On the face of it Disney Universe should be a great kids’ game. Tons of characters with tons of character? Check! A whole slew of Disney themed worlds to jump around in? Check! The ability of playing with all your friends? Check! An overall fun and rewarding experience? Hmmm. I’ll get back to you all on that one.
In Disney Universe, you are tasked with donning one of over 40 costumes, taken from every branch of the Disney family tree, and claiming back a computerised Disney theme park after it has been hacked by the evil Hex. From there you and up to three other players scamper round over 50 levels fighting off Hex’s minions trying to claw back worlds themed around the Lion King, Wall-E, Pirates, Alice in Wonderland, Monsters Inc and Aladdin. Each world has enemies styled to its environment, a whole host of collectables and puzzles dotted throughout. Essentially, if you have ever played one of Travellers’ Tales Lego games then you’ll be pretty clear of where Disney Interactive are going with this one.
Let’s start with a positive, Disney Universe looks amazing. The spirit of each world is captured wonderfully; from the tunes gently playing in the background to the stylised minions that pollute it from start to finish, DU certainly looks the part. And when you start off, the levels play pretty well too, packed with a variety of distracting goals such as carrying water to put out fires or collecting components to begin building cannons. The problem is that most of these challenges are recycled pretty quickly, so the game does become pretty repetitive pretty quickly. Even when you venture into a new world the basic setup is the same, with only the window dressing being used to try and make you think you’re doing something a new and different. Whereas in the Pirates of the Caribean world your switches are powered by a cutlass, in the Lion King seeds and water take over whilst all the time the underlying structure of the task stays exactly the same.
The biggest disappointment actually came from the game’s biggest selling point, namely all of the Disney characters you have at your disposal. On the surface, using each different character should be a wonderful experience as the breadth of the Disney library holds a massive array of styles and gameplay elements that could be brought into play. But instead, what we actually get is a series of cookie-cutter characters each complete with a simple but upgradable melee attack that is, bar a slightly different weapon, nigh on indistinguishable from the next character on the list. Early doors the joy of running around as Mickey and friends is genuinely there, however when you realise that the small cockroach from Wall-E plays exactly the same as Jack Sparrow, that soon fades.
So it’s a disappointing product over all, but equally if you look beyond that there are definitely areas where the game shows some potential. While the bulk of the levels are rather uninspired there are a few sparks of originality that could have made the game a better overall prospect. The sporadically placed arcade challenge that ask you to survive, kill, avoid or collect things for 30-seconds, the monster training facility in the Monsters Inc level and the variety of interesting power-ups occasionally dished out show that there is a good game struggling to get out. It’s just a shame that it’s hidden under a generally underwhelming package.