I played the first Disney Infinity. Hated it. More importantly, my kids hated it too, because it had too many menus, janky controls and some tedious mission design. Yet here we are, having skipped the sequel, for Dadtaku purposes playing our way through Disney Infinity 3.0. Or as most kids will know it, "the Star Wars one".
Note: I played this game alongside my five year-old daughter, so in addition to my own thoughts on it, I'll be reflecting some of her likes/dislikes about the whole thing as well.
Before we go any further, you need to know this is a complicated product. There are actually three different versions of Disney Infinity 3.0 for sale (with a fourth, based on Force Awakens, due later this year). Each comes with the same disc — which includes stuff like the tools to build your own worlds — but also with a specific "playset", which is the term Disney uses for "actual video game part with story and missions". One of these is based on the prequel Star Wars films (Twilight of the Republic), one is based on the classic Star Wars films (Rise Against the Empire) and a third is based on Pixar's Inside Out.
I played Twilight of the Republic. Those wanting Rise Against the Empire — and I'm guessing that's most folks — will have to wait, as it's not out until the end of next month (unless you bought the complete PS4 pack which included both Star Wars sets). Inside Out is a completely different experience again (more like LittleBigPlanet), one which I played briefly a few weeks back but won't be including in this review (Fahey has it, he'll be talking about it soon).
Got all that? Phew. OK, let's get the bad (and boring) stuff about this game out of the way first. This third Disney Infinity game is built on the same engine as the first, which is a problem. That engine may be great at scaling and accommodating different styles of play, but it's been pretty terrible to date at the fundamentals of character movement, whether it be sluggish vehicle controls or stiff platforming and combat.
Mike tells me Disney Infinity 2.0 was an improvement, and I believe it because there are changes for the better here as well (more on those later), but for the most part, most aspects of the way the player moves and interacts with the world in this game could be better. For my daughter, jumping straight from Super Mario 3D World's pinpoint elegance to this, it's been a struggle.
A struggle that continues through to the game's interaction with the player. I don't know whether it's because the game is trying to cram too much stuff in or can't think of a better way to present it, but there are just too many damn menus in Disney Infinity 3.0. At the front end, yes, but also in the game itself; this is supposedly for kids, but it's packing a skill tree that wouldn't look out of place in a Japanese brawler on the PS2, along with a menu system that's drab, unintuitive and way too reliant on text.
All those things were problems with the first Disney Infinity, are problems with Disney Infinity 3.0 and will likely remain problems for the foreseeable future with this series. If you're buying these games — and doing so will likely sign you up to the entire ecosystem (blergh) of past and future Disney Infinity titles and figures — you're going to have to learn to live with them.
Given those obstacles, however, I think 3.0 has done a very good job of making the best of it. Much has been made of the involvement of Ninja Theory (DMC, Heavenly Sword) in the refinement of Twilight of the Republic's combat, and with good reason, because it really shows: where melee strikes used to lack any sense of grace or weight, lightsaber combat is probably the highlight of the whole experience now, with a ton of cool moves available and a good sense of heft and timing to everything. There are even juggles, if you really want to play this like you've played Devil May Cry.
Twilight of the Republic also does a much better job than previous Infinity games of, well, feeling like an actual video game. The first Infinity's playsets were as bare as they come, and while 2.0 made positive strides, Twilight's cutscenes and open-world mission design make it feel much closer to a proper standalone video game than what's essentially a glorifed toolkit creation. It's just a shame that you can blow through the whole thing in 2-3 hours (though there are some dull sidequests available if you want to space things out).
Outside of the main campaign, Disney Infinity's "Toy Box" mode returns, a little bigger and a little easier to use. If you want to build new worlds to mess around in or specific missions/races to complete, this is where you do it. Likewise, you can also play some pre-made scenarios (like a carpet race through Agrabah) or download select designs from the community.
This all works about as well as something designed for console could hope for, helped by the fact that the addition of both Marvel and now Star Wars characters has helped bring so much variety to your options, but it's a place where Infinity gets a little too cute with its tendency to lock content like buildings and objects away behind singeplayer playthroughs; kids (or me!) should be able to just fire this up and build anything, not have to grind to get stuff.
All of which is important to know, but enough talk about the video game, because that's only half of what Disney Infinity is about. Let's move on and talk about the toys.
From the unveiling of the first figures in 2013 through to today, I've been in love with Infinity's character design. Not only is it a smart way to unify a ton of different art styles under in the one project, but they just look cool, a little bit Pixar, a little bit Team Fortress 2. Their angular simplicity also has the bonus effect of making every figure look just like their in-game counterpart.
Part of the appeal of previous figures from older movies has been seeing how characters have looked once given the Disney Infinity visual overhaul, but that's less of a big deal here, since between the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series most of these characters have already been represented in a chunky, cartoony style elsewhere.
Leaving the classic trilogy guys to be the focus. I've seen Luke and Leia, and they're pretty good (Leia's got some attitude, which is cool), and the effect on Chewie's hair is also great. Han Solo's pose and outfit are perfect, but it's Darth Vader who comes off looking best, with a pretty dramatic redesign helping him skate the line between "goofy kid's game character" (essential, since he's a playable "hero") and "genocidal maniac" almost perfectly.
Basically, what I'm saying is that were they a few bucks cheaper I'd be buying these just for the figures, game be damned. A word of caution for parents, though: the lightsabers aren't very durable, so these aren't practical as toys for smaller kids. If you're going to be collecting them (or buying them for kids collecting them), most of these will be better served left on the shelf than on the floor.
I like this game (or at least the version I got to play). More importantly, my kid likes it too. She loves the toys, loves the cinematic presentation (there's a Star Wars text crawl in the intro and the music is piped straight from the soundtracks) and despite setbacks with stuff like menus has had a blast in just about every game mode present, from the campaign to the Toy Box, where her Ewok Village vs Cinderella's Castle vs Toy Story Battle Royale is precisely the kind of cool, wacky stuff Disney is angling for with this series.
I asked her what she specifically liked about this compared to the first Infinity and she wouldn't shut up, saying it was "easier", "prettier", "more fun", "funnier" and "awesome because it has Sabine in it".
Me? I don't have much more to add, as she's pretty much nailed it. I'd just like the game to be a little more elegant with its user interface and a little less cynical with its content; with the Twilight campaign so short, it's a shame seeing the classic trilogy not just relegated to a separate purchase, but held back by around a month as well.
Below are shots of the rest of the Star Wars figures I got to use for the review.