Disney Universe takes place in a futuristic Disney theme park in which guests dress up as Disney characters and act out their Disney fantasies with the help of evil looking robots. As anyone who’s seen Westworld could predict, something goes wrong and the robots start attacking everybody. It’s up to the player to strap on a Disney costume and rescue all the stranded guests.
Sounds like a compelling story, doesn’t it? No? Actually, it’s a threadbare setup – just an excuse to get players in and out of the game as quickly as possible. Disney Universe consists of six movie-themed worlds: Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Wall-E, Monsters, Inc., and The Lion King. Each world has three levels which are in turn broken up into three sections a piece.
Every time you enter a level, you’ll need to select a costume. Initially only a few are on offer, but every time you beat a level and rescue a guest, that person’s costume becomes available for purchase. The costumes range from Disney mainstays like Mickey and Goofy to live-action PotC and Tron characters. Each suit can be leveled up three times by collecting stars from within the levels, greatly increasing its attack power.
While Disney Universe’s costumes are obviously influenced by LittleBigPlanet (sans customization), the game plays almost exactly like the LEGO games. One or more players run around a 3D environment beating up baddies and collecting jillions of LEGO pieces, I mean, Disney coins. These can be spent to unlock characters and levels. Nothing wrong with the basic template then – it’s the execution where Disney’s entry falls a bit short.
First, let’s talk about the Disney trappings. Even though the developers clearly set out to make a Disney version of LEGO Pirates of the Carribean, etc. it feels like they only went half way. Costumed versions of popular characters don’t exhibit nearly as much personality as the real things; these characters have no unique voices or abilities, so they’re really just a bunch of skins.
The costume thing wouldn’t be so bad if the levels made up for it. But look at the strange assortment movies they chose to base levels around – Tim Burton’s Alice? Why not the classic Disney one that everyone actually loves? Besides, hardly any of the environments actually feel like the films they supposedly represent. Instead of reliving famous moments from the source material, each level consists of switch puzzle upon switch puzzle. Seriously, there must have been a sale on switches when the designers were building Disney Universe that was just too good for them to pass up.
The few deviations from the formula are hit and miss. Manning a cannon while riding a train through the Lion King (Remember that part of the movie?) proves to be the most boring rail-shooting experience in memory. But running through a forced-scrolling level in Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders as lava nips at your heels works much better, and the Wall-E levels manage to look and sort of feel like the real thing as you protect a plant from the oppressive robot enemies. Still, on the whole the game is only Disney-esque rather than Disney-ful.