Disney Infinity 3.0 review: a new hope

Game Info
Platform 360, PS3, Win, Wii U, iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Disney Interactive
Developer Avalanche Software
Release Date Aug 30, 2015

Disney Infinity 3.0 made me laugh so hard I nearly threw up.

Weird noises escaped my mouth as I fought to gain composure and a little air.

My 14-year-old son, already writhing in paroxysms of laughter, rolled onto his side giggling as if trying to escape the vortex of hilarity, but his attempt was futile.

Finally, we both managed to stop. Wiping tears from his eyes, Tristan looked at me and asked, " what was that noise you made?

Tristan and I spent hours laying on the floor of our den, propped up on elbows, feet wavering behind us and an army of colorful Star Wars, Disney, Tron, Inside Out and Marvel figures standing at attention in front of us. They seemed to watch us as we watched them cavort, fight and joke on the television while we played through Disney Infinity 3.0.

Three years in, Disney Interactive still manages to deliver new surprises with its annually iterated toys-to-life Disney game. The biggest, most obvious draw for 3.0 is its Star Wars theme, delivering the ability to play and create games in the universe of Sith Lords and Jedi Knights. But the developers didn't stop with a new cast of popular characters; as with last year's version, the pre-created campaign is just a taste of what the full game has to offer. New additions to creation modes, new ways to share and play online, ability-boosting sidekicks and farming massively expand the game's design.

While the bulk of Disney Infinity 3.0's play is found in the game's Toy Box Hub and Toy Box creations, the game's flashy introduction does a fine job of giving you a taste of what all you can expect from the game's developer-created campaigns, both the one included in the box and those you can buy as expansions. The game opens on a scene from Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic, the playset included with 3.0. It quickly sets the tone for the playset as well as giving you a chance to learn some of Anakin Skywalker's basic moves, which include double jumps, light saber fighting and use of the force both in combat and for puzzle solving.

infinity 3.0 screen 1

A fast cut moves you from an epic showdown between Skywalker and a fearsome enemy to the familiar faces of Star Wars Rise Against the Empire's playset — an add-on — stuffed inside the Millennium Falcon. After a short section of space combat against TIE fighters, the scene cuts again, this time to Disney Pixar's Inside Out — which has a stand-alone playset for 3.0. The very short platforming level ends with a final cut to my personal favorite of the openers: Mickey and Minnie Mouse driving along a road in a colorful countryside. The short race against Donald Duck is most likely meant to give players a sense of what Toy Box Speedway — another add-on that introduces Kart-racing to the franchise — has to offer.

I'm certain that some aspect of the scene-hopping introduction was to market more things for players to buy, but it's done so well it didn't really bother me. This introduction is also, by far, the best intro the franchise has ever had, pushing players through a number of unique short missions while both training and entertaining them.

Once you're introduced to the game, you have a choice to make: Play the game's campaign or hop into the Toy Box Hub. I elected to drop the included figures for Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano onto the Disney Infinity base and make my way through Star Wars Twilight of the Republic. Older Star Wars fans, like myself, may be disappointed to learn that the playset included with the starter pack (which also comes with Toy Box 3.0, the two figures and a base) is set entirely in the Jar-Jar-Binks-infested world of Episodes 1 through 3. The good news is, that despite the inclusion of Binks in one whole mission (yes, he remains as annoying as ever), the campaign is packed with well-crafted missions and even a bit of on-world and in-space exploration.

infinity 3.0 review image 2 tall

Disney Infinity 3.0 takes the skill tree concept introduced with 2.0 and expands it to give players choices that are more significant when promoting a character. This is most noticeable in combat which begins to feel like something yanked from a much more focused action title. That's a boon to the new lightsaber combat in particular. Now enemies can be juggled, and a more robust combo system gives players the ability to switch up how they deal out damage mid attack.

And that's just the melee combat. Players also are tasked with missions that demand platforming skills and a little light puzzle solving. All of the planets featured in the game are explorable, at least a little, beyond the narrow focus of the missions. Often those explorations include running into characters who can deliver side-missions.

