Perhaps my favorite moment in all of the Harry Potter franchise (books or movies) occurs when Harry is at Mr. Ollivander’s shop in the very first novel. There, speaking of Voldemort, Ollivander explains how he did “great things – terrible, yes, but great.” It is a notion I enjoy thinking of – “great” doesn’t always mean something positive, it can just mean something big.
Disney Infinity brings this quote to mind. Not because Harry Potter is present (he isn’t, come on, those are two different companies there), but because the game is both great and terrible. In this case I actually mean “great” in a positive sense in addition to the “big” meaning. Taking a page from the Skylanders series, Disney Infinity asks that you not only buy a game (really you need to buy the starter kit which runs about $75-$80) but also figures and “Power Discs” and if you’re going to go all out cases to keep your figures in and more figures and more discs and… well, you get the idea.
You see, you can only play characters in Disney Infinity for which you own a real-life Infinity figure. Pop the figure onto the base and the same character appears in the game. You can then run them through the open world (called the Toy Box), building and creating and generally enjoying the spectacle of it all or you can run them through their specific world, accomplishing various tasks (Jack Sparrow wants a ship and then to reassemble a statue and beat Davy Jones). These are on the order of tasks in Lego titles. That is to say, they exist, they’re fun to attempt, they are not difficult in any way, and even if you “die,” you are instantly reborn and can just go at it again.
Starter kits for Infinity come with three characters, all from different worlds within the Disney universe and therefore you have three different sets of games (outside of the main Toy Box). And here is where (if you didn’t get it in the second paragraph) things can get pricey.
You see, in the Toy Box you can have characters from different worlds (Sully and Jack Sparrow) interact in a happy-go-lucky two-player do whatever you want kind of way. Want two players to play in Sully’s Monsters Inc world? Now you need to go out and buy Mike or Randall (or another character from that world if/when Disney releases one). That extra figure will be something along the lines of $13. Davy Jones or Barbossa too so that you can have two people play in Pirates? Another $13. Your set came with Mr. Incredible but your little guy/gal really wants Jack-Jack or Mrs. Incredible so they can play with their friends? You guessed it, another $13.
After playing around in the Toy Box—which really is incredibly fun even if I’ve kind of minimized the experience here—I decided that the car racing was great and I wanted Lightning McQueen so that I could race as Lightning in the Cars world. Yup, no Mater or Francesco for me. I wanted Lightning. I am an adult, I can buy a Lightning figure for $13 if I want.
Or not. Lightning, as it turns out is only available as a set with Holley. You may be able to find it for less, but currently Amazon wants $35 for the two (and you can have them in just three to five weeks if you want it to actually be sold by Amazon).
Wait, that last bit wasn’t entirely true. Lightning is available by himself. Toys ‘r Us has an exclusive crystal Lightning figure and that is the standard $13, it just isn’t available online nor in any store anywhere near me.
There will be more figures and more worlds coming in the future. There will be more power discs (they offer power-ups and theming and stuff to play with in the Toy Box). There will be a deluge of Infinity stuff if it starts to really sell. And there will be exclusive figures you can’t get your hands on and expensive sets and always you’ll need two characters from the same world if you want to play together in that world. Heck, you’ll need all the characters from each world if you want 100% completion because there are character-specific tasks in each world.
Parents, figure out now what your kids want for the holidays and sharpen those elbows. I foresee Cabbage Patch Kid/Tickle me Elmo-style shortages come Black Friday.
I don’t want to sound down on Infinity, I really don’t. What I actually want is oodles and oodles of disposable income. That crystal Lightning? Yeah, I want him, and I don’t just want him, I want regular Lightning, too. I could probably pass on Randall, but I want Davy Jones. When they release Wreck-it Ralph figures, I want to get those, and Muppet figures, and Star Wars! Oh man, what if they do Star Wars figures (how could they possibly not?). I can’t wait to pair up Lew Zealand and Darth Maul in the Toy Box and create a world for those guys complete with boomerang fish and big nonsensical holes Maul could fall into.
What terrifies me is when all of it is no good anymore. I can actually see a hypothetical world where I go out and buy the stuff for me my kids and spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars only to find out that Disney Infinity 2 is coming and where the character I they really want is only going to be available in Infinity 2 and there won’t be backwards compatibility. Yes, that’s a hypothetical, but is it unrealistic?
You see, Disney Infinity is brilliantly fun. You can spend hours in the Toy Box, making worlds, creating things, just running around and having fun. You can spend hours in the various games, collecting items, accomplishing tasks, and having fun. And, once you’ve finished it all, there is going to be a new figure for you to buy so you can go out and do it all again. And then another and another.
It is an addictive format, but it’s a format that only works because the game is so brilliantly fun. If playing Jack and Sully and Mr. Incredible wasn’t fun, you wouldn’t go out and buy other figures for other worlds. But it is fun and you will want to buy more figures. I find the power discs less appealing, but that may just be me.
And this is where you walked in – Disney Infinity is full of “great things – terrible, yes, but great.”
Okay, new thought – what if they work do a deal to get Harry Potter in the game (dibs on Dobby!)…
Disney Infinity is rated E10+ (Everyone 10+) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence. It can also be found on Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, Mac and PC.