Ok, take the all conquering Lego games in one hand and the famous world of Disney in the other. Now, mash these two together and what you’re left with is Disney Interactive’s, Disney Universe. There is little doubting the quality of the eventual product, but be warned; this is a game that has absolutely zero qualms about emulating the make-up and structure of Traveller’s Tales’ supremely successful Lego franchise. Honestly, if you can imagine a Lego game without the actual Lego, Disney Universe is exactly what you are left with……well, maybe with a smidgen of LittleBigPlanet thrown in for good measure.
Like the Lego games before it, Disney Universe is something of a co-op collect-em-up. Each stage in the game throws up a steady stream of puzzles, platforming and combat and is driven forward by the collection of golden Mickey heads that are used to unlock further Disney inspired game worlds and a host of unlockable costumes that have a startling resemblance to those found in LittleBigPlanet. In fact, thanks to the structure of the game, other than having to start with the Pirates of the Caribbean themed stage, you can actually tackle each of the subsequent five game worlds in any order you see fit.
With Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, WALL-E, Aladdin and Monsters Inc. making up the other worlds, there is a good selection of diversely themed worlds to play through. The challenges in each rarely go beyond the hit, push and grab mentality made famous by the Lego games, but from a visual standpoint at least, Disney Universe is varied and for the most part quite impressive. It’s not going to win any awards, but each stage successfully captures the spirit of its inspiration and does a good job of placing the player/players into that specific world. The characters are well animated, the character specific suits look great and the draw distances and attention to details found in some of the stages really is quite impressive.
While the collection of enough gold Mickey heads to successfully unlock each of the six game worlds is something of a given, it’s the raft of unlockable costumes that will most likely keep players coming back time and time again. As a big fan of Disney, I found the chance to unlock and dress up my strange, alien-like lead as any number of Disney characters hugely entertaining and I have no doubt that younger gamers (and those young at heart to) will certainly get caught up in the unlockable costume aspect of the game. From the very cool looking Tron outfits and the inevitable Captain Jack costume through to the more traditional Mickey and Donald suits, there are more than enough suits available to keep just about any fan of Disney’s vast back catalogue of famous characters extremely happy.
The thing is, even before you collect enough gold Mickey heads to unlock these suits, you first need to make the suits available in the unlockables selection of the menu by freeing them in the campaign. You unlock half of them as you play through the game first time with the other lot unlocked on your second play through. Some gamers might find it a bit of a chore to have to play through the game twice, but given the co-op centric gameplay, I had no problem going back through each world to unlock the additional suits. If nothing else, it certainly adds longevity to a game that doesn’t actually take all that long to play through.
Each game world is split up into three stages with each stage split into a collection of smaller set areas. While each area is usually packed full of basic puzzles, light platforming and a host of world specific enemies, the amount of actual core content isn’t actually all that high. A single play through without an emphasis on collection won’t take the majority of gamers much longer than five hours, but, like Traveller’s Tales’ Lego games, this is an experience that is designed to be played through on numerous occasions.
This fact is driven home by the design of the puzzles. Although universally simplistic, their design changes based on how many players are loaded up at the time. If you are going lone wolf, the puzzles are usually timed, thus giving you the opportunity to take on every aspect of each puzzle. Throw in extra players though, and you soon become dependent on the work of your comrades for progression. These puzzles are unlikely to prove overly taxing but at least the world specific challenges are devoid of the rather abstract nature found in some of Lego’s trickier puzzles, and to help the younger players along, you can bring up a blue arrow that will keep everyone pointed in the right direction. Its inclusion might make the game a little too easy for some, but it’s an optional extra and one that I’m sure will prove popular with younger gamers.
While entertaining enough played either way, I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that Disney Universe is an infinitely more enjoyable experience when played with friends. In fact, thanks to competitiveness born from the game’s awards ceremony held at the end of each level, playing through Disney Universe in co-op is arguably more fun than it has been in any of the Lego games. With only a few levelling up stars available in each world and a place on the podium usually in the back of most players minds, playing through each level often becomes a strange mix of team play and back stabbing.
Disney Universe does a great job of recreating that quintessential Disney feel through its impressive visuals, fantastic audio and the numerous subtle touches that make each game world unique. The combat may be simplistic but it’s consistently responsive and fits the gameplay to a tee. Like the Lego games before it, Disney Universe is a game that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike and will inevitable go down a storm with Disney fans. The levels are well designed and the unlockable suits are both great looking and a fantastic reason to come back to the game even after you’ve completed each of the six game worlds. In fact, the only problem (but it is a pretty big one), is that it follows the Lego template so closely as to make it an almost immediately derivative experience. Still, if you can get over the rather blatant plagiarism on display, Disney Universe is actually a very likeable and highly enjoyable family videogame. The kids will certainly love it…..and given half the chance, you might too.
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