It's probably safe to say that Disney Infinity didn't get off to the best of starts. Coming late to the whole "toys to life" party (a confusing term that basically means "a game that lets you buy figures, plonk them on a portal, and then play as that character in game"), the original Disney Infinity made a few big mistakes. While on the surface, it certainly had the brand power behind it, blending Monsters Inc with Pirates of the Caribbean and the Incredibles, the fact the game wouldn't let you play co-op out of the box turned out to be a major mistake, and left a lot of families unhappy come Christmas morning - especially as the decision was a deliberate one, as the £30 "partner pack" of figures (that were sold separately) proved. Last year's 2.0 "Marvel" edition put right some of the mistakes, but made some new ones, letting you play co-op out of the box on one hand, but making the bundled story driven "Play Set" adventure mode so dull you wouldn't actually want to.
Disney Infinity 3.0, then, is Disney's attempt at getting it third time lucky. Adding the third pillar of Disney's properties to the fray - Star Wars - and in doing so sucking in a whole other fan base who'll buy anything with a lightsaber stuck on it, Disney Infinity 3.0 promised to put right the issues of the past, and provide a game worthy of the brands behind it. And you know what? It's third time lucky for Disney Infinity, as this time around they've actually got it right!
Perhaps most importantly, while there are still a lot of extras Disney are keen for you to buy, Disney Infinity 3.0 seems to take less of a piecemeal, money grabbing approach to its gameplay. Like the previous games, the adventure's still divided up into two main types of gameplay - the story driven Play Sets (where you'll find a traditional, co-op style adventure), and the "build your own adventure" Toy Box (where you can mess around for hours on end creating your own worlds to play around in) - but the starter pack comes with everything you need to get going to have countless hours of fun. And you can play co-op out of the box!
Bundling two figures (Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano), a "Twilight of the Republic" Play Set, and a Disney Infinity base (which will be the third identical one you've got if you've been buying these games from the start), the starter pack at least offers value for money, especially as it weighs in with an RRP that's roughly half the asking price of the extortionate LEGO Dimensions.
While other Play Sets and characters are available, including co-op Play Sets based on Inside Out and the older (read: good) Star Wars films, this review will focus on what you get in the starter pack - because after all, that's what you'll be shelling your hard earned cash out on should you choose to "jump in".
As it's arguably the most substantial part of the game, it's probably best to start with the Play Set - Twilight of the Republic. Set during the events of the first three films (that's the pretty poor prequel trilogy, not the childhood defining classics), Twilight of the Republic is a co-op adventure that'll take you to four familiar locations from the films - the desert wasteland (and droid factory) of Geonosis, the desert wasteland (and hive of scum and villainy) of Tatooine, the desert wasteland of Naboo (only with, er, water, and... trees), and the concrete jungle of Coruscant.
Each of these planets forms a kind of hub world, providing you with a story driven mission or two to complete, along with dozens of side-quests to complete, and which will keep completionists happy for hours. From rescuing youngling Jedi who've found themselves stranded in a high up place, hunting down broken droids to return them to their owners, or painting the town red (well, rainbow) to celebrate the arrival of a dignitary, using giant goo firing cannons, these side quests are as varied as they are fun - arguably even more so than the main story missions themselves. Each dished out by one of the tiny, plastic looking inhabitants of the world, this is as close to the best Disney game of recent times, Toy Story 3, as a Disney Infinity game has ever got. And that's a great thing.
The missions themselves aren't that bad, either. Suitably varied, with a great mix of platforming, lightsaber action, force powers to use and plenty of droids to slay, there's a lot to like here - and plenty of fun to be had in co-op. Whether you're dodging traps while infiltrating a droid factory, taking part in a pod race on Tatooine at the behest of Jabba the Hutt, or preparing for a showdown with General Grievous, or even Darth Maul, there's a decent plot tying things together to keep the action moving, and plenty of fun, button mashing platforming to be had.
In another great move, Disney Infinity 3.0 also marks the first game where all the characters from one franchise can be used in all of their relevant Play Sets. That's a rather complicated way of saying that no matter which Star Wars character you buy, you'll be able to use it in either of the Star Wars Play Sets - Twilight of the Republic or Rise against the Empire. This is the first time a Disney Infinity game's let you do this, as up until now, characters have been "locked" into their universe - so Mr Incredible couldn't join the Pirates of the Caribbean, and perhaps more strangely, the Captain America couldn't gatecrash Spiderman's New York. At the behest of George Lucas, however, Disney Infinity 3.0 will let you use any character you want, wherever you want, even if it chronologically doesn't make sense - so Anakin Skywalker can beat up Darth Vader, and Princess Leia can take part in the pod races. In order to unlock the characters, all you'll have to do is find a coin hidden in the level, with each character having their own hidden coin to find. While it's a hoop we'd rather not have to jump through, we'd still say it's better than nothing.
All told, the Play Set adventure should take you about five hours to blast through, with another five or so hours of fun to be had completing all the sub quests for the various characters. But your adventure with Disney Infinity doesn't end there. That leaves the other half of the game for you to play around in - the Toy Box. Essentially, the Toy Box mode is a "build your own adventure" mode, letting you place tiles, toys, buildings, platforms, rails, and many, many more items to create your own levels and adventures. There are loads of options to tweak, and various "toys" you can place that let you change certain features of your level, from setting a specific camera angle, to tweaking what the buttons on your controller do, but whether you're a level designing whizz, or just looking to have a bit of fun, it's easy enough to get started. After all, 99% of the time we spend in the Toy Box is just spent playing around with our favourite toys, or driving around in a car running each other over. Also of note is the fact that, unlike in the Play Sets, you can play as any character you choose in the Toy Box, and characters from any franchise can mix.
