FIGHTING FOR FUN
The Age of Ultron has ended, and Civil War is upon us — but so too is Disney Infinity 3.0’s latest Play Set. Is Marvel Battlegrounds the superhero beat-’em-up we always dreamed of? Come fly with us and find out!
If you’re not familiar with other toys-to-life games, I’ll give you a rundown. The console versions of Disney Infinity 3.0 require the purchase of a starter pack, including the game itself, a USB power base, a clear Play Set piece used to unlock story mode content, and two figures. The Play Set features the great Twilight of the Republic, with the two figures being Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano — both from Star Wars, if you somehow don’t know. Insert the game, place the Play Set as well as one figure on the base and BOOM, you’re transported to a galaxy far, far away where adventure awaits.
Marvel Battlegrounds is the latest Play Set released to stores. It is a departure for Disney Infinity, coming in the form of a top-down fighting game rather than the over-the-shoulder action-RPG with shooting mechanics playable in most other Play Sets. While most people are quick to throw comparisons to Super Smash Bros. right away, this particular fighter draws more inspiration from the Sega Dreamcast’s Power Stone.
Gameplay primarily consists of four players dropping into destructible arenas, duking it out until a clear winner emerges to stand upon the dismembered pieces of their opponents. That may sound overly violent for a kids game, but these characters are toys brought to life — they just happen to sport a vaguely Pixar-esque design style, making it slightly more unsettling to watch them fall apart than it would in a LEGO game.
As you fight, any Power Discs (sold separately) placed on your Disney Infinity base occasionally fall from the sky, gifting players with much-needed help to either turn the tides, or cement their dominance. It takes a moment for them to charge, enabling other players to throw you around and force it from your grasp — leaving everyone to scramble for ownership. That’s because each Power Disc serves a different function, such as having Winter Soldier appear to fire his sniper rifle at enemies, calling in Iron patriot to hover over the stage and attack, or calling in characters like Gamora or White Tiger to pump up your strength and defence.
Health and Super Capsules also rain down periodically, allowing characters to heal or fill up their Super Meter respectively — the latter of which allows you to unleash a flashy special move unique to your character. Spider-Man spews webbing and does an impressive ground-slam, Captain America calls in a helicarrier laser strike and disperses it with his shield, while Starlord drops an automated turret to fire briefly upon opponents.
Add all this to the eight destructible arenas with throwable (and very explodey!) objects, and you’ve got yourselves a very frantic fighter and fun for all. The arenas also feature traps, where flipping a switch will send a burst of fire across the stage, or flush players out of the sewers in which you battle.
Although it took some goading, I talked my older brother into picking up a controller to settle our differences — and what ensued was a fun time with trash-talking, laughing, and general giddiness as we used our favorite Marvel superheroes to battle two computer-controlled enemies… before turning against each other Double Dragon-style.
The basic Disney Infinity controls are unchanged in this Play Set, so combat still consists entirely of mashing the punch button in varied intervals for different attacks, jumping or diving away from special moves, shooting or throwing weapons with a trigger, and blocking fisticuffs. Even so, all of the elements listed above come together to create a fun, engaging and all-around competent fighter.
The game boasts several multiplayer modes, too. There’s the standard Battlegrounds discussed already, Super Hero — where three players try to defeat one giant-sized foe, Hero of the Hill — where you fight to remain in a glowing circle, and Rumble — where players have unlimited lives and try to defeat more enemies than the competition. You also have the option of fighting with your own custom rules, offering plenty of variation.
Although I’ve focused primarily on the V.S. Mode thus far (and you’ll know why soon enough), the Play Set also has a story mode for the dedicated single-player gamers such as myself. Seemingly inspired loosely by well-known Marvel storylines like Secret Invasion, Civil War, and even Age of Ultron to a degree, it sees evil duplicates of iconic heroes unleashed upon the world to wreak havoc… and that’s pretty much it.
Indeed, the story is light, forgettable, and lacks content in all regards. Story Mode took less than an hour to finish completely, 15 minutes of which were spent in the initial training simulator. Cutscenes are short with minimal dialogue, the plot is nearly non-existent (even by kid standards), and although each character gets a unique ending in the form of a text paragraph, there isn’t much reason to replay. Considering the $20 price tag (lowered from $29.99 before release), which to be fair is reduced from the usual $35 Play Set tag, you would expect to get more bang for your buck.
This is especially egregious because there is no online multiplayer, and so your enjoyment depends entirely on how many friends or family you have who would be willing to play locally. For me, that was exactly one person who relented and gave it a shot… whereas I have several people on Xbox LIVE who would definitely play, were it an option.
There is a Challenge Mode to play through after the story, with varied missions like “defeat eight Rocket Raccoon Duplicates” or “fight ten heroes” where enemies will continuously drop in until the goal is met. This only adds maybe two more hours of playtime, and in my case it was only because enemies or scripted events would fail to trigger, forcing a restart. This mode also encourages you to buy every Marvel character from your local store, as playing each mission as a specific character will either unlock a new goodies for Disney Infinity 3.0’s much-touted Toy Box creation mode, or even unlock an alternate costume for that particular hero.
Unfortunately, this Play Set isn’t without its glitches. There’s the triggering issues mentioned previously, but the game also crashed twice in V.S. Mode during the hour my brother and I played. My Disney Infinity Toy Box Hub has also been rendered unplayable, crashing upon start-up ever since the latest patch which, for the first time ever, is required in order for this Play Set (and the latest wave of characters) to be playable. That immediately took away my access to certain modes, like Flynn’s Arcade and the El Capitan Theater. That’s just inexcusable, and potentially devastating to any child who spends a lot of time in those areas.
If not for that fact, this would be the most generous Play Set thus far. Whether you own Power Discs or not, they still rain from the sky during Story Mode. You can also earn trial coins just for playing, which essentially allows you to rent characters you haven’t purchased from a retail store yet. Those features are immensely helpful, even if they are meant to convince you to splurge on content not yet owned.
THE VERDICT: 5.0 OUT OF 10
Unless you or your kids have a lot of friends to come over to play, there’s almost nothing to do in this latest Play Set. You can play alone against bots, but how long can that sustain someone’s enjoyment? Whether you buy it or not, you also run the risk of having content taken away thanks to the mandatory patch required to run Marvel Battlegrounds — and that is especially troubling. Perhaps my case is isolated, and I truly hope it is, but this Play Set still relies on a specific circumstance for it to be fun. It may include a nifty Captain America figure to play with and display on a shelf, but that doesn’t make up for the other shortcomings.
For what it’s worth, my older brother had fun — and even gave me a quote from a sporadic gamer’s point of view: “It was the most fun I’ve had playing a newer game. It was intense and fun, superhero-style!”
Chris Cobb is an Associate Writer for MONG and once tried his hand at costumed vigilantism. He doesn’t recommend it, however, and has the scars to explain why. You can find him on Twitter, Youtube, and GamesGrabR.