Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Video Game Review)


If there’s one thing parents are likely dreading in the slow lead-up to Christmas, it’s the sizeable dent that their kids’ wish lists are going to put in their bank accounts and Disney Infinity 2.0 threatens be the biggest offender. The second outing for Disney and Avalanche Software’s video game/action figure set/collect-’em-all/’Oh god, where did all my money go?!’ mash-up throws everyone’s favourite Marvel characters into the mix* to make things even more enticing for kids of all ages.

But while the sequel makes some welcome refinements and additions to its create-your-own-levels Toy Box mode, the core game at the centre of Disney Infinity 2.0 is a surprisingly tiresome disappointment and one you could easily remove from those Christmas lists.
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Much like the Skylanders series, Disney Infinity is a hybrid of video game and action figure collection. With each starter set, you get the game disc itself, three action figures (Thor, Black Widow and Iron Man), a Disney Infinity base on which to place your figures and a Play Set statue which unlocks the game’s story campaign when dropped onto the base. You start up the game, drop your favourite character on the base and they show up in-game for you to control. If your character is defeated by enemies, they become temporarily unavailable and you can swap their figure out for a new character to continue the game. Aside from the Play Sets, there’s also the Toy Box mode, in which players can dream up and build their own levels and games to play through using their beloved Disney and Marvel characters.

Other Play Set packs are available separately (one based on summer hit Guardians of the Galaxy and a Spider-Man set) which each contain a new 3-6 hour game and two figures, along with extra additional figures like Captain America, Rocket Racoon or Groot available individually (with more fan favourites like Aladdin, Merida and Donald Duck to be released later) and trading card-style blind-bagged ‘Power Disc’ packs that give you two potentially rare mystery discs in a bag to unlock power-ups, vehicles and items.
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Naturally, it’s a scarily pricey proposition if you want to own everything, but while the first game at least offered great value for its starter set and delivered a shockingly high quality game to boot, 2.0 fails to deliver on either front. The big problem is that, especially when weighed up against the pack-in set that came with the original, the game playset included with Disney Infinity 2.0 is painfully short and woefully repetitive.

The first game’s core playset offered players three distinctly different and surprisingly lengthy games based on the included figures’ respective franchises. Whether you were battling it out on the high seas as Jack Sparrow, setting prank traps on the Monsters University campus or saving the city from supervillains in The Incredibles, the content in Disney Infinity meant more bang for your buck and tonnes of variety and entertainment, but the same sadly isn’t evident in 2.0.
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There’s just the one main Avengers-centric story in which Loki is using weather machines to freeze New York and set the stage for a Frost Giant invasion. You’ll tear through it in barely a few hours and though the game gives you an open world New York to explore, there’s no real incentive to do so. Unlike LEGO Marvel Superheroes, Infinity’s approximation of the city is barren of any familiar Marvel landmarks or easter eggs and while there’s a tonne of missions and challenges to pick up throughout the campaign, they’re all very quick and a slim variation on “Destroy this group of Frost Giants,” “Protect this thing from Frost Giants” or “Destroy these objects being guarded by Frost Giants.” Want to take a stab at the common trend? Yup, aside from a rare drone bot appearance and a Loki boss battle, you’re fighting nothing but Frost Giants through the entire game, which only drives home the lack of gameplay variety on offer.

The absence of any gameplay diversity or engaging story is made all the more disappointing by the core improvements the game does make. The ways in which you level up your character have been expanded upon greatly since the first game. There’s now a surprisingly large skill tree to work through for each character to upgrade their speed, boost health and strength, add extra extra offensive and defensive moves into the mix or unlock and beef up each character’s unique special attack. Whether you’re blasting waves of enemies with Iron Man’s missile barrage or using Mjolnir to take flight as Thor, each figure’s individual skillset helps them feel like a distinctly different character rather than reskinned versions of each other. Flying around as Iron Man or Thor is great fun (meaning those characters who have to slog it on foot to vehicle spawn points get the short thrift) while combat itself is fun and satisfying, making it especially disappointing that there isn’t more reason to explore or a wider variety of enemies to pummel.
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The game is also less restrictive about which characters you can use in each playset; the first game allowed you to use any characters you want in the Toy Box mode, but locked down the Play Sets so you could only use characters from that specific franchise – you couldn’t play as Jack Sparrow in The Incredibles or Wreck It Ralph in Cars, for instance. In 2.0, you can collect Crossover Tokens to let you use extra characters and unlock new missions in each playset, so you could use Rocket and Nova in the core Avengers game, or Iron Man and Nova in Guardians of the Galaxy. With Marvel characters all existing in one shared universe, it makes more sense to include that as an option and it’s definitely a welcome one, it’s just a shame that the core playset isn’t really fun enough to revisit with extra characters.

