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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.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Jason Ross Senior Editor

10/25/2011 at 06:50 PM

Your review definitely matches up with my E3 impressions here, Nick. The game was, by no means perfect, but the stages had charm. I didn't really understand some of the choices for the lands, especially Alice in Wonderland. It's a fun game, but the gameplay, which felt fairly final at E3, seemed pretty trivial, with challenges that were difficult more in execution due to weak design, and not inherent, intended difficulty.

Regardless, the game definitely was more enjoyable than Ratchet & Clank: All4One, and the worlds should be more familiar as well. Those looking for a family game on the 360 and PS3 probably wouldn't go terribly wrong with this one. Wii owners might want to wait until we have a review posted for Kirby's Return to Dreamland before making this decision, though.

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