Disney Universe Review
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On 10/25/2011 at 01:48 PM by Nick DiMola
When you say Disney Universe, Pirates of the Caribbean, WALL-E, Monsters Inc, and Alice aren’t the first things that come to mind.
A must-buy for parents looking for a game to play with their kids.
At face value, you might think Disney is crazy for releasing their four player co-operative title, Disney Universe, just one week after Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. The thing is, Disney Universe is actually the better of the two games. While both suffer from a lackluster co-operative play, the core gameplay of Disney Universe is more layered in its design, giving players more than endless enemies to grind through.
Despite this, Disney Universe is a basic action-platformer at its core. Players take control of a given character that dons a costume resembling a classic Disney character to lay waste to a number of enemies. Through use of a generic melee weapon, enemies of all shapes and sizes will be destroyed – though this hardly summarizes your possible actions.
Some levels will require players to perform some light platforming, but all will allow players to solve some sort of environmental puzzle. Whether it’s directing robots to the correct door by moving a few markers, or dragging a missing turnstile to lift a door, or even pulling together a canon to blast apart the world, your missions will vary fairly widely with each given level. Driving vehicles, like the aforementioned canon or a magnetic launcher is also common, appearing in most levels of the game.
The extremely small, diorama-like worlds that typically scroll from left to right enable this design. Given the small space, the developers have maximized the area, embedding all gameplay elements in every free nook and cranny.
Interestingly enough, the worlds, though small, are one of the most appealing portions of the game. They’re extremely consumable and constantly leave you in a “just one more” mental state. This helps overcome the inevitable tedium of performing the set of core functions time and again as you progress through the game.
Though a four player co-operative title, no part of Disney Universe truly requires more than one player. While this is the case, certain levels are made significantly easier when another player is brought into the mix. Again, this also reduces some of the tedium because players working together will presumably have fewer enemies to defeat.
The light counter-operative flavor of the game allows players to grief teammates via friendly fire. In practice, it’s an annoying inclusion that makes it far too easy to lay waste to your teammates in the heat of battle. Thankfully the penalty for death is negligible, though this will result in a loss of collected tokens for the downed players. Ultimately all of these tokens are gathered in a global pot, which will benefit everyone as they are used to unlock characters and new worlds. Collecting the most tokens is one crucial element in “winning” the level, which is ultimately an unnecessary inclusion.
The competitiveness of the game only truly benefits the design in some of the mini-games that are activated in the middle of a level. Otherwise, it’s a meaningless addition that more harms the experience than helps it.
Aside from its competitive shortcomings, the game suffers form a slight lack of identity. This might come as something of a surprise given the purpose of the game. All of the levels are merely inspired by the game worlds they are designed after, featuring absolutely no recognizable landmarks. Pirates of the Caribbean felt like a generic pirate world, WALL-E a collection of junkyard and futuristic levels, Alice a forest world, so on and so forth. The costumes are also a bit devoid of personality as they are nothing more than that, a costume thrown on another character.
This ties into the general unpolished nature of the experience. In many ways it feels like a product that was rushed to market. The core mechanics can be a little problematic or cumbersome at times: driving vehicles is awkward, depth perception can be an issue given the diorama-like levels, and character movements don’t feel quite spot on, particularly the jumping.
The world selection seemingly supports this as well. Having only six worlds available feels incredibly anemic, especially given the rich history of Disney. Each of the worlds features a great number of levels, which could’ve easily been reduced in favor of more worlds from more universes. The choices for the worlds aren’t ideal either.
Despite these shortcomings, Disney Universe is quite fun in bursts, whether playing with friends or alone. It’s a well-conceived game that simply needed a bit more time to properly build on its solid foundation. I presume DLC is in the pipeline with more worlds exploring more of the Disney universe, but Disney Universe needs a bit more than that to maintain the attention of gamers of all ages.