Disney Universe is the kind of game I imagine would be my own personal wonderland as a child. The game allows you to dive into some of Disney and Pixar’s top rated animated and CG films of the past two decades. There’s a lot of playful button mashing fun to be had when you are not struggling with manipulating various puzzle objects. Yet, the puzzles are a nice introduction for younger audiences to some of the more complicated puzzle games that they will play as they get older. Tons of unlockable wardrobe pieces and upgrades help to switch up the action. Unfortunately, some upgrades only last for a limited time. So just when you get into the mode of freezing mini-enemies, the fun will evaporate.
The Disney Universe is under siege and it is up to you to save it. A narrator gives you the storybook rundown on what’s going on and motivates you to pick up arms and win back the Disney Universe for its guests. In game dialogue is relegated to Sims-speak that you would find in any of the Lego or Sims games.
When you first power on the game, you will see that there are six worlds to explore: Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, Monsters Inc, Aladdin, Wall-E, and Pirates of the Caribbean. However, Pirates of the Caribbean is the only world that is open at the beginning. In order to unlock each of the remaining boards you will need to collect 2000 coins per world. It is not hard to collect these coins as you play. Since each world has three stages, it is nearly impossible to miss the mark. However, you definitely want to pay attention to this number before you start playing. The boards are short and a player can easily come up just shy of the 2000 mark if he or she is not cognizant of the number. Then the player will have to play through one of the boards again to reach the number.
Disney Universe does have its fair share of puzzles to solve. However, there is also a lot of hand holding involved for kids. An arrow will always be available telling you where to go and what to do. So puzzles that would less apparent – like rebuilding a canon or using Triton’s sword to unlock an area – are made easier. It is a nice feature that gently helps kids to learn more about puzzles and thinking non-linearly. After solving the first few puzzles with help, they will soon start to solve the puzzles without being aware of the arrow.
Costumes are great to look at. You can wear a Timone outfit from The Lion King or even a Stitch costume from Lilo and Stich. The costumes don’t affect gameplay (it would have been awesome if Timone had a stench or flatulence power), but they do offer 40 unique looks for your character. There are actually more character costumes than there are worlds in this game. So while you can dress up as Nemo, you won’t find yourself playing through a Finding Nemo world.
Most of the main action involves button mashing your way through hordes of enemies. However, there will be boss battles that require you to either puzzle solve or use environment pieces to battle a bigger enemy. For instance, in the Pirates of the Caribbean stage you will need to battle a pirate ship using canons. As the pirate ship sails by, it will attack the buildings. So if you don’t destroy the pirate ship the first time around (you won’t), you will have to pick up water balloons to put out the fires and then get back on the cannons for the pirate ships next lap around the port of London.
Controlling moveable objects is the biggest point of frustration in this adventure. It is extremely difficult to move around non-stationary objects like the canon and aim it at the desired target.
Each world has its own unique feel. So fighting through an Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King will be starkly different from Wall-E’s robot and junk filled stages.
There is a no fail policy in this game so if you lose all of your power you will respawn. While power-ups will be taken away, you will maintain your collected coins. It’s actually fairly easy to lose all of your energy during the course of a board, even for an adult gamer. If you don’t have any power-ups, your close range weapon will leave you vulnerable. Also, since the combat is fairly mindless you can easily fall into the bad habit of button mashing and ground pounding enemies without caring about how much damage your character is taking.
Overall, Disney Universe is a fun adventure for children and will provide them with an exciting, imaginative adventure through their favorite Disney movies. It would have been nice if there were more worlds to explore that encapsulated the broader Disney Universe. Am I the only one that feels like Fantasia or The Jungle Book should be in here somewhere? However, I should note that since the release Disney added a Nightmare Before Christmas download pack which is really awesome.
*Games denoted “Children’s Games” are designed and reviewed FOR CHILDREN. The scale should not be looked at as a comparison to Triple-A games like Call of Duty, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or Fifa 12. These games are not about blood, violence and trash talking competition, but rather about a simple thing called FUN for Kids.