Disney Universe mixes frenzied action, platforming and puzzle gameplay, as you and up to three friends leap and whack your way through dozens of levels based on popular Disney films. The levels in the game are patterned after Disney blockbuster films such as Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters, Inc., and WALL-E. There is a lot of mileage to cover for young gamers, as there are 18 themed stages in the game, divided into fifty four parts in all.
When playing through the Pirates of the Caribbean level, I found myself fighting against evil monsters, jumping across bridges and shooting at targets to earn coins. The coins are useful for purchasing new costumes and “leveling up” your look. Hopping up on platforms and jumping around to absorb the powerballs, I couldn’t help but think of the Lego game series, which has some similar game mechanics for character movement such as jumping, climbing and hitting objects to release “energy points” from barrels, boxes and other containers. But that is where the similarity ends. Somehow, the Disney-evolved game mechanics end up somewhat repetitive, and lack the finesse, originality of the characters and the in-game options of Lego games.
The Lego series of games allow you to play in a pervasive universe whose virtual appearance and character movement rely on the physical interaction of virtual clones of Lego branded bricks and pieces. I expected to find a heavily Disney-themed game that would similarly leverage well known brands like Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean or even Monsters, Inc. in vivid film imagery and familiar characters. I found the Disneyness of the characters a pale equivalent of their iconic Disney heritage. The game environment was somewhat generic and watered down, simplified and toned down.
Disney Universe is a good candidate for beginning video gamers, and makes an amusing and fun family game experience for parent and child. But the game’s best feature is not how “Disney” the characters seem to be, or how true to the brand the environment of the game levels is. The game’s strong suit is its usability by even the youngest gamer. The on-screen controls are clearly displayed and easy to follow. A good game targeted for the 10+ youth market is only effective to the extent that it effectively teaches the learning gamer how to play the game. The intuitive tutorials more than make up for the meh look of the imagery and characters. In the end, the game is more of a success for its in-game didactic quality than for its lackluster game-play. This is a game that even the below-10 gamer demographic could pick up with ease and successfully play. And that is reason enough to give it a Mickey thumbs up.
For more information on the game, go to the official Disney Universe site.