How can the wonderful world of Disney be so... boring?
Alongside being a Nintendo/video game enthusiast, I am also a big fan of Disney. Before I grabbed my first game controller, I was enthralled by the beauty of Disney animation. The best thing about it all is that both passions have crossed paths many times, yielding games such as Ducktales for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mickey Mania for the Super NES and my all-time favorite, Square's Kingdom Hearts series. So you can bet that I was looking forward to Disney Universe, a game that looked to fully use Disney's modern and classic franchises to the fullest with clear inspiration from the LEGO game series. Unfortunately, after a hefty playthrough of the game, I came away disappointed by this shallow effort.
Developed by Eurocom (the same development house that worked on last year's Goldeneye 007), Disney Universe tells the story of a new method of amusement where Disney fans can enter digital representations of their favorite Disney worlds while being under constant watch from the system hosts. One day, however, the system is overtaken by evil robots, corrupting all the Disney worlds in the process. It is up to the player to restore order to the various Disney worlds so that they can be safe to explore once more. It is a very basic story that serves its purpose—to give a reason of being to this universe—well. But it severely lacks the charm and character appeal Disney productions are known for, and this shortcoming is where many of the game's flaws originate.
As I mentioned, Disney Universe borrows a lot of ideas from the LEGO games' playbook. Gameplay allows for up to four players, who can visit each world, complete simple puzzles and do combat with various enemy robots. Also like in the LEGO games, you cannot die. Instead, when you are defeated you lose some of your coins, coins that are then used to unlock the game's content. Unfortunately, while it tries to mimic the style of the LEGO classics, Disney Universe fails to make the gameplay engaging. Puzzles are just way too basic, and repeat themselves over the course of the gameplay. The progression is also extremely linear, failing to give players the opportunity to explore the world. To make a long story short, Disney Universe is dreadfully boring to partake in.
Two of Disney Universe's selling points are the six Disney worlds and the various Disney costumes the playable characters can don. This happens to be both the game's biggest strength and annoyance. It is a strength because Disney Universe does have a wide variety of references to past and present Disney classics, such as TRON Legacy, Tangled, Aladdin, The Lion King and more. The worlds have details that reference iconic Disney locales and moments, and the most inventive worlds can be really fun to experience. The main claim of annoyance, however, lies in how these worlds and costumes are unlocked.
Each world has three levels. In order to continue to the next world, all three levels must first be completed. Once you do, you must then buy the next set of levels using the coins you have collected. This method of unlocking worlds and levels is illogical, as you must continue to the next world anyway, so why the developers implement this tedious method is beyond me. The same logic has also been applied to the costumes. First, you must beat the level that hides the guest character who is wearing the costume. Once you do, you must buy the costume in order to unlock it. Sometimes you have to beat the same level again in order to unlock the rest. It doesn't help that the best costumes in the game (such as those based on popular Disney heroes and villains) are locked away.
At the very least, Disney Universe looks and sounds great. As previously stated, the Disney worlds feature authentic details that call back to the essence of the feature films, such as the windmill on Mad Hatter's home from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The costumes the characters wear are stylized while still retaining a familiar feel. The music is very bouncy, in a Radio Disney type of way, while implementing some of the familiar tunes from the franchises featured in the game.
But all the great graphics and soundtrack can't hide the fact that Disney Universe is one of the most disappointing releases of the year. Clearly the development team went through great lengths to replicate the success of the LEGO series by borrowing some of its concepts, but failed at giving us engaging game worlds, mission objectives that are easy to understand but provide a satisfying level of challenge, and a linear progression that is, to put it bluntly, isn’t boring beyond all belief. The way the game provides its additional content also proves to be offensive to the player. Ignore the cutesy music and lively characters—Disney Universe is a game best avoided.