In theory puzzle/platformer ‘Disney Universe’ has the potential to be epic. Taking the tried and tested gameplay formula from games in the much-loved LEGO franchise, and paring it with the juggernaut that is the Disney license should create something fantastic. Can it really be the ultimate family game?[boxout] Disney Universe is essentially a virtual take on Disneyland. Unfortunately it becomes infected by a virus, and it’s down to you to take out the AI baddies and restore order. The player takes on the role of an almost amorphous blue creature, who you guide through levels based on popular Disney franchises. Fans will be pleased to hear that Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters, Inc., and WALL-E all get a showing, with the level’s aesthetics changing to match the film.
As good as that sounds, the big hook in Disney Universe is the idea of ‘suiting up’. Before entering a level you get the chance to dress up your blue guy in a suit, choosing from a wealth of Disney characters. In fact, there are about 60 suits to unlock including favourites such as Tron. Expect a ton more to be released as DLC.
It’s a clever idea, and one that guarantees repeat plays to meet some of the criteria for unlocking new suits. Personally I think it’s a shame that each suit is only a visual change and doesn’t come with its own set of abilities, as that would have provided an even greater incentive to collect them all. Imagine a Tron-based disc attack, or a Pumba “Call me MR PIG!” charge attack.
Your objectives in Disney Universe follow a very similar pattern. Each of the six worlds is split into three chapters, which in turn are separated into three different, rather compact levels. Your overall aim is to get your character to the end gate, which requires solving a sprinkling of light puzzles whilst battering the living daylights out of the little bad guys that try and swamp you at set intervals.
It’s not overly challenging, as enemies are dispatched with ease with the single attack button, and puzzles mainly consist of moving an object somewhere which will in turn set something else in motion. To help you out a big blue arrow points you where you need to go next (although that can be turned off). It gets pretty repetitive and you start to realise the game is asking you to do the exact same thing, just in a new environment.
However, and this is crucial, Disney Universe absolutely succeeds in terms of appealing to its target audience. Yes, the puzzles are easy, but that means the kids who the game is aimed at won’t get frustrated. The combat is simple, but that means that no one has to try and convey a complex combo system to a five year old. The colour palate is bright and bold, with levels being instantly recognisable, and everything you hit leaves a trail of gold for you to collect and put towards new suits.[drop2] In fact, collectibles are absolutely everywhere and always just out of reach, prompting a little bit of exploration. Death is dealt with in a similarly pleasant way, and instead of a ‘Game Over’ your character just respawns back into the arena, no harm done save for a little bit of gold lost.
My son, who is three, thinks Disney Universe is the best thing ever. I’ve had a word with some gaming friends who have kids and they all think the same too.
Then you add in the crazy local co-op mode, which turns the enjoyment factor up several notches. Each level allows you and up to three others to team up to tackle the puzzles and combat. Despite working together for the most part, you’re encouraged to give your friends a bit of grief as you are all marked separately at the end of a level; the winner being the one with the most gold.
This leads to much hilarity as you “accidently” whack one of your friends so they miss a collectible, or pick them up and chuck them off a ledge (although that one is harder to explain away). It gets a bit frantic at times, but there is so much fun to be had you almost forget about the familiarity of the level structure.
There are also challenges scattered about every level, putting you in direct competition with each other. These range from seeing who can collect the most gold in 30 seconds, to avoiding bombs that are dropping from the sky.
- A sizeable game, with replay value.
- Looks nice.
- Collecting suits can be addictive.
- Co-op is a blast.
- Absolutely appeals to its target audience.
- Some more variety would have been nice.
I think the best way to break Disney Universe down is like this: If you have kids aged nine or above they will no doubt get enjoyment from the game, especially in co-op, but the repetitive nature of the levels will start to grind a couple of hours in.
If your kids are younger though there’s a good chance they will think this is the best thing ever. The bright levels, easy combat and puzzles coupled with the suit collecting and Disney licence ticks pretty much every box they could hope for.