For kids today, there’s no escaping The Walt Disney Co. Even if Mickey Mouse, “Toy Story” and all the Disney princesses leave you cold, the company also owns Marvel Comics, the Star Wars franchise and the Muppets. The jocks on your block are probably hooked on Disney’s ESPN.
The “Infinity” project is Disney’s attempt to link all its characters in one shared video-game world. (Well, maybe not ESPN; there’s no digitized Chris Berman, yet.) Last year’s “Disney Infinity” blended Pixar creations like The Incredibles with live-action stars like Capt. Jack Sparrow of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
This year, the company adds its lucrative comic-book properties to the fray with “Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes” (for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, $74.99). The starter kit includes figures of Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow, as well as a clear plastic model of Avengers Tower.
To play, you plug the provided Infinity Base into your game console, then park a hero and the tower on the base. That opens up Marvel’s version of Manhattan, which has been besieged by frost monsters controlled by Thor’s rakish brother, Loki. Each hero has different powers: Thor has his mighty hammer, for example, while Iron Man can blast villains with his chest-mounted “unibeam.”
The missions get somewhat repetitive — go to this location and beat up monsters — but it’s fun to switch heroes and try different approaches. And each hero has a complex skill tree that lets you add and enhance superpowers as you progress through the campaign. The starter kit also includes two “power discs” that present brief adventures in Thor’s home, Asgard, and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” universe.
If you are more into creating than destroying, the “Infinity” Toy Box provides all the virtual buildings, furniture and other objects you need to stock your own pocket universe. It’s streamlined enough that kids can jump right in and start building; those who are more ambitious can design their own minigames and post them online.
The starter kit provides enough activity to keep kids busy for months, but there are also separate Spider-Man and “Guardians of the Galaxy” play sets ($39.99 each). You can buy individual figures, including Captain America, Hulk, Rocket Raccoon and Groot for $15 apiece, and you can play with all the original “Infinity” characters from last year in the 2.0 Toy Box. And you can invest in more power discs (two for $5), which give your heroes more costumes, vehicles and weapons.
On the scale of contemporary superhero games, “Infinity 2.0” falls somewhere between Warner Bros.’ excellent, grungy Batman “Arkham” titles and Activision’s dispiriting run of flaccid Spider-Man adventures. It’s closest in spirit to WB’s “Lego Marvel Super Heroes” from last year, sharing that game’s glee in lighthearted destruction. Young Marvel maniacs will love it, even as their parents wince over how much all those sweet action figures are going to cost.