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Disney Infinity video-game review

Disney Infinity, the newest game from Disney Interactive, features characters from many of Disney’s popular franchises and implements physical toys with its virtual world. If this idea seems familiar, it has a lot in common with Activision’s Skylanders franchise. But Disney Infinity brings plenty to the game to set it apart.

The game has a lot of visual charm. The characters are all designed to look like action figures, which helps them all fit into the same virtual world—for example, Jack Sparrow looks much more like a cartoon and less like Johnny Depp.

Here’s my take on Disney Infinity.

How it works

Disney Infinity, like Skylanders before it, lets you take a physical toy and use it as an in-game character. You place the toy version of the character you want to play in one of the circular slots on the Infinity Base, which serves as a bridge between the physical and virtual world. Whichever characters or Power Discs you place on it will be available for use in the game—Power Discs are power-ups for your characters or new items for in-game use. You also use the Infinity Base to access your Play Sets: These are the worlds based on a specific set of characters.

When you start playing, you’ll be in Toy Box mode. After you’ve placed your chosen character on the Infinity Base, you get a series of tutorials explaining how to play the game and how customization works in the Toy Box.

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Build your own world with Toy Box

Toy Box is by far the highlight of the game. In this game mode, anything goes; you’re able to create your own world. Everything in the Toy Box is based on Disney properties, ranging from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Tron,” but you can create your own virtual world from scratch by choosing different pieces of landscape, buildings, or castles and placing them anywhere you want and having characters from different Disney stories interact with each other.

If building isn’t your thing, you can download worlds from Disney, as well as worlds that other players have created. Two players can play on one console or you can hook up with up to three friends online and share your Toy Box creations.

You can even create minigames in your world by using pieces called Creativi-Toys, which can be linked together for various effects. For example, you could place a pressure switch on the floor that opens a door in another area when it’s stepped on. These simple interactions are easy to pick up, but it takes some toying around (pun intended) to really get the hang of more complex connections. You can unlock additional pieces for the Toy Box by playing through adventures and Play Sets.

Traditional play with Play Sets

With the Play Sets, Disney Infinity becomes more like a structured video game. You get a series of missions that are based on that Play Set’s theme: For example, in "The Incredibles," one of the missions is to save civilians who are trapped under debris by destroying it.

One thing to note about the Play Sets is that only figures from that universe will work. Jack Sparrow can’t run around in the "Incredibles" Play Set, for example. These types of interactions can take place only in the Toy Box.

The Play Sets’ missions are pretty straightforward—and honestly, are a little boring compared with Toy Box mode. Still, the Play Sets give more directed play and story lines for your characters. Also, you’ll unlock a lot of new pieces for the Toy Box by playing through the Play Sets, which is incentive enough to keep doing so.

Who should play?

Disney Infinity is great for kids. They may have trouble with some of the more complex elements of building worlds in the Toy Box, but they’ll get a kick out of playing with Disney characters. There is some mild violence in beating up bad guys and wielding toy guns, and some parents may find this unsuitable for their children.

Who else? Fans of Little Big Planet, Minecraft, or Legos will love the world-building elements in Disney Infinity. Several unplayable characters make small cameos as “town people.” These are small, Lego-like characters who are customizable members of your toy box.

Bottom line

Disney Infinity is a fun game with a lot of potential for growth. This is where the similarity to Skylanders really lies: “Growth” in these types of games costs money. No doubt Disney will offer many characters and power discs to collect, and kids who love Disney are definitely going to want them. Great news for kids, but bad news for parents who are trying to keep those kids happy.

A word of advice: The Disney Infinity figures can be pre-ordered at several retailers, and odds are some of them are soon going to be hard to find. It’s much easier to pre-order than to shell out way more than the figures are worth later. This happens all the time with Skylanders. You’ve been warned!

The Disney Infinity starter pack (for $75) is available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, and 3DS platforms. The starter pack comes with the Disney Infinity game, Infinity Base, 3 Play Sets ("Monsters University," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and "The Incredibles"), three figures (Sully, Jack Sparrow ,and Mr. Incredible), and a Power Disc. The individual characters cost $14, and Play Sets cost $40 and come with two figures for use in that set.

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