I’ve mentioned before that my kids really love the toy line/video game Skylanders. It combines a selection of figures with RFID chips embedded in their bases and a peripheral device for a game console called a “portal” which allows you to play your Skylander figure as a character in the game. It was a clever moneymaking scheme for Activision, so it’s not surprising that there would be imitators. Well, the new kid on the block is none other than the Godzilla of kid’s entertainment itself, Disney. We resisted for awhile, but the figures for the Disney Infinity game are just so good and include such squee-inducing IPs as Frozen, Tangled, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, Toy Story and Cars. It was the Frozen figures that broke the seal for us. The Elsa and Anna figures are very nice and my daughters are as obsessed with them as any other little girls in North America. Once started, it could not be stopped and before long we had Buzz Lightyear, Captain Jack Sparrow, Rapunzel and a dozen other figures. Even Mickey Mouse, in his role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, made it into the collection.
Although Disney Infinity resembles Skylanders insofar as it has the collectible figures and a peripheral similar to the portal, called an infinity base, gameplay is quite different. Skylanders has a series of linear adventures culminating in a final battle against Kaos, the recurring villain in each of the Skylanders games. Disney Infinity does have something similar, but there is a different one for each game world or playset as it is referred to in the game. In order to access the content for each playset, you need a special figure that sits on the infinity base. These playset pieces only come in the starter set or in certain playset packs that include a couple of figures. Important to note, only characters from the playset game world are playable in it. So, Barbossa can be used in the Pirates of the Caribbean playset, but Lightning McQueen cannot.
However, there is a second way to play Disney Infinity. It has what is called “toybox” mode which is an interactive and customizable world in which the player can create the environment. You have a collection of build pieces such as landforms, buildings, vehicles and other items that you can add to your world. New items can acquired during gameplay. For fans of building games like Minecraft, I can see that this might be a real draw to the game. Personally, I find it a bit repetitive, but I haven’t really committed the time to figure out how to use this capability to its fullest. One cool aspect of the toybox, however, is that all characters can play in it. If you want to go multiplayer with characters from different franchises, this is the way to do it.
At this point, I would have to say I still prefer Skylanders over Disney Infinity. The worldbuilding game doesn’t do much for me and the playsets, while fun, require a significant buy-in beyond the initial cost of the game. Having said that, Disney is looking to up their game in the fall. Disney Infinity 2.0 is scheduled for release and will include several improvements to the game. What’s more, they will be mining their Marvel properties heavily for new characters. The Avengers playset will be included in the starter pack along with Thor, Ironman and Black Widow figures, with the remaining Avengers also being released as singles. Add to that, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as Maleficent and Brave characters, and the DI2 is looking to provide tough competition for Skylanders: Trap Team, also due for release later this year.