On paper, Disney Infinity sounds like a seriously amazing concept. Taking the highly addictive toy collecting of Skylanders, mixing it with some of the world's best known characters (Olaf! Donald Duck! Iron Man!), whilst also giving you the ability to create your own levels using the free form "Toy Box" mode for literally limitless play time, it's a game that certainly aims for the stars. But in practice, the previous game's 'Toy Box' creation tools have always been a tad too unwieldy and confusing for your average player to be able to make anything worthwhile. In fact, 90% plus of the levels you can download are made by a tiny, tiny percentage of the actual players of the game - a number of 'power users' who've managed to wrap their head around the editor and make some seriously impressive things. The best we ever managed was a flat field with a load of launcher toy things to bounce you around, pinball style.
Fortunately, the folks behind the game are well aware of the steep learning curve, and with each new iteration have tried to make it more and more user friendly. Disney Infinity 2.0 was a big improvement over the original game, and it looks like Disney Infinity 3.0 is going to take it a step further with it's all new Toy Box Hub.
When you first boot up the Toy Box, you'll be presented with a pre-built world, with everything coloured in white, but divided into several chunks. Split into several worlds, each dealing with a different aspect of the Toy Box creator, it'll help kick start you on your journey into the world of Toy Box, by completing a series of little missions and tasks, from making your own race track, to using some goo to make your car bigger or smaller. It's more than a little bit reminiscent of the seriously amazing Toy Story 3 game of years done by; a game which served as the inspiration for Disney Infinity itself.
Fronted by everyone's favourite blue dude, Genie, there's a wealth of things to get to grips with in the Toy Box Hub. What better place to start than on its Disneyland-esque Main Street, which houses the legendary El Capitan theatre - an authentic recreation of an actual cinema in Hollywood where Disney do a lot of their film premières. Inside, you can catch up on the weekly YouTube show, Toy Box TV, which is streamed live onto the big screen, as well as pick up info on some of the latest and greatest created levels from the community. Tron fans will also be familiar with Flynn's Arcade, which now works as an area in which to link up with other Disney Infinity players for various muliplayer games. All you need to do is scoot over to one of the arcade machines, and jump right in! There's also a shop that sells various new Toy Box bits and pieces, ran by Disney's own money bags, Scrooge McDuck.
Woody's area of the Toy Box hub introduces a brand new feature for this year's game - farming. Your characters can now recruit themselves little 'sidekicks', pint-sized Disney favourites that follow your main guy/guyette/friendly health care companion around levels, helping you out in battles and such. Through this more laid-back aspect of the Toy Box, you can grow all kinds of foods, even those that don't traditionally grow on trees like churros and cotton candy, and feed them to your little helper, teaching them new attacks and abilities, and enhancing their stats, in the process. Vaguely reminiscent of Harvest Moon, you'll need to clear out weeds (by whacking them with your lightsaber, naturally), and grow and harvest various fruits and vegetables, creating better and better crops as you go - making your sidekicks better and better in the process, ready to take on one of the new 'Toybox Takeover' dungeon crawling adventures (sold separately).
Talking to Mulan meanwhile triggers the more familiar platforming type levels, with a complex course of several different sections leading up to a tall castle tower. More like an assault course than a tutorial, this one shows off all the different pieces you can place together to make your own levels, from giant arrow shaped waypoints to show you where to head next to ladders, rideable rails and air cannons to fire you on ahead. Complete the fairly basic platforming section and you unlock the more complex, and much more impressive, Ewok Village section, complete with tree tunnels, rope bridges and rotating platforms.
Interior design is back too, with it's own dedicated area. Letting you create your own houses, secret bases and linked level areas, they were originally introduced in last year's game, Disney Infinity 2.0. While ours mostly consisted of a single room, with as many miniature animals crammed inside as its four walls could hold (four walls which, naturally, were decorated with as many posters of Nick Fury and Groot as we could find), hopefully these new Toy Box Hub missions will give us a few pointers on how to expand our winning interior design skills into something a little more magical.
Perhaps if you've played Disney Infinity before, the idea of a whole world dedicated to racing may fill you with dread - those cars had a mind of their own sometimes, veering off the track uncontrollably at the slightest push of the analogue stick one minute and then refusing to turn altogether at others. Fortunately, Disney Infinity 3.0's driving has been totally redone by none other than Sumo Digital, the legends behind the Mario Kart-esque Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing - meaning it's much, much easier to control. To help you get to grips with the new racing stuff, the driving portion of the Toy Box hub has a handful of different race missions, taking in everything from Agrabah to Neverland along the way.
The exploration-themed Toy Box levels, meanwhile, focus more on, well, exploration. Often focussing on finding and collecting a number of items, solving a few puzzles and avoiding obstacles along the way, these are the more traditional Disney Infinity-esque experiences, and while not as novel as the farming, they're still pretty solid ways to pass time. And while we're on the subject of more familiar games, the combat zone does exactly what it says on the tin too, taking you through all the different fighting-based levels you can make. From shooting galleries to intense droid rescues to simple brawlers, it's all here for when you just want to whoop some bad guys for a while.
In all, it certainly sounds like the folks at Disney Infinity are trying their best to make their Toy Box creation tools accessible for everyone - and giving players some more games to play to boot. Letting you mix and match any of your Disney Infinity character collection into some seriously wacky adventures, with pretty much limitless replay value, it's a feature that certainly shows promise, but one which we've previously never managed to properly get our heads around. So we don't know about you, but we're seriously looking forward to getting our hands on Disney Infinity 3.0 when it launches later this month, on the 28th August, across pretty much every platform going - the Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and Wii U, as well as PC, iOS and Android.