Game: “Disney Universe” (Xbox360)

There’s a lot to be said for two things: Nostalgia & demo games in shops. The latter is probably the factor that clinched this purchase, but the former probably contains most of the appeal for the sort of person who would buy Disney Universe.

I remember there being some buzz about this, as it appeared to be a game weaving together Disney’s rich history of strong characters and worlds into a puzzle game. Perhaps the different costumes shown in the early shots served different functions, needed to solve the game’s puzzles.

This is really not the case, and for a while I felt a little short-changed at what felt like a rip-off cover version of Disney. No actual licenced characters appear in the game at all, instead the playable characters are interchangeable and nondescript creatures (is it even the same one between levels?), who don an extensive wardrobe of Disney outfits, and beat the tar out of similarly nondescript robot enemies, in order to save … more blue creatures wearing different outfits – which you can subsequently use in battle later.

The outfits themselves are (pardon the term) goofy, and in a weird way quite endearing. Watching Mickey Mouse re-imagined as some shambling football mascot lends itself more easily to the game’s sideways smirking sense of humour than boring old ‘real’ Mickey would. But the outfits themselves, it turns out, don’t do different things. Instead, each one is armed with one of 4 colourful and completely unrelated sticks of varying strength, and that’s it.

I’m selling it short, I can feel it. After the disappointment has settled, the game itself is a reasonably resourceful puzzle game, even if each of the 6 worlds (each with 3 stages) are largely identikit if you strip away the graphics. But the graphics really are pretty cool, very true to the source material and for the most part really lovely. The feeling of repetitiveness comes mainly from the gameplay – wave after wave of similar enemies, and moving items around to accomplish straightforward tasks. The boss fights stand alone as well thought-out and spectacular encounters.

The 6 worlds don’t seem like a lot, but there are plenty of collectables to track down, and there is easily about 10 hours of solid gameplay in there. You are encouraged to complete the extensive unlockable catalogue, collecting all the treasures, freeing all the costumes, powering them all up etc, which will take at least another play-through.

There’s not much of a structure though, you can attempt the worlds in any order, and there’s only a non-playable and rather absurd final sequence at the end. So if you are looking for any kind of narrative outside the wafer-thin computer virus storyline, look elsewhere!

As hard as I might sound on this game, all they’ve done is essentially made a Disney equivalent to the Lego games that are so popular (and easy to duplicate), and you can hardly blame them. Maybe it’s my OCD but there’s still a curious compulsion to unlock those achievements, perhaps it’s just because they are so possible and just need a lot of perseverance.

The multi-player mode is actually a lot of fun, with that wicked edge of being able to beat the snot out of your friends as well as the enemies. There are even subtly different layout to the levels to add a co-operative angle instead of just strength in numbers.

Certainly not the worst game I’ve ever played, but maybe a bit simplistic for a cynical husk of a human like me.

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