As with last year's game, you're not limited to making outdoor sections, either. Plonking a door down lets you turn a house into the entrance to your very own Toy Box Interior, where you can link a series of rooms together to create your own secret base. With plenty of options to decorate your rooms, from changing the wallpaper and floor to putting down tables, arcade machines and, er, toilets, there's actually a surprising amount to do in the interiors, too. From time to time, random passers by will ask you to decorate a room for someone who's a "big fan of [insert Disney character here]", and it's up to you to flaunt your inner Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen to create the room of their dreams. You'll also randomly be asked trivia by other passers by - not only is this a really nice touch, but getting it right will let you unlock one of a variety of sidekicks - computer controlled companions who'll help you out on your adventures. Back in the Toy Box proper, meanwhile, there are a variety of assistants and helpers that'll take over building jobs for you if you aren't sure where to start. All you need to do is place a race track creator, or a platforming creator, and a few minutes later you'll have a unique track to drive around, or a platforming stage to conquer. Other major additions for this year include a more substantial tutorial mode, which aims to show you all the things you can do in the Toy Box without seeming too intimidating, and the ability to create a farm. Which is, interesting.
The only problem is, it's hard to say how much mileage you'll get out of the Toy Box. Not many people (roughly 10% of the Disney Infinity audience) are "creators", who'll spend hours designing levels, placing platforms, and trying to come up with a story. The rest of us tend to either download everyone else's creations, or just sit around plonking all our favourite toys down in a level the size of a small country, so we can mess around. The only problem is, for those who are creators, Disney Infinity's Toy Box mode is still hampered by all the same problems and limitations. While some of the levels on Little Big Planet will blow you away with their creativity and style, it's immensely hard to make anything that comes close on Disney Infinity. At least part of this is because the bits you're working with are so specific - you can place buildings, or items, but they've all been ready made for you, and you can't really create your own. You can't even change the colour of things you place, or apply different patterns, which really holds you back compared to other editors.
And while it may be a heck of a lot better than before, Disney Infinity 3.0 is still rather rough around the edges in places. While we could potentially forgive and forget in a budget game, it's worth remembering this is meant to be a platform for you to invest in - possibly hundreds of pounds - so you'd expect it to be polished to perfection. What you probably wouldn't expect is an array of bugs, from the useful (like the infinite money glitch we discovered), to incredibly annoying issues that never should have made it into the finished game. As an example, if one of you lands on a planet during a space mission (you can fly between planets in the Play Set), and the other stays flying, all it takes is for the grounded player to use their force power on an enemy, and it'll forcibly eject the second player from their ship, sending them falling into the abyss. Even more annoying is when it then respawns that player on the asteroid in their spaceship, asking them to do an on-foot race while flying.
A similar issue cropped up in the very last mission of the game. Having fought bravely through countless rooms of baddies, we finally succumbed just before the final boss fight, collapsing into a pile of sparks as we waited for our partner to come and revive us. Unfortunately, the game had other ideas, and promptly respawned us right back at the very start of the level. And that might have been only a minor annoyance, had it not totally blocked us off from our co-op partner. Plonking us in the very first room of the level, only with all the doors and corridors leading out of it locked, we were totally scuppered, and ended up having to restart the level from the very beginning. Even the Toy Box doesn't escape - all you need is for two players to start to decorate an interior at the same time, and the menu will get totally confused, randomly changing the category of items you're looking at when the other player opens their menu. Some of the Toy Boxes you can download simply don't work in co-op, either - even the develop picks. We'd hoped for a more polished experience from a game like this.
And while the game's less money grabbing than before, there's still a few things that leave a bad taste in the mouth. While they've (thankfully) ditched the blind bagged power discs, instead now bundling them into themed sets that you can buy, to add extra vehicles and scenery to your game, Disney Infinity 3.0 still can't resist trying that little bit too hard to get you to part with your cash. Each of the missions, for example, gives you a three star rating depending on how well you've done - the only issue being, one of these stars is usually reserved for completing the mission as a specific character - a really cheap way of "adding value" to new figures if ever we saw one. The fact that the much vaunted Toy Box Speedway, a racing mode developed by Sonic & All Stars Racing team Sumo Digital, and Toy Box Takeover - a goodies vs baddies adventure that's compatible with every figure - are both separate add-ons also rankles somewhat. By all means, add value, but don't sell us the game in chunks. Still, at least they didn't try charging £100 for a starter set.
For the most part, then, Disney Infinity 3.0 is a huge step up compared to the previous instalments. Finally getting the mix just about right, whether you're looking for a fun co-op adventure, or a creation suite to get stuck into, Disney Infinity 3.0 has something for you. While the figures are still a little bit on the expensive side, and the Play Sets are equally pricey, we've had more fun with Disney Infinity 3.0's starter pack alone than we've had with the previous two games including expansions. And that can't be a bad thing.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii U