Last year, Disney launched their first Infinity game, which attempted to amalgamate two of last year’s most popular titles, Skylanders (bring your toys to life) and Minecraft (free creation). The end result was met with slightly mixed emotions, not only from reviewers, but even the 10 year old frantically clicking away at the controller to complete missions. While the normal story mode had a limited appeal in the original game, the Toy Box mode provided infinite possibilities to what players could achieve in creating their mini villages; hindered only by their own imaginations, and sometimes skill.
Disney’s slew of acquired rights continue to grow year on year. While the acquisition of the Star Wars franchise made the headlines last year and started rolling out the cross-over on many of their products in 2014, the company managed to secure the rights for all things Marvel way back in 2009. It isn’t all too surprising, then, that Disney’s Infinity sequel introduced the Marvel characters to the fold in Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes. Whereas the first instalment attempted to find a balance between the two different gaming modes, 2.0 seems to have shifted much of its focus to the, player-favourite, Toy Box creation mode.
When purchasing your Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes starter pack, you’re presented with three figurines (Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow), a single Play Set (activates the story mode), and two Power Discs (mini games). When loading the game, your first instinct would be to start with the first option, and if you’ve placed the Avengers Play Set on Infinity Base (as instructed on startup) you would no doubt end up attempting to play through the story mode first.
Starting off the Avengers Play Set throws players in the deep end, with no tutorial or instructions. Only a quick introduction video at the start sets the scene as to what the current situation is, which becomes fairly straightforward after a few minutes spent playing. The premise is this: Loki and MODOK are attempting to rebuild the Casket of Ancient Winters, and in the process freeze New York City. Their allied troops, the Frost Giants, provide the challenge and quick action scenes throughout. While I did find it strange that there was no real tutorial, considering that the game is aimed at kids 7 years and up, the story mode drags on in wave after wave of punching the Frost Giants with a series of acquired fighting skills. Many of the missions involve saving frozen citizens and taking them to safety, which, in the end, have nothing really to do with the plot. Throughout the game, players can upgrade and customise their characters by means of the Skill Tree, which becomes more interesting than what the story has to offer. I spent more time flying around looking for new side challenges and bonus items scattered across the cordoned off city. Eventually, though, I had to grit my teeth to play through the actual story to upgrade the characters much quicker, if not just to get to the end of it.
The two mini games launched by the Power Discs, included in the starter pack, Assault on Asgard and Escape from Kyln, provide a welcome break in between the mind-numbing assault on Frost Giants, and require some additional thinking and strategy to complete. I can’t decide whether the mini games are actually better, or just seem that way after running through the story mode. Assault on Asgard can be described as a third-person tower defence battle, whereby you place turrets around the map to stop the continuous swarm of enemies from destroying your relic. Escape from Kyln is an isometric action game, similar to arcade games from the 90s. The games takes you through a series of challenges, while being accompanied by a customisable sidekick, which would normally be an NPC in other parts of the 2.0 universe.
Toy Box Mode
The Toy Box mode is where the game really comes to life. Not only does it present you with an endless stream of creative accomplishments, but any of your creations can be turned into your very own mini game, much like those included on the Power Discs. The previous statement may seem clichéd, but it holds true at the end of the day. Many of the rewards and bonus items you collect from story mode are unleashed in the Toy Box, and everything exists alongside many other NPCs. All of the gameplay updates over the original are also unlocked here, and everything you experience (minus the frustration) can be found in the Toy Box, from combat to flying around with no intent on doing anything.
The world is open to building from scratch, or simply using set templates, which often appear in the form of Disney characters wondering around the map, which will build you their respective housing arrangements from their own worlds. These templates range from train tracks, castles, pirate ships and the likes. There are even more paraphernalia from the Marvel Universe for you to use when decorating your environment. There’s the Infinity Gauntlet, Mjolnir, or even a few Iron Man portraits and statues. For the more adventurous players out there, you can spend time create your Toy Box world from the ground up, laying down foundations and adding custom roof tiles for your buildings, and mini games. Again, there is no tutorial here, and you will often resort to trial and error, it does still feel a lot more engaging.
There’s no doubting that these type of bring-toys-to-life games are market driven, and offer a variety of figurines and additional items to tempt players (and parents) to keep a steady stream of purchases going until the next release. In total, if you include all the figurines (R179), Play Sets (R399) and Power Discs (R79), players can easily fork out an amount between R5,000 and R6,000 to complete the full set. The Start Packs will set you back around R1,000, but do include 3 figurines, a Play Set, and two Power Discs. Unlike many of your other collectibles, these added game modes add some additional value opposed to just having them neatly displayed on your mantle. It is worth mentioning, then, that all of the figurines you’ve collected from the previous game can now be used on the 2.0 Play Sets, all with the new character upgrades and combat methods, eking out additional life on those older figurines.
Having handed over the controls to a 10 year old and watch how he attempts to work his way through the story and Toy Box modes, I couldn’t help but notice the difference in approach to many of the objects than I had performed. Even in the event of tackling the same objectives in defeating the Frost Giants, the feeling of reward when skill points are granted and characters upgraded provided more reason complete tasks. It seemed almost as if he didn’t mind, or even realise, that many of the objectives were just generic reproductions of the previous. Toy Box mode also created a unique challenge in building a world where anything goes, and often stopped to ask for instruction as to what the objective was. Once stated, though, that you simply build and play, it quickly became a lot more fun, and soon a few hours had passed without having him having been overly concerned.
Throughout the game, both story mode and Toy Box, players will encounter frustrating loading sequences between some of the different modes, as well as switching between characters and even after each mission. Add this to the extremely long story mode with its endless battle scenes, and I can imagine a few angry gamers at the end of it all. But all of the accomplishments may be worth it in the end, as you unlock more items in the Toy Box. We can all be thankful for the Toy Box mode. It is very disappointing that with all the improvements made to the character upgrades, gameplay and player combat, the story mode doesn’t take full advantage of it. Still, there are endless amounts of time to be spent with Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes, even more so when you have all the characters from the original Infinity game. Let’s hope that the Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy Play Sets deliver more in the story mode option.
Players can easily spend an innumerable amount of hours playing through the different aspect of the game, with the story mode clocking around 5-6 hours alone if played straight through without any hiding object collections and side battles. Without reading too much into the overall price of owning a large percentage of the figurines, there is a lot of fun to be had, even if your age is triple that indicated on the box. Even if your kid may eventually get bored of the actual game, there is still some fun to be had playing imaginary games with the figurines.