The newest video game from Disney Interactive Studios is not an easy one to describe, but definitely easy and fun to play. “Disney Universe” is officially referred to as featuring “non-stop action through a mix-up of worlds inspired by both animated and live action films from Disney” in which gamers “suit-up as iconic Disney and Disney•Pixar characters and embark on adventures.” But that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what this frenetic game offers.
The Disney Universe experience begins with players, who control big-headed, colored, smiley-faced creatures, choosing a costume based on one of more than 40 classic and contemporary Disney characters, including Alice (Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”), Mike Wazowski (“Monsters, Inc.”), TRON (“TRON: Legacy”) and Stitch (“Lilo & Stitch”). Only a handful of costumes are available when first popping the game in, with the rest to be unlocked as the game progresses. (Iago from “Aladdin” and Quorra from “Tron: Legacy” are two of the first to be unlocked, for example.)
Once a costume is chosen, players explore six different worlds, each inspired by Disney films: the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “The Lion King,” “Wall-E,” “Aladdin,” “Monsters Inc.,” and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s an unusual mix of live action and animation, Disney and Pixar, and classic and contemporary films.
While there is an overall storyline to Disney Universe, it’s a loose one. Players are first introduced to a blue cube character, VIC (Virtual Information Cube), who oversees the virtual universe in which robots help to duplicate Disney films to allow exploration through their worlds. But all goes wrong when an evil version of VIC (alter-ego HEX) “hacks” into the Disney Universe and makes everything run amuck. Confused yet? It doesn’t matter. While players are technically battling robot baddies to restore the balance to the Disney Universe, all that really matters during gameplay is collecting points and power-ups while teaming up with friends (up to 4 players at once) to complete puzzles and challenges, coming out on top with the most points. A competitive element is definitely present in the game.
Within each world, players will notice only vague similarities to the films that are represented. In the “Pirates of the Caribbean” world, settings are loosely based on those from “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth “Pirates” film. Gamers battle aboard a pirate ship and into the depths of the cave hiding the Fountain of Youth. Along the way, challenges includes rapidly putting out fires and firing cannons at approaching enemy ships. Challenges are accompanied by a fun 8-bit Nintendo-style music version of the “Jack Sparrow” theme from the film series.
In a feature completely unique to Disney Universe and showcasing just how loose the game’s non-linear story truly is, once worlds have been completed, players can rearrange levels into “playlists,” allowing repeat play in any order, with the goal of simply racking up more points and bonuses.
Disney Universe ultimately is all about having fun with friends and family. It’s a game that will appeal to kids, but is not exclusively enjoyed by them. Adults will have a good time competing against each other or against younger players, unlocking and leveling up each costume, and recognizing references to the Disney and Pixar films included. There’s no in-depth gameplay or enthralling plot to be found in Disney Universe, but instead a mash-up of popular Disney worlds and characters that may not make any sense being together, but is no less entertaining as a result. It’s not a game anyone is likely to play for hours on end, but is perfect for picking up for a few minutes here and there, as a casual gaming experience.