For a cool idea for a kid's game, Disney has made its ambitious new project sound very complicated indeed. An "interactive platform" that's cost over $100 million to develop, it comprises a range of franchise-specific games, physical toys, collectible card-style blind booster packs and an overarching creation tool, the Toy Box, which ties together all of the above. Even the Starter Pack, which we're reviewing here, is a mess of interlocking parts, both physical and conceptual.
In the box, you'll first notice three lovely looking, NFC chip-equipped figurines of Jack Sparrow, Mr Incredible and a Monsters University-era Sulley. Hidden beside them are a Play Set piece, a randomly chosen Power Disc (used to add abilities or themes to the game's modes), the Skylanders-indebted base that brings all of the above into the game's virtual realms and a now prosaic-looking game disc.
On that disc are the Toy Box, a sprawling creation and play tool, which includes a number of tutorials, mini-games, an item generator and the Hall of Heroes (a literal monument to all the toys you don't yet have). Alongside that sit three Play Sets, each of which is a self-contained game based on the franchises from which each figurine character originates. Phew.
Some Bright Spark
Then there are the game's systems. Characters can only be used in their own franchise's Play Set, but any character can be used in Toy Box. There's an XP currency that levels up your characters, earning you Toy Box unlocks, but also Play Set-specific currencies that earn unlocks within (and sometimes outside of) those games. Power Discs, which are activated by placing them on the base, come in a variety of types. Some only change the Toy Box theme, while others add abilities or stat buffs across all modes.
The tangled web of ideas at work behind all of this ends up reading more like Matrix fan fiction than a Disney fairytale. It's a shame, because the game's opening paints a very different picture. With a quintessentially (and, for parents, we're sure cochlear-scrapingly annoying) Disney voiceover, the game introduces its controls by having you steer the Spark of Imagination through a blank landscape that materialises, grows and changes as you cast light over it. It's simple - beautiful, even - and gets across the game's concept in one fell swoop. Infinity is meant to represent everything Disney franchises can be, not just are, for a truly invested fan.
Occasionally it gets close to delivering on that lofty goal. The Play Sets, each a set of quests in shrunken open worlds, all work from a similar recipe, flavoured by the success of Traveller's Tales' LEGO games and a regret at how many terrible licensed games kids have been forced to play. What they also all share is a genuine care for their source material.
Pirates Of The Caribbean is the standout, opening with an attack on a harbour reminiscent of the best moments of the first film, before unfolding into Assassin's Creed IV set in a world of injection-moulded plastic. Naval combat, thug-infested mini-islands topped with Toy Box treasures and a thread of main quests with some competent combat - all connected by ocean exploration on a customisable ship - help capture the pirate's life a young fan would be after. Older non-fans might just dig it, too.
Monsters University is more sedate, splitting its world across the campuses of the eponymous institution and its rival, Fear Tech, during a prank war. Quests revolve around either cleaning up your own grounds or ruining someone else's, which, while less interesting than plundering an archipelago, integrates both the Monsters world and Infinity's wider interests. Sulley's 'scary feet' manoeuvre becomes a stealth mechanic, while the later missions use Toy Box's focus on customisation to place traps. There's an emphasis on climbing, too, turning the uni's various department blocks into vertical, crannied puzzles.