Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, WiiU, PC, iOS, Android, Apple TV
Having already retold the story of the first three films, as well an original one set during the time of the second trilogy, the good people behind Disney Infinity 3.0 have now turned their attention to the newest Star Wars film with The Force Awakens playset.
But while the Twilight Of The Republic playset told an original story based on the Clone Wars cartoon, and the Rise Against The Empire one was basically a best-of compilation based on the original trilogy, The Force Awakens playset is, as the title suggests, a loose but still fairly faithful retelling of the story from the new movie. Though don’t worry, while this game may spoil the movie for you, the following review will not.
Not so long ago, on a game console near you...
For those who haven't played any of the Disney Infinity games, they're basically third-person, platforming action games with a mix of shooting and hack & slash combat. Which is why, on the surface, they're like the LEGO Star Wars games, in that they're relatively simple, often cartoony, and made for kids of all ages, especially if they're kids' ages.
But there are differences that emerge when you dig deeper. Most prominently, Disney Infinity is a much deeper experience. Pulling elements from open world RPGs, Disney Infinity not only has a leveling-up system that allows you to improve your skills or add new attacks, but you also chat with a variety of characters to get missions and side quests that will send you scampering around some open worlds and the space above them. There are also some skill challenges, people attacking you at random, and collectibles to, well, collect. You can also fly ships into space battles and even commandeer ground vehicles. But don't worry, parents: you don't ever speeder-jack someone and then run someone over to get your money; this isn't Grand Theft Naboo.
Disney Infinity is also a lot less jokey than a LEGO game. While both have their humorous moments, LEGO games — especially ones based on movies — tend to be more like parodies, while Infinity just sneaks in a funny visual gag here and there.
But the real difference between the Disney Infinity and the LEGO Star Wars games is that, as with Skylanders, Infinity is a "toys-to-life" game. Using the action figures that came with it, or others you bought separately, you can switch out characters whenever you like. Granted, when playing a story-based adventure, you initially have to use characters that fit the story — you can't play The Force Awakens with Mickey Mouse or Iron Man, for instance — though you can, by playing it, unlock some tangentially-related characters. In the case of The Force Awakens, for instance, you can, if you unlock them, play the game as Yoda circa The Clone Wars, Ezra from Star Wars: Rebels, or even the younger version of Han Solo from the Rise Against The Empire playset. Well, assuming you have those toys, of course.
But that's just in the story-driven campaign. Disney Infinity 3.0 also has a mode called the Toybox, where you can play with all of your toys, regardless of whether they're from the same Star Wars eras, or even from those movies at all. Which, yes, means you can have Mickey, Iron Man, and Rey all hang out. You can also mix together characters in such Toybox add-ons as the Toy Box Speedway add-on, which basically turns the game into Mario Kart.
Do, Rey, Me
As for the story told in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset, well, without spoiling anything, the basic set up is that it's thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and we're reunited with our old pals Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2-D2, and C-3PO. But we also get to hang out with such new characters as Rey, a scavenger who lives on the Tatooine-esque planet of Jakku, and Finn, a disgruntled Stormtrooper who goes AWOL.
Further connecting this to the movie is that many (though not all) of the actors voice their own characters. And not just R2-D2 and Chewbacca, either. Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, and Attack the Block's John Boyega, Finn, also reprise their roles. Though the game's stylized, angular visuals actually makes it look less like the movie an more like an episode of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels cartoons.
That's not the only way in which the story in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset differs from the film. Some of the story has also been altered, though mostly to accommodate the gameplay. Rey, for instance, doesn’t spend the first hour of the film running errands for the locals so she can get enough money for a ship. But the differences between the movie's story and how it's told in the game is only an issue when the latter glosses over something, such as when it doesn't go into enough detail at the start of the game so you'll understand why, uh, well, why what happens at the beginning is happening.
Man, not spoiling anything is hard.
Granted, this is really only an issue if you play the game before you see the movie. Which is probably not going to be the case if you're more of a kid-at-heart than an actual kid. But smaller gamers who will play this game first may need their parents to fill in some of the narrative blanks.
While the gameplay in Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset is very much like the other Star Wars playsets for Disney Infinity 3,0, it does add a couple new elements, including one that makes it a bit more LEGO-esque. As a scavenger, Rey can collect bits of scrap she can use to repair broken machines and damaged climbing pipes. Though, admittedly, you never build anything as elaborate as you do in a LEGO game.
The Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset also boasts some fun minigames, which are hidden in the story mode. Remember the round table in the lounge area of the Millennium Falcon on which Chewie and C-3PO played Dejarik? Turns out that's actually a game console, and it can play other games. And in this playset, you can not only find game tables in other places, but you can also use them to play some fun arcade games such as X-Wing Squadron: Space Skirmish, a 2D shooter in which you pilot an X-Wing into a battle against a large squadron of TIE Fighters.
"This R2 Unit has a bad motivator"
While the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset is good fun, it's not without its issues. For starters, shooting in this game, which is Finn's main way to attack, is somewhat clunky and thus both less effective and less fun than smacking people, which is what Rey likes to do. Despite what Han Solo may think, in this game a blaster is no match for an ancient weapon, kid. Or a metal staff, as the case may be.
Similarly, some of the vehicle controls are also a bit awkward, and the game doesn't follow the standard button configurations for hack & slash games, both which might take some getting used to.
The game also has a couple of odd graphical glitches, and while it's nothing that impedes the gameplay, they can be rather distracting. There are times when the graphics flicker a bunch, especially when you get to the second planet, while the beginning has Rey often chastising the droid BB-8 to "Stay close," even though, if you look around, BB-8 is nowhere to be seen. I think it's safe to assume both of these issues will be patched soon.
Finally, while having a less disjointed story makes this ultimately more fun than the Rise Against The Empire playset, especially if you play as Rey, it's still not as good as Twilight of the Republic, which used its new narrative, similar visual style, and the original voice actors to basically be a rock solid Clone Wars game.
Play, or Play Not
Ultimately, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset is not the game older players are looking for. But it's not trying to be. Instead, it's a fun but rather simplistic adaptation of the movie in cartoon form. And while it will spoil the movie for you, for gamers who've seen the film already this playset is yet another fun trip to that galaxy far, far away.