Kid-Friendly ‘Disney Infinity’ Video Game is Only the Beginning as Extras Abound

The $75 Disney Infinity starter box. I’m so glad to see “The Incredibles” represented after years of near-obscurity.

If you’re the parents of Disney-inclined kids or if you’re Disney-inclined yourself, you’ve likely either heard of or already invested into the new Disney Infinity line of toy-driven video games. Released in Early August, Disney Infinity is available on all three major consoles, PC and the Nintendo 3DS. It’s a very kid-friendly video game designed by Avalanche Studios, the team that turned in an unexpectedly great “Toy Story 3” tie-in game a couple of years ago.

In addition to a story-based game that revisited characters and locations from that film, it also featured a “Toy Box” mode that was an open world, endless play option where players could gather collectibles, find hidden areas and do all kinds of fun things. Disney Infinity is effectively Toy Box mode but greatly expanded to allow players to build their own worlds. Its influences are clear—specifically, the multi-million selling indie sensation Minecraft and Sony’s Littlebigplanet franchise. Not to mention Skylanders, last year’s smash hit that introduced kids to the concept of action figures that “magically” appear in an on-screen video game.

But the main attraction of Disney Infinity—despite the fact that by all accounts the game is really good—are the great-looking figures that are used to activate their digital avatars on the screen. The way this works is that the player places a figure (which contains an RFID tag) onto a sensor base connected to the game console. As if by magic (or clever marketing), that figure appears in the game and unlocks certain areas, functions or abilities. Gimmicky? It sure is. But it’s also kind of fun.

Although they lack poseability, the stylized sculpts look very modern and quite charming. The initial starter pack includes the game and three figures—Sulley from “Monsters Inc.”/”Monsters University,” Mr. Incredible from “The Incredibles” and Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. These figures give the player access to complete game worlds from their respective films as well as the characters in the larger Toy Box area.

Although the figures are available individually, these three-packs are less expensive.

As a parent, you might be saying “awesome, one $75 purchase and we’re done.” Well, you’re wrong. Who wants Sulley without Mike Wazowksi, Jack Sparrow without Captain Barbossa, or Mr. Incredible without the rest of the Incredible family? Not me, and probably not the kids either. Two additional sets of three figures each are available a “Sidekicks” pack with a counterparts for the three starter figures and a “Villains” pack with a nemesis for each. These retail for about $24. Individual figures are also available at $14 a pop, and it’s the only way you’re going to get Violet Incredible. Then there are also two $25 “playset” packs that unlock entire new game worlds, each packed with two figures from that world. One is the surefire hit “Cars,” including Lightning McQueen and Mater. The other is, rather unfortunately, “The Lone Ranger,” based on one of this summer’s biggest flops. Woe be the child that gets that one under the Christmas tree because it was on clearance. And it will be the first of these products to vanish into closeout sale oblivion, mark my words.

Oh, and one more thing. You have to have Power Discs. These are sold two to a pack and the kicker is that there are 20 of them—and they’re a blind purchase, random assortment. These discs feature more Disney properties ranging from “Tron” to “Uncle Scrooge” and they unlock extra features in the game. These are also distinguished by rarity, with some turning up more frequently than others. And that means that aftermarket prices will likely rise well above the $5 per pack retail price. I’ve seen full sets selling for $80 or more, which isn’t completely outrageous but it’s still enough to cause a wince.

Poor Carl Fredricksen from “Up” only appears on a Power Disc. Very odd that Wreck-it Ralph and Fix-it Felix didn’t rate a full figure for the game.

So Disney Infinity is an expensive proposition to begin with, and that’s before assessing the accessories that are already available. You’ll need (or at least be tempted by) figure cases and Power Disc binders. And if you’re looking to play the game in one format at home and also with the 3DS on the go, you’re looking at buying two copies of the starter set. I’m sorry, am I ruining Christmas ’13 at this point?

But what’s particularly worrisome for the budget-minded Disney Infinity player is that there is a high likelihood that some of these figures will become collectible and hard to find—especially if the game takes off and becomes one of the hot toys this holiday season. Skylanders has already seen figures becoming scarce, with exclusive figures given out at events like the San Diego Comic-Con reaching into the hundreds of dollars. Disney Infinity is just out, but there are already exclusives that were given to folks that preordered the game through some retailers. There’s also a Mickey Mouse figure, wearing his Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat and robe, that was given out at Disney’s D23 industry expo. Limited to 5,000 pieces, it’s already selling for $150 or more.

For $150 or more, you can get this great Mickey Mouse figure. And for right now, it’s the only way to play with Mickey Mouse in the game.

Ironically, it’s the only Mickey Mouse figure available for the game at this point. And that is my one major criticism of the product other than its extravagant pricing at retail—there are no classic Disney characters yet. If there were Snow White, Peter Pan and Goofy figures, I might be pushed from “thinking about it” to “will probably buy when I win the lottery.” But of course, there are additional figures and sets on the way with the next big release being a “Toy Story” (in space!) set coming this October. I can already hear my 3-year-old asking for it.

And if I don’t cave in then, the inevitable Marvel and Star Wars sets may do the trick.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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