Regular readers here are no stranger to my strange obsession with Disney. Of course, we’re not talking the High School Musical Shake it Up version of Disney, but the old school, classic animation, Walt variety. I’m also a huge fan of Media Molecule’s Little Big Planet series of games, so when I first saw Disney Universe, which looked like a cross between the two properties, I was instantly excited – turns out I should have reigned that in a bit.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that Disney Universe is a bad game, it’s mix of platforming and collecting is great for its intended audience, but the game’s biggest problem is that it’s just simply too much; the game often feels like it’s too many ideas going on at once, and as a result, it feels overly hectic and poorly guided. Disney Universe is good for young gamers, but older fans will get frustrated quickly.
Disney Universe casts players in an admittedly unique story. Disney’s most famous worlds have been recreated in a virtual setting so people can experience them in real time, but as it seems happens with every “virtual world,” someone has hacked they’re way in and filled the worlds with dangerous creatures and hazards. Enter you – a weird looking non descript Sackboy-esque looking thing with a penchant for Disney cosplay. It’s your job to go in, eliminate the dangers and turn everything back to the way it was.
Disney Universe is broken up into worlds inspired by some of the company’s most well known movies and cartoons, like Pirate’s of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. The majority of these worlds require little thought and are of the, run around, break stuff and collect stuff variety, but there are a few interesting twists, like the Lion King stage which has you running from left to right escaping a fire. Regardless, pretty much all of the worlds are impressive in their design, as they don’t borrow directly from the properties but are inspired by them. For instance, I had a lot of fun in the Monstropulous section of the Monsters Inc level, which featured a somewhat new take on the classic “door hopping” scene.
Perhaps Disney Universe’s most glaring issue then is how misguided it is. More often than not your goal isn’t easily laid out in front of you, and what’s going on in the game at any given moment is so hectic that you’re bound to give up and just start smashing things until it becomes more clear. This becomes even more of a problem when using four players – though that can also be the game’s most endearing quality, playing with three other friends can lead to some hectic and fun gameplay moments.
The most endearing lasting piece of Disney Universe is unquestionably the costumes and suits of classic characters found in the game. Similar to Sackboy from the Little Big Planet series, your character can don suits from a literal who’s-who in Disney history. Everyone from the fab-5, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto to lesser known characters like the Sushi chef from Monsters Inc (no, really) are here and are a blast to collect. My only gripe was that there’s far more costumes from newer properties than the classics, which is understandable given the target audience, but do we really need characters like Angelica from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Throw me some Roger Rabbit or Chernobog instead. This an issue that can easily be fixed via DLC, and I’m hoping Disney Interactive offers it.
The Blast Factor: It’s easy to see the appeal for a game like Disney Universe, it’s platforming and collecting that everyone can easily jump in on. Unfortunately though, it’s ideas never really feel feely thought out, and as a result, Disney Universe often feels like a mix of a lot of good but unfinished ideas. Still, you can’t knock it’s easily accessible gameplay, especially for the little ones.