It’s been about two months since I picked up a copy of the Disney Infinity (DI) Starter Pack (for PS3) to try out at home with Claire. And we like it.
I’d been trying to bridge that gaming gap between the touch-screen simplicity of that narrow and ridiculous variety of tablet games — y’know dress-up-this, swipe-that, angry-those-tossing, and all manner of jewel, candy, gem, or other colourful nugget-crushing games — and what I see as that somewhat more mature field of console gaming. (Of course, there are parents out there who will question the very effort itself, ranting at me about the desire to get my kid into video games at all and the negative implications of that –y’know, go out and play, dammit– and that’s a whole other article.) My plan was to simply find a game that motivates her to pick up a controller and learn something about a finely-tuned gaming interface besides jabbing her index-finger at a glass screen.
But how has out experience panned out in general?
Play-ability For Kids
First things first: she’s not into the fighting bit. I have mixed feelings about that if for no other reason because without the exploding of baddies, many games don’t offer much in the way of game-play… but then my daughter doesn’t yet have that video game bloodlust, so… y’know, mixed.
The up-side is that DI has offered a lot of potential for gameplay beyond of the hack-and-slash of baddies. From downloading the weekly installments of shared “Toy Boxes” selected by the moderators against a theme to a wide-open world-building game, she has yet to run out of things to do. And she keeps asking to play. So, that’s cool.
I would say that the character-thing is has turned out to be big deal for kids… or at least my kid. Not having a female character in the starter pack… or not having an alternate starter pack with different (ie. a mix of genders) characters… is a big foul on Disney’s part. Yeah, I went out and immediately bought a “girl” toy right away (Violet) and maybe that’s what they are playing at, but if I was on a stricter budget I think the all-boys starter pack would have been a non-starter in our house and likely I wouldn’t be writing this review right now.
Even so, it’s now on the top of her playlist, so I’ll give the game the full rating in this category.
- More than just fighting and building.
- The controls are simple enough, and she’s even started to get the triggers and more complex “interaction-type” toys figured out. She’s six, by the way.
- For a kid who doesn’t like to fight baddies, leveling up is super-difficult. A few more options in version 2 would be welcome.
Play-ability For Big Kids
In other words… how would parents like it? How about four stars..
I had envisioned something more akin to Minecraft when I researched it, but while comparisons can be drawn between DI and Minecraft, the two diverge quite quickly in both style and opportunity. Unlike Minecraft where you’re only limited by your willingness to dig deep and hunt for resources, the suite of DI tools and toys is limited in a couple ways: (a) you’ve gotta earn spins so that you can randomly acquire new toys and (b) you earn spins by leveling up your characters, which is both an experience in player-grinding and capped at 15 levels per. (See the section on cost and do that math.)
That said, the starter pack comes with a couple “playsets” that are a little challenging for my six-year old and I’ve had some fun playing them. In fact, I would argue that the Pirates of the Caribbean game is among one of the better Disney Pirates games available anywhere.
- Lots for dad to do in the game after the daughter goes to bed.
- Multiplayer building in a free-form world makes for some QT for daddy-daughter gameplay.
- Even dad can’t overcome the massive quantity of grinding and randomness required to unlock some glimpsed-at and coveted toys.
Long Term Potential
Another 4 our of 5. Starting in at the beginning of this game, at the end of a console generation (hello PS4?) and wondering what the future holds for this little collection of figurines I’ve bought, I was happy to read speculation that the plan is to release inter-version compatible new editions of the game going forward. How I understand it is that — hopefully — you buy a new playset, a new set of characters, and a new disc (for the console of your choice) but all your old stuff still kinda works. And you don’t need to be checking to see which character goes with which, nor spending countless hours on ebay hunting down gouge-level priced editions of the same characters for the next volume of the game.
But I can see how this is going to turn into a long-term obsession, certainly much to my wife’s chagrin. Better start saving…
- The potential for expansions and upgrades is limited only by Disney’s willingness to licence content, something that Disney always seems (rightly-so) hesitant to do with a fresh game.
- Backwards compatibility seems to be in the developer’s roadmap.
- Vague information about future release dates.
- Some of the playset choices made by the developers so far have been.. meh.
This is where things get interesting, of course. It’s not waaaaay overpriced, and you can stop spending with the starter pack and only miss out on trivial add-ons. But there is the aspect of the character level-cap, which technically limits the number of things you can unlock. So, three stars.
So many games these days suck you in with a low price-point and then hit your with a punch you in the groin with add-ons and downloadable content. If you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into with DI when you see the game stacked on the shelves with a massive variety of little plastic figurines, it’s your own fault really. I don’t imagine the quantity of add-on content for DI is that far off the selection for many other of similar titles, but the difference here is that (a) you need to buy the toy to play the character and (b) you need to actually FIND the toy in a store to buy it.
I got our collection on sale, and I’ve been pretty picky about additional characters and power discs (did I mention the little mystery packs of power discs!?) but still… we’re in for about a hundred bucks at this point, and if I can ever find that Frozen bundle I promised to buy I’ll be down another thirty.
Yeah, you’re going to spend some cash on this title, and to be honest, I don’t know how much real value you’re getting for the cost: most characters only really seem to add one or two new (virtual) toys to your collection, and don’t come with much in the way of additional gaming content.
- No unlimited virtual downloads helps avoid late-night impulse buys. If you can’t find it in a store, you can’t buy it. On the other hand, if you can’t find it in a store…
- Used characters and discs are gonna be a thing pretty soon. Trust me. And the market is gonna be sat-ur-ated.
- Mystery packs? I mean.. c’mon. At least guarantee ONE of the discs. Let the second be a mystery. Or really do MYSTERY discs… and sell sheets of labels. I don’t know. It just seems cash-grabby.
- There seems to be a shortage of some characters where I live and the retail exclusives-thing with some of the character releases was kinda rude.
- You have a constant reminder of all the cash you spent on the game in the form of little six-inch figurines of Disney characters staring at you with those lifeless plastic eyes.
- Even worse, some thing cannot be unlocked unless you have a FULL SET of characters from a franchise. In other words, you need all 5 Incredibles characters to unlock some prime Incredibles toys. Boo.
I’m giving this a four out of five stars. I like it. And I wouldn’t mind if some of my friends bought it so we could connect our kids in the online mode (which I’ve yet to try out!)
I can see where the game is going, and as a Disney product I’m better than half-confident that there is a long-term plan for all these little bobbles and bits I’ve bought. It could use some polish (and based on the franchise choices to date) perhaps some better buy-in from Disney. Disney is on board, I’m pretty sure, considering how much of this game promotion I saw in Florida (IN DISNEY WORLD) less than a month ago.
So, we’ll see how I feel in a year when things have had a chance to mature, but it seems like a good start.