toys that will unlock more themed campaigns. Having the three made available to start is a fair chunk of game to play, though to unlock every campaign on the disc, you better have deep pockets for additional sets, as the Play Set packs that come with two characters cost about $35. Just to unlock all of the game’s content could easily cost you hundreds of dollars.
If you want to experience a play set with a friend, your wallet is in for another hit. Two players can only partake in co-op if they both have characters from that franchise. Because of this, the starter kit does not have what you’ll need to play the game co-op out of the box. You can purchase individual characters, or buy them in a set. I bought the sidekicks pack so that Steff and I could play the three initial play sets together, though we ran into a snag. Our Barbossa toy is defective, as the game reads him as Mrs. Incredible, which means that $30 later, we still couldn’t play all of the initial content together.
Virtually any way you slice it, the buy-in for Disney Infinity is going to be high. It might even be more than what you’d pay for a similar in value Skylanders experience. However, the actual gameplay here is pretty neat. Each game is essentially an open-world action adventure, though they add a number of different gameplay tweaks that make sense for the franchise it’s covering. In Monster’s University, stealth as a mechanic is important, as much of the action revolves around sneaking behind someone and scaring them. In Jack Sparrow’s world, you’ll do a lot of swashbuckling and traversal between ships and islands. For The Incredibles, you use your superpowers to beat up robots and other super villains.
Steff and I had a lot of fun working through these quests together. I love how the ability to play in split-screen mode allows for us to venture off on our own paths while still partaking in the same experience. The only downside to this is that it does hurt the frame rate, which already isn’t the greatest when you’re playing alone. The dips happen somewhat regularly, though they rarely impact the overall action. I would have preferred for the game to run at a more stable frame rate, though what’s here shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
For Steff and I, Disney Infinity is a good game that we can enjoy together. There’s a lot of nice touches for Disney fans and its gameplay takes cues from more hardcore games while simplifying them for its intended audience. Because of how different they are in execution, this and Skylanders can easily co-exist. The challenge here is that they’re both fighting for your wallet and Infinity can be an exceedingly deep rabbit hole to fall into. If you’re having fun with it though, the cost is easier to justify, and I definitely had a good time with this one.