The team at Eurocom has done a fine job crafting a surprisingly engaging objective-based adventure with Disney Universe, lifting several ideas from the LEGO games of recent years while mixing in a smattering of fresh concepts and a hearty four-player option
Developer Eurocom will always have a special place in the hearts of many for its strong efforts on the impressive The World is Not Enough, which while not quite in the same league as its system stablemate GoldenEye 007 definitely garnered a strong following. Disney Universe marks the developers first foray into the market that's seen Travellers Tales LEGO branded adventures surge in popularity over the years.
Disney Universe starts out with a wafer-thin plot: the face of Disney PIXARs virtual theme park VIC (Virtual Information Cube) has been corrupted and taken over by an evil alter-ego named Hex. After a quick rock, roll and reboot, the universe adopts a darker tone that must be stopped before everything's destroyed. It's your job to play through six worlds, preventing VIC from hurting any of the guests trapped within the park while also powering up the barriers to keep everyone else safe.
The Disney licence may conjure up thoughts of Kingdom Hearts and its plethora of content from the entire Disney universe. However, sadly Disney Universe restricts itself to a duo from the traditional Disney side (Aladdin and The Lion King), the PIXAR animation arm (WALL-E and Monsters, Inc) and the more recent live action movies (Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean). The characters controlled aren't even Disney or PIXAR ones either: they're tiny blue folk dressed up in all manner of Disney costumes. Thankfully, there are over 30 characters and more than 45 costumes to unlock, with plenty more to reveal during the adventure including hidden areas, concept art and familiar music too.
The game can be enjoyed by up to four players, with the gameplay dynamically adapting to each player's skill level. This keeps the experience engaging for younger players, who are likely to be attracted to the game's theme. Speaking of themes, the soundtrack is particularly fantastic; the title track alone is worth hearing, and is accompanied by an array of pleasing remixes all pulled from Disney's pool of popular franchises.
Once you've chosen a character — along with an outfit to suit your mood — you'll be free to explore the various themed worlds that the game has to offer. Even if you're not a fan of the represented movies, it's hard not to recognise the appeal of the game's selection of districts. Each level is packed with objectives, such as building bridges in order to infiltrate the next enemy-laden stronghold, or defeating pirate ships using cannons of your own construction. The variety of tasks keeps the gameplay feeling fresh, although it's all a bit too simple to keep veteran gamers engaged.
The controls are basic but satisfying, utilising a simplistic two-button approach. Dashing around slashing at robotic foes feels responsive and fun; you can even hop on top of nearby sheep and donkeys in order to gain some extra speed and unlock some additional oddball attacks. Other abilities allow you to drag and throw items around, enabling you to solve simple puzzles that break up the pace of the gameplay. It's a great entry-level adventure for all demographics, and there is even an option to turn on directional arrows in order to guide more casual players on where to head next.
With a host of exciting power-ups and a wealth of gruelling bosses, in addition to a selection of back-to-basics retro challenges, Disney Universe is a highly entertaining package. It might not encompass the hardcore appeal required to command a must-have purchase, but it's still a valuable diversion for families and younger demographics.