Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes Review (PlayStation 4)
Last fall, Disney Interactive sought to capitalize on the lack of competition in the marketplace for NFC figure-based video games. With the original Disney Infinity, there was a solid foundation for a strong future, even if the core game itself had more than its share of issues. Now one year later, Disney is back with a 2.0 version and the blockbuster branding of the Marvel Universe behind it. In Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, many strides were made in making a more complete game, as well as one that happens to be a bit more enjoyable.
The first time around, Disney Infinity included three different games to start, but only one figure could be used in each individual game (Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University or The Incredibles). In fact, one of the biggest disappointments with the original Disney Infinity was the lack of crossover capabilities with all the figures. Only characters from a certain franchise could be used in a particular game. With Disney Infinity 2.0, that issue has been addressed slightly. The starter set comes with just the Avengers Play Set, along with Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow. All three can be used immediately, and there's no need to rush out and pick up an additional figure just so you can play with another person. Currently, there are also Play Sets (the story packs based on individual franchises) for Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man. Both Iron Man and Nova (included in the Spider-Man set) can be used in all three Play Sets, while the Hulk works in Avengers and Spider-Man, and Rocket Raccoon works in Guardians and Avengers. Sure, it's not fully compatible across the board, but even that tiny bit of flexibility already makes Disney Infinity 2.0 a massive improvement over the original.
As for the Play Sets themselves, there have been some major overhauls there, too, even if some of the core gameplay leaves much to be desired. Most missions in Disney Infinity boil down to walk, run, or fly here, punch things, collect sparks, punch more things, and so on and so on. There are some missions where you'll have to escort someone, but there's a real lack of variety in what you'll be doing. Though you'll have some snazzy new powers with which to slay enemies like Frost Giants or Ronan's army, playing for long stretches gets really dull really quickly. And yes, the mini-games return once more, but those feel even less inspired, and anything that requires driving of any sort is an absolute chore. The vehicles controls are directly inverse to how smoothly the characters themselves work. Let's just say, you'll find yourself sticking with characters who can already fly instead of needing vehicular transport simply for the ease of getting around the map. Plus, it's incredibly fun to just fly around as Thor or Iron Man, even with no particular goal in mind.
Where the action really shines though is in the new abilities possible thanks to Disney Infinity 2.0. Before, characters were merely given a simple attack or two, and there wasn't much strategy or thought in how to tackle any given situation. Now, every single character, including older Infinity toys, includes a massive skill tree which offers a range of new abilities to unlock. Previously, leveling a character in Disney Infinity didn't really do much beyond offering unlocks for the Toy Box. Experience earned in Marvel Super Heroes goes much further, and really lets you make each character your own. That little bit of personalization stays with the individual figure and carries over to other Play Sets, so the Iron Man you use in Avengers is the same you'll be able to use in Spider-Man. In the last entry, leveling up was a chore trying to earn creation tools in the Toy Box, whereas now, chugging along through some of the repetitive missions at least offers you something useful in return.
Speaking of the Toy Box, the second iteration of the do-it-yourself level maker is miles and above better than that found in the first game. A great deal of what it makes Toy Box 2.0 better lies in the unlocking system, but equally as much due should be given to the new Creator tools. As mentioned before, leveling up your character has little to do with the Toy Box. Instead, the hundreds upon hundreds of blue sparks you find throughout any given Play Set act as a currency for opening up boatloads of goodies. Instead of the ludicrously dumb slot machine from the first game, items are categorized by theme, and purchased like the skills in your skill tree. Buying item X unlocks the ability to buy item Y. You can earn a pretty healthy sum of blue sparks just by playing for a short time, and sparks carry over with your profile to other Play Sets, or even other Toy Box adventures, as well. No matter how you're playing, you'll always have a way to keep earning sparks.
Once you've earned a decent enough amount, you'll be able to start planning out your purchases to craft your own creations. Everything is organized quite nicely, so it's easy to see what you're going to need to make your Toy Box yours. What's more, in addition to much better tutorials, Toy Box 2.0 includes two different simple tools for newcomers: Creators and Builders. Creators can be dropped in anywhere to make a themed stage in minutes, and Builders are little NPC characters like Fix It Felix or EVE that can be added to a landscape to craft an instant row of buildings or a robust forest. They'll just keep creating random layouts until you say stop. It's much more handy than having to place each and every tree or bush yourself. Obviously you can tinker with almost everything in the world, but having these tools at your disposal takes a bit of the burden off your shoulders.
If building your own worlds isn't your thing, you can still download free creations from other players and Disney through the Toy Box. There's a handful of stages available now that do a wonderful job of showing the versatility of the Toy Box 2.0, and can be played in just minutes. Plus, many of these offer experience and blue sparks, too, so giving them a play still does grant you some rewards. The best part is, none of this really takes up any extra space, as the levels you download are only saved temporarily. You won't suddenly run out of space on your hard drive because you spent the night downloading user stages to get inspired for your own creations.
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes still has that great look from the first game, and seeing all the Marvel heroes rendered in that pseudo-Pixar style is really cool. The figures themselves look sharp, and many are larger than ever. Venom and Hulk really tower over nearly every other figure in the line-up. That said, the paint apps on the figures themselves look a bit more flat than those that launched last year. Iron Man and Star-Lord look good, but they just don't pop like the 'Toy Story' or 'Frozen' figures.
The improvements made for Disney Infinity 2.0 make Marvel Super Heroes a very complete and compelling game. It's a bit strange that there's no Disney Play Sets planned for the immediate future, but with the star power of the Avengers, Spider-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, it's easy to see why they're in the spotlight this time around. Yes, there's a bit of repetitiveness, and yes there's a decent cost attributed if you want to collect them all, but the improvements over the original really do stand out to make this entry an even better experience.
This review is based on a retail copy of Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4. Additional figures and accessories were also provided.