Published on August 25th, 2013 | by Andy Astruc4
A very adult guide to Disney Infinity, part 1: Teenage girls and holograms
The clerk was judging me. He didn’t say anything, of course — the layered niceties and unspoken rules of society made sure of that — but I could feel his eyes burning into me as I threw a power disc packet onto the counter with my other purchases. His expression told me he knew exactly what sort of person I was: the sort that spends eight dollars to participate in a lucky dip for a children’s toy which may or may not let me turn the sky into an ocean. No doubt it was this questioning glance that set my mouth jabbering, and I quickly and clumsily filled the air between us with assurances I needed all these toys for work. I was writing an article, you see, that’s why I needed a plastic replica of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Yes, I bought Disney Infinity. It seems rather more accurate to say I bought into Disney Infinity, as the whole experience feels more like an investment than merely buying a product. Disney have made no secret of the long term plans for the toy-game Frankenstein, peppering advertising material with sly winks and a plethora of play experiences that you can’t even buy yet.
This is the last known record of my ebbing sanity, as I chronicle my adventures with the machine which imbues toys with life, and allows the building of giant lava towers in which to drop tiny people cosplaying as Snow White. Everything I say, I say as a very serious man who has children, a mortgage and who recently built some shelves. Oh my god, I just helped Buzz Lightyear shoot an army of robots outside the Disney castle after growing from a spark of my own boundless imagination! And I’m doing flips on a pushbike!
The starter pack, pictured above is the only essential part of the Disney Infinity equation. It contains the game disc itself, the magic scanner mat, three figurines and a mystical cube. Mr Incredible is there, The Incredibles being probably the most video-gamey of recent Pixar productions. Sully from Monsters Inc is inside too, masquerading as Sully from Monsters University, which I’m told is something called a “sequel” which exists to drain the life from self-contained artwork. Speaking of sucking, Captain Jack Sparrow rounds out the trio, because the Pirates of the Caribbean horse can never be dead enough. The aforementioned cube contains the playsets for each of these franchises, which I will get into in a bit when I finish talking about how cool toys are.
After unboxing the box, I spent a good half hour simply admiring the bits and pieces. The toys themselves — non-articulated though they may be — look pretty damn great sitting on a shelf, with just enough detail to avoid seeming cheap. Which is good, because they’re not cheap at all. Still, I’d be happy to see them in my house even if they didn’t come to flipping life and run around inside my TV like some god damn black magic show.
That picture up there is a lie, of course, if only by omission. While Infinity seems perfectly serviceable if you stick to the Starter Pack, I’m not some cold, unfeeling monster who leaves poor toys on a shelf to rot away. Toy Story taught me a long time ago that toys have feelings, and goals, and celebrity voices, and that all they really want is to make you happy so you should buy a lot of them. Which is why I got the Villains Pack, a single helping of Violet from The Incredibles, and three power disc packs. My dignity is partially salvaged by the fact that two of those disc packs were thrown in as pre-order bonuses, even though I didn’t pre-order. This happened because making friends is good and Disney brings out the best in people, not because nobody else was rushing in at 9:00am to buy toys.
Toy Story is made by Pixar, which is owned by Disney. It’s also likely to be included in the next wave of Infinity toys. Isn’t that a lovely coincidence?
Anyway, the final haul went like this: the previously covered default junk, Syndrome and Violet from The Incredibles, Randal Boggs from Monsters, Davy Jones from Pirates, three Cars-themed round power discs, an Alice in Wonderland terrain theme disc, two Finding Nemo sky theme discs and a disc that instantly summons the elephant version of Aladdin’s monkey sidekick. I managed to avoid buying the other character pack by temporarily beating my inner child unconscious, and avoided the Cars and Lone Ranger playsets by remembering that both of those franchises are lukewarm balls.
Two of the Cars discs and the elephant were decidedly lenticular in appearance, as well as being red and orange, respectively. Years of experience as a small boy told me this meant these were very special, and that I was special for owning them. The internet confirmed it, assuring me that these discs were rare because Disney Says So. Disappointingly, the rare discs are not fancy, scarce versions of the normal disc; instead, each wave has a set number of rare types already included. Honestly, Disney, how am I supposed to assert my dominance over other people if I can’t show them that my holographic, orange, elephant plastic thingy is better than their regular, clear, elephant plastic thingy? It’s hard to gauge how rare these discs even are, considering I bought six and got three of the bastards.
I’ve also already amassed two doubles without even trying, which gives me horrible, Vietnam-style flashbacks to collecting basketball cards and Pogs as a child. There’s something gloriously insidious about the whole power disc idea, as they provide nothing essential to the gameplay aside from stat bonuses and the odd nostalgia-laden item, but are just affordable and sexy-looking enough to set my senses tingling. After all, what good is it to collect only part of something? Surely you’d be happier if you had all the things to do things with. And so what if you can’t see what you’re buying before you buy it? That makes it like a little game all on its own. It’s just like gambling, which everyone loves and which has no negative outcomes on the individual or societal level.
Never mind, I hear there’s a video game somewhere here. First and foremost, kudos to the minds at Avalanche Studios for the tutorial-slash-introduction. The player begins their journey as a literal spark of imagination and goes on a journey which jams more Disney nostalgia in your holes than you could ever hope to process. By the end of it I was ready to buy the game all over again. Then I was dropped in the Toy Box mode as Sully, and let loose to roam around carrying out rather important tasks such as breaking boxes, being chased by the angry Sultan’s Guard from Aladdin, roaring at robots and shooting laser beams at plastic trees.
Once I grappled the building mode I immediately spawned 15 Heart Card soldiers and punched them off the edge of the universe. I drop-kicked a tiny toy person dressed as Winnie the Pooh. I built an enormous wooden tower and then blew it up because I’m the best at games. Wandering the grounds of that tiny world was like swimming in fun — the kind of innocent fun that kids who haven’t learned how to critique, analyse, judge and pick apart can have.
All the playable characters are surprisingly unique in their approach to combat. As I cycled through my available figures I discovered that Mr Incredible can punch like a runaway train, Jack Sparrow has a flintlock pistol, Syndrome can freeze people and carry them around, and Sully can tiptoe behind enemies to scare the fecal matter from their clenched buttocks. Each of them is fun to play in their own way, spouting familiar catchphrases all the while, and the very forgiving gameplay means that balance isn’t too much of an issue.
Of course, there is the matter of Violet Parr, only daughter of Metroville’s most prominent superhero. I bought the Violet figure purely because the character reminds me of a girl I had a crush on in high school, without realising she was a powder keg of ass-kicking superiority which made the other characters look like wet, smelly loo paper. Most characters have a regular attack and a ranged attack, which often amounts to swords or fists in the former case and something a bit more heavy-duty in the latter. Violet’s normal attack — and I use the word normal here with caution — sends a glowing, purple comet of energy hurtling towards the enemy, and subsequent combo-strings not only add more energy and teleport you closer to the target, they also end with a ridiculous circular explosion that knocks away all foes. As if to strap tiny nuclear bombs to the outside of a perfectly adequate nuclear bomb, her special attack lets you turn invisible for an indefinite period. Invisible. She’s basically Iron Man with ninja skills. Violet is the sort of character usually confined to cheats, or secret unlockables only discovered by using a specific special attack 43 times in a certain corner of a certain room. She will fuck you up.
After 45 minutes of hurling purple death balls at innocent civilians I realised there were actual levels and worlds to play with, and jumped tentatively into the shoes of a drunk Johnny Depp sound-alike. But that’s a story for next time. While you wait, here’s a picture of Violet carrying a tiny Scrooge McDuck.