Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: September 23, 2014
ESRB: E for Everyone
â€œAnd lo, there did God say unto Abraham, â€œVerily all your existing figures and power discs are compatible with yon Disney Infinity 2.0.â€ And the angels did sing, "Glory glory hallelujah.â€ - some Bible passage, probably.
Ok, I“m probably going to hell for that, but in a lot of ways Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes already is heaven. Fans of Disney“s newly acquired Marvel Universe comes alive in the latest installment of what appears to be an annualized franchise in the â€œtoys to lifeâ€ category from Disney Interactive and Avalanche Software. And while you may or may not have played the first game, there are certainly plenty of reasons to look beyond the ”gospel“ and see if Disney Infinity 2.0 is the Garden of Eden, or a sinner“s paradise.
Outrageous intro aside, the focus is clearly more on Toy Box this time around. Whereas Disney Infinity (1.0) has one play set piece with three story modes, Marvel Superheroes comes with only one story mode. And while it is true that Avenger“s New York is more than twice the size of The Incredibles's Metroville, it only has about half the playability of 1.0“s three-in-one set piece. What you get is a 4-6 hour story penned by famed comic writer Brian Michael Bendis. There“s no argument that the comic veteran certainly knows his way around a comic book page but I“m not sure he“s completely comfortable writing video games. In the end, the plot of the Avenger“s story mode is a disappointing collection of the same four mission types repeated to death, only two boss fights, and some downright criminal lack of resolution.
The best things about the story are Samuel L. Jackson“s voiceover work for Nick Fury, the ability to play co-op straight out of the box (seriously lacking from 1.0), and the cameos by fan favorite characters like Lady Sif, Wasp, and Captain Marvel. Unfortunately those cameos are bittersweet because each one absolutely deserves to be a playable character. Even still you“ll likely not come back to single player once you're done, with only a few bonus missions that characters from other play sets are required to unlock, challenges, and collectathon type boxes scattered around to keep you playing.
Of course, other play set pieces exist, with Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-man giving you more structured action should you be willing to invest an extra $35 to $40 (depending on your retailer of choice). Of these, I highly recommend Guardians of the Galaxy for the great level/world design it features, making it the most competent and enjoyable play set since the Pirates of the Caribbean play set (in 1.0, which is no surprise since the two share a developer). But if you weren“t so inclined, what else could you expect?
Marvel Super Heroes does come with two additional preconstructed game modes that each have their own special hexagonal power disc. Escape from the Klyn and Assault on Asgard are a Disney Infinity take on popular game genres. Assault on Asgard is a tower defense/survival game, where players must set up defences between rounds of swarming frost giants and MODOK“s assault drones. Escape from the Klyn is an isometric dungeon looter similar to old school games like Diablo or Baldur“s Gate, just minus the clicking. Both aren“t varied enough to stand out as anything more than side missions but the chief draw to these is playing them unlocks the assets from each for tox box mode where players can build their own more varied versions of these games.
Which, of course, leads us to Toy Box mode. While other parts of the game see some minor streamlining or improvements, Toy Box mode sees the vast majority, taking the previous game“s template of world building and open-ended possibilities and gives players even more. The first and far best improvement is simply how Toy Box assets are unlocked. 1.0 makes you spin to unlock them randomly, with spins only unlocked by leveling up characters and completing specific challenges. Basically, tedious as hell. Now, in 2.0, you unlock them by spending points earned throughout all modes of Disney Infinity: Marvel Superheroes. So even if you never buy more than the three characters that are included in the starter pack you“ll still have ample opportunity to unlock more stuff for Toy Box via the much improved new toy store.
Toy Box mode is friendlier in other ways too. Auto builders now exist to help fill in the gaps for some of the more tedious aspects of building a Toy Box from scratch. Add the city auto builder and the AI will start popping skyscrapers into your Toy Box fast enough to give a city zoning commission some serious heartburn. Drop them all over the Toy Box and you“ll have a thriving metropolis waiting for you to fill in with all the details you“d like. There are auto builders for other stuff too, like grinding rails, race tracks, parks, and others. In the same vein as the autobuilders, those who might want to just start playing can plop premade mini games into the Toy Box. Each one is a drop-and-play minigame ranging from who can clear out enemies faster, collect a certain number of items quicker, etc. Nothing too complicated, but having options like this really helps out the younger audience enjoy the game outside of the more structured modes.
Then there are the little things. Collecting more figures and power discs unlock a passive experience bonus so your characters level up faster. There are even more kinds of power discs now. Team up attacks and special attacks compliment the improvements to character combat and progression. Costume changes for specific characters exist as well. Figures themselves now have a level cap of 20 (five levels higher than 1.0) and the added skill trees make the characters feel varied and personal. Extended combos, enhanced damage, counter moves, and character specific traits are available through the skill tree, even to characters you bring over from your 1.0 game (though to a lesser degree).
Combat itself even feels improved from 1.0, with combos being generally more entertaining all around. Certain figures such as Princess Jasmine and Loki were even developed in part by Ninja Theory, adding their skill for flashy combat to Disney Infinity. Since each character has a unique set of traits including flight, tech expertise, and super-strength, it's easy to want to experiment and play as as many different characters as possible.
Unfortunately, the Wii U version in particular seems to run afoul of a few more drawbacks. All versions of the game have reports of glitches and crashing, but the Wii U version seems to have higher frequency in these respects. I didn't find much personally, in fact I've only had the game freeze on me three times in the generous amount of playtime I've racked up so far, but that's certainly three more times than a game should freeze on anyone really. The Gamepad itself is certainly underutilized, displaying overall stats and quest info in play sets, and item selection and off-screen Toy Box editing in Toy Box mode. And in general the main menu design is more frustrating than losing your car keys in a corn maze.
In the end, Disney Infinity: Marvel Superheroes is still somewhere in between The Incredible Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy; certainly improved overall, but with a few nagging flaws that really keep it from realizing it“s full potential. Even still, the game can easily be considered a more complete starter kit than 1.0“s, making it easier to get more out of the game“s various modes without purchasing a boatload of extra figures and play sets, something parents will be very happy to hear.
+ Greatly improved Toy Box mode
+ Co-op possible without additional figures
+ Combat feels up to super hero standards
+ Skill trees make characters feel personal
- Various bugs, glitches, and freezes
- Short and lack luster Avengers story mode
- Confusing menu design
- Minimal use of the Wii U Gamepad
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
Improvements to the Toy Box shine brightly along with enhancements to combat and characters themselves, but technical problems and a boring story mode dims Marvel Superheroes's shine.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a retail copy bought by the writer.