Once you leave the planet, players can choose to move between worlds and explore space around each. For us, exploration helped us discover ships in distress and in need of defense, tiny space stations with docks for our spacecraft and mini-games to play. We even found one adorable asteroid-sized planet with its own gravity which pulled laser shots around its curved surface, once on the ground and exploring.

the addition of the Toy Box Hub is a big step in the right direction

Between the space exploration of each planet and planet-side exploration and side-missions, this playset offers up much more play than any I've tried before. And it's a healthy mix of platforming, fighting, searching and flying.

While the game delivered an eclectic mix of solid playtime, it didn't do so without some issues. About two-thirds of the way through the campaign we noticed that some sounds started to act up. It started with the buzz of the lightsaber disappearing occasionally. Then we missed an entire plot point because the voices stopped working for a scene. Later, while tinkering with other elements of the game, this issue persisted causing total silence, or areas where we only heard the score, or the odd sound of background effects and nothing more. The sound always returned eventually, but it took a lot away from the experience. All of Infinity 3.0's added elements bring also new technical issues and unwanted holdovers from 2.0. Chief among the distractions were load times that often approached two minutes.

While the relatively short Star Wars campaign is fun, it's not the biggest draw of the game. We spent the bulk of our 30 hours playing in the Toy Box.

None of the Disney Infinity games really come with a step-by-step written manual on how to use the immense collection of toys, doodads, decorations and interactions to make your own thing. In 2.0, the game delivered instruction on those methods through characters spread throughout an instructional world. While it was a neat concept, the delivery was a bit flawed, making it hard to find exactly what you were looking for and cleaning breaking the fun of play and the need for instruction into two separate areas. While 3.0 isn't without its flaws, the addition of the Toy Box Hub is a big step in the right direction.

disney infinity 3.0 review sidebar bg

Cost of Entry

Disney has been surprisingly reactive to fans' concerns about pricing for the game and the way the game's power discs are sold.

During previous iterations of the game, the plastic discs which could be used to unlock vehicles, characters, weapons, gadgets, paints, wallpaper, even skies in the game's Toy Box mode, were sold in blind packs.

After some fan outcry, Disney announced that starting with 3.0, those power discs will be sold in clearly labeled packs of four.

Perhaps even more surprising, Disney decided to lower the suggested retail price of its starter pack edition this time around to $64.99.

The best part of all of this listening, though, is that now players can choose to dive into Star Wars with whatever campaign they'd like, if they do some smart purchasing.

Players who already own Disney Infinity 2.0 or 1.0 can opt to purchase 3.0 on its own for $29.99, use their old base and then pick up the Star Wars Rise Against the Empire playset for another $34.99 when it hits in September. That comes with Luke and Leia figures and a campaign set during the Darth Vader, Jar-Jar-free era. If you're so inclined, you could decide to purchase the Star Wars Twilight of the Republic playset, featuring Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano figures along with a campaign that includes Jar Jar Binks and much friendlier Anakin Skywalker for $34.99. The price for the 3.0 and one campaign, coming in at $64.98, is a penny cheaper then purchasing the starter pack.

The Hub is a massive world where players can run around in pre-created, themed sections racing, blasting each other and generally having fun. If they want, a player can also make their way to the center of the world and chat with one of a number of characters about combat, vehicle use, exploration, interior creation, game design and even farming — one of the game's new additions.

This ability to seek out instruction without layers of game loading is a big plus, though ultimately, Tristan and I found the nitty-gritty of game design instruction with Toy Box wanting.

Each instructor sends players to a color-coded teleportation door, which then allows them to select, specifically what they want to play and learn about. So the vehicle door, for instance, offers a chance to race against friends and AI-driven vehicles, build tracks and experiment with trick jumps, while the exploration door is packed with densely designed lush worlds and neat games. (Our two favorites were a Frogger knock-off and a themed race to the top of a platform-and-trap laden mountain.) Playing through these lessons accomplishes a number of things: You learn some basic design, get some neat ideas and earn both new items and the "sparks" needed to unlock what you haven't found.

