Marvel comes to Disney’s bid to defeat Skylanders today, with Disney Infinity 2.0. It’s aimed at kids, of course, and there are drawbacks. But surprisingly, it’s got a lot of depth, enough that even adults will enjoy it.
When I was first contacted about Disney Infinity 2.0, they asked me if I wanted a review copy. I said sure, figuring I should be familiar with the game a bit before I interviewed people involved with the game. It was only when the box showed up that I remembered, oh yeah, this game comes with a lot of stuff.
And I mean a lot of stuff. For those unfamiliar, here’s how it works. You connect a pad with three slots to your console. One hexagonal slot is reserved for the various types of games you play, while the other two round slots allow you and a friend to place a character on the pad and boot them up in the game.
As for what kind of game you play, that depends entirely on what you put down. The game ships with what it calls a “playset,” a clear figurine that essentially contains a game that’s a few hours long for your heroes to play through and level up in. You can also get what amount to side missions, little hexagonal tokens that have you playing different minigames in the various universes, like Thor defending Asgard in a tower defense game.
In the playing, the “playsets”, and I was shipped two to try out, one for the Avengers and one for the Guardians of the Galaxy, are basically My Little God Of War. You punch and pew-pew your way through some fairly straightforward scenarios, hunt collectibles, and level up. Experienced gamers will have to crank the challenge before they find anything that’ll give them pause, and there are some issues you’ll run into. The camera is a little twitchy, and the firing lock-on is hard to use.
But, impressively, there’s some depth here. All the characters have involved skill trees which allow you to build out a character to your tastes. Just as importantly, characters play much differently depending on who you use; Iron Man’s a good utility character, Star-Lord is better softening up his opponents at range before dodging into the fray and back out, and so on.
There’s also a Minecraft/Project Spark-esque Toy Box that you can goof around in, racing cars, unlocking “toys” that change the game and look neat, and so on. This is where the game is really promising and, again, has a truly surprising amount of depth. As you keep playing and unlocking new, well, toys to play with, and as you get familiar with the drag and drop tools, you’re basically building your own games and messing around with your own characters not unlike playing with action figures as a kid. Except, you know, now you can actually do stuff like have Iron Man grind rails through the Magic Kingdom and blow things up.
In short, the playsets are diverting, if a bit brief, but the idea is that they just get your imagination started, and you start building your own fun from there. Also, you get to stick various characters into other costumes, which will really take up far too much of your time.
But, of course, the game is just a part of it. There are also the figures; I got three Avengers and a full set of Guardians of the Galaxy to look over and play with.
First of all, the packaging is a pain; if you’ve got kids, have a utility knife handy because those things are wedged into that protective plastic. Also keep an eye out for the extras; each figure has a little card in the bottom that allows you to get the digital character. Oddly, it’s not immediately clear or intuitive how to add characters to your Toy Box; you’ll have to mess around with the pad and use tokens to properly unlock them.
The figures themselves are of a pleasing weight and detail; they have texture all around and it’s clear nothing was skimped in manufacturing. They’re definitely based more on the movies than the comics, while hewing to the previous game’s art style. One problem is that you might be fooled by some seams into thinking they’re poseable; sadly, they are not. Still, if you like tiny little figures of superheroes, these are some pretty good tiny little figures.
And just to top it off, we had a chance to speak with the game’s executive producer, John Vignocchi. It was clear he had a blast building the game, but he was willing to talk about the complexity of building a game like this in detail. Here’s what he had to say.
There are a lot of moving parts to this game, literally to some degree. What goes in to keeping it all together?
A lot of hard work, spreadsheets and schedule tracking! The entire process starts with defining what the stories are that we’re going to tell and from there the characters fall out. In the Guardians playset, we feature Cosmo prominently, for example. It’s very fun to draw from that stable, and to pick the best ones was an enormous task.
These character have a long, long artistic and design history. How much do you draw from the past, and how do you combine it with the overall style of the games?
In the beginning, our concept team at Avalanche spent a lot of time doing research into the iterations of the characters over the years. The team at Marvel steered us very much towards Avengers Assemble, and that’s where we drew most of our inspiration. The challenge for us is making it so that they fit within the Infinity world, so to speak, so when you have a character like Iron Man standing next to Mickey, they all feel like they fit in the same family.
How do you balance characters that range from gods to just guys who are big and unusually angry, as a game?
We don’t! What’s fun about it, when we had the philosophical discussion whether we should limit some of these characters. Everyone of them is a superhero: Should we nerf some of their abilities? We agreed as a team was to not do that. We wanted to ensure every Marvel fan could play with their heroes. Iron Man, for example, there are so many things he can do. Uni-beams, flying, missiles, there are so many different things he can do, to nerf him felt artificial.
Some people will collect the figures, and some won’t, of course. How do you ensure everybody has fun in designing that?
It’s an interesting challenge. The key thing that we do is that we pick a diverse set of game mechanics for everyone who buys the playset. The Marvel team had cautioned us to make sure Thor was always with Iron Man, because from a mechanics and play perspective they saw the best when they paired the two together. We also knew that boys and girls played the game, which is why we included Black Widow.
Spidey, obviously, is a fun character to play with. And the inclusion of Nova was driven by the fact we needed strong flying skills to balance Spidey’s web-slinging. So with two players, they can keep up.
With Guardians, you’ve got Star-Lord who can put down turrets and traps. We wanted to balance him with a character like Gamora, who has a sword and is a speed balanced character. We wanted people to feel like that players had diverse options.
What’s something we should try when we first boot up the game?
With Marvel fans, I would definitely jump right into the Avengers playset. We’ve got a tutorial that teaches you the basics, and for a fan who might not have picked up the game last year. For the Disney fan, I’d jump right into the toybox mode. We’ve got a fun intro that features all the characters coming together in a new and unique way. Learning what the toybox can do is going to be something that we know Disney fans will love.
What’s your personal favorite figure?
Myself, the one I’m most proud of is Venom. It took us so much time to get Venom to look right, and it wasn’t until the eleventh hour that the design evolved into a modification of our rig that we use for Hulk. We put him on the rig, and we extended his tongue out of his mouth, which is tough to do in the real world from a manufacturing viewpoint.
In-game, I always laugh because I think we didn’t balance him well. Venom is as strong as Hulk and has the web-swinging skills of Spider-Man. He’s my favorite figure for sure.