The scant length means you’ll complete the story long before you get truly bored, but it’s disappointing that Disney Interactive didn’t follow the value-and-variety trend set by its first iteration and give each pack-in character their own complete game – say, for example, Thor brawling his way through Asgard, a high-flying Iron Man shoot-’em-up adventure and Black Widow using her penchant for stealth, hacking skills and ass-kicking prowess to help Cap take down modern-day Hydra in a Metal Gear Lite-style game.
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There are a couple of ‘Toy Box Game Discs’ thrown in with the set – a Guardians of the Galaxy isometric shooter (an odd choice for a starter set containing no Guardians characters, even if it can be played with any Infinity character you own), and a Thor tower defence game. They’re essentially developer-made Toy Box missions on a game disc, but while they give you some fun ideas of what’s possible with your own Toy Box creations, there’s no real story and, due to their simplisitic nature, they get repetitive awfully quickly. As ‘rare’ finds in the £3 power disc packs, these Game Discs would be a fantastic idea (as it stands, they only come in starter packs, with Brave and Lilo & Stitch game discs currently exclusive to a Merida/Stitch figure set out in November), but as substitutes for the additional full game content of the original Infinity, they’re sadly lacking.

At least the one major upside of the Disney Infinity games is that, with the fantastic Toy Box mode, you can pretty much make the game you wanted to see in the first place and the refinements included in 2.0 open up the potential for you to – with time and effort – design your own Play Set length adventure. Added templates and prefabbed design pieces make it even quicker and easier for players to just jump in and throw together a pinball game, sidescrolling shooter or football match and decorate it to suit their favourite franchise, while the addition of helper monkey-style builders means you can allot an area and set them to work furnishing your world with platforming obstacle layouts and forest areas while you put your feet up and relax.
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As well as the options thrown in to improve accessibility, the new ‘Creativi-Toys’ provide a massive degree more freedom for those who want to create more varied and complex custom adventures to play and share online. The biggest and most welcome additions: You can now set up logic connections to do things like track collectibles and display custom text prompts and dialogue, so you can build your own quests with NPC character dialogue or text narration. The text creator tools do require an internet connection, though, as all custom text is vetted by Disney’s ‘Is this family friendly?’ filter, presumably to avoid kids bumping into a user-created level where Spider-Man just flies through the city dropping C-bombs left, right and centre. Also new is the option to link together different toy boxes with magic doors, giving the ability to create a more expansive, multi-level custom game.

As with the first game, the Toy Box is a wonderful tool to give kids and adults alike a place to unload their imaginative gaming ideas and experiment with fun and crazy designs and franchise mash-ups (plus it’s the only mode where you’ll be able to use all your existing Disney Infinity figures and power discs.)
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The downsides? It’s a shame that so much of the awesome, geeky stuff you’ll want to use in your Toy Box is gated behind challenge ‘Feats’ in the main game itself (and no indicator of which feat will unlock which object to save yourself unnecessary time and effort.) Want to unlock Peter Quill’s Walkman or The Infinity Gauntlet? Be prepared to replay the lacklustre story campaign far too much in hopes that you’ll nail the right feat. There’s also the strange lack of tutorials for any of the more complex creation tools. While there are Toy Box guides for the simple stuff like basic platforming and building objects, for the design aspects that you’ll actually need some help with, you’ll be stuck using trial and error or reverse engineering some of the creation templates available in lieu of any user guide.

An uneven mix of improvements and diminishing returns, Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes does provide the welcome return of the amazing Toy Box mode with some great tweaks and additions, but the lack of effort on display in the rest of the package is tremendously disappointing. The potential for great user-created content is even better this time around, but it feels like players have also been saddled with doing the leg-work to create their own lengthy and rewarding game, since the one bundled with Disney Infinity 2.0 is anything but.

* Well, unless your favourite Marvel character is Puff Adder or Doctor Bong, in which case, good luck petitioning Disney Interactive to include them.

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Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes is out now for consoles and PC.
Click here to buy the Starter Set from Amazon.co.uk.
A ‘Collector’s Edition’ Set is also available, containing the Starter Pack, the rest of the Avengers figures and a light-up Frost Giant display base for your figures.
Click here to buy the Collector’s Edition from Amazon.co.uk.