Ignoring those instruction doors and the myriad of levels they include, it's easy to waste an hour or two just roaming around the Toy Box Hub itself. Enemies randomly pop-up to attack you, there's a giant racetrack, a haunted dungeon and Cinderella's castle, to name a few big set pieces. Tristan and I even discovered an entire Ewok village in the trees of one forest, complete with adorable mini-Ewok.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the Toy Box, granting anyone the ability to make just about any sort of game they can conceive of and stuff it full of Marvel, Disney, Pixar and Star Wars creations. As with both Disney Infinities that came before it, Disney Infinity 3.0's biggest draw is its ability to create, share and play. And the developers made sure they spent a lot of time tweaking how that's done, even adding some fantastic new ways to make games.

Perhaps the biggest addition to Toy Box worlds is farming and its impact on sidekicks. This time around you can level up your sidekick and give it special abilities by feeding it food; food you plant, grow and pick from plots in the game. Growing can be as simple as assigning your sidekick to a plot and leaving him or her be, to babysitting the plot to attacks weeds and flowers to make way for food growth (and earn a little spark on the side.).

In my time playing, I've been able to increase the abilities of my sidekick and even found clothes and weapons that allowed him to be a better farmer, armed him with a knife to attack bad guys or even to explode and damage enemies when I throw him. I even was able to use one to heal myself.

infinity 3.0 review screen 4 tall

Of course, Disney Infinity 3.0 is packed with new toys, settings and game design additions. You can, for instance, now stream a live Radio Disney broadcast directly into the game, a clever tool.

Most useful to me, is the addition of a new path creator. This little toy allows you to create an invisible path and then spawn enemies to patrol along it, or use it to make theme park rides or even script cutscenes. It's a fantastic addition to Disney's system of play.

As the number of toys in the game continues to grow — remember all of the toys from 1.0 and 2.0 move forward — Disney Interactive continues to tinker with how you access those toys. This time around, you don't have to unlock anything through gameplay. Instead you can use all of those sparks you've been gathering up in campaigns and play to unlock whatever you want. It's a smart move, though I wish they'd add a search function. I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to locate or relocate that one piece I needed for a creation.

After spending most of a day playing through the Twilight campaign and dipping our figurative toes into the Hub world, Tristan and I went to bed inordinately late, only to get up the next morning and spend another day — 13 hours long — playing through all of the Hub world's games and then, finally, working on our game design masterpiece.

It was, of course, Tristan's idea.

the fun and the potential outcome kept pulling us forward

He wanted to make a game where players were a prisoner and had to break out from jail. Six hours later, six hours of mostly fun and maybe a little frustration, we were done. The level starts with a puzzle to open the door and leads the player into a massive maze. That maze eventually opens onto the outside world and, if you're not careful, a room packed with guards. To finish the escape, the player has to platform their way across a sea of lava, climb up and around a forested mountain and finally press a button. And the whole thing is timed.

The fun found in that day of design was in the teamwork and creativity that Tristan and I shared as we worked to accomplish our goal. The frustration came from some of Disney Infinity's old design issues and ever expanding aspirations. As our creation grew so did the chug we experienced while building. Placement, especially when trying to create a continuous wall or walls, can be tricky at times and the tools aren't always the best to work with when trying to create something massive. We accidentally deleted floors, ceilings, entire complicated locking systems, while working on Prison Escape, but the fun and the potential outcome kept pulling us forward.

Wrap Up:

Disney Infinity 3.0 strives to do many things well

It's easy to pass off Disney Infinity 3.0, like any Disney Infinity, as a cynical collection of famous brands and characters, a game driven by fond childhood memories and buzz-building movies, television shows and toys. But that's far from the case. Disney Infinity 3.0 is a deeply complex system of games, an aspirational creation that strives to do many things well.

In essence, Disney has finally thrown open its vault of treasured characters and stories and wants you to play. What better way to do that than laying on the floor side-by-side with your child, laughing until you're sick, creating not just video games, but memories.

Because of the technical issues encountered during the review process with pre-release software, this review should be taken as provisional until such time as Polygon staff are able to determine the final release state of the software. Disney Infinity 3.0 was reviewed using final retail Xbox One code provided by Disney. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

About Polygon's Reviews
8 PS4
8 Xbox One