Pros: Competent platformer with a couple of interesting ideas. Cons: Repetitive, unoriginal and rather unattractive.
Have you played any of the Lego games, like Lego Pirates of the Caribbean? Well, the game designers at Eurocom certainly have. How do I know? Because their game Disney Universe is nothing short of a slavish attempt to create a Lego-less Lego game.
Developed by: Disney Interactive Studios, Eurocom
Published by: Disney Interactive Studios
Genre: Action-Adventure Platformer
For ages: 10 and up
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2011
The Basics: A Lego-less, Story-less Lego-ish Game
In Universe’s undernourished premise, Disney Universe is a theme park based on Disney movies whose automatons have been taken over by the dark side and have gone on a murderous rampage. Your job is to, well, go from one Disney land to the other and, uh, collect gold and solve puzzles which will, um, fix the situation somehow? Honestly, the game makes no real attempt at a story, or even an explanation; the developers apparently feeling that exploring the game world will be quite enough.
In these various worlds, based on Alice in Wonderland, Wall-E and other films, players do, well, what they do in Lego games. They break stuff, move stuff around, find useful tools and fight wave after wave of bad guys. If your avatar is destroyed, he is resuscitated in full health within a few seconds.
The Downside: A Game That Starts Small and Stays There
This is a formula that works well in the Lego games, so there’s really no reason it shouldn’t work well in Universe. And I can’t say it works badly. The game has hidden objects to find, creatures to battle and simple puzzles to solve, and it presents these with basic competence.
But while developer Traveller’s Tales made the Lego games out of equal parts basic competence and inspired style, Universe has none of the latter.
Pretty much everything in the game could best be described as “okay.” The game is okay looking, but a little murky in places. The mechanics are okay, but nothing new or exciting. The occasional cut scenes are vaguely amusing, but seem pointless, since they don’t contribute to any sort of story.
Nothing is really terrible, but some things are at least a lower order of okay. For example, the game is relentlessly helpful. You are not only always told exactly what to do next, but big pulsating arrows direct you to the right places, draining the game of any mental challenge. The character design is odd; your avatar is a hero trying to save Disney, but all the avatars look evil, and I have no idea why.
There are also little flaws. For example, in one level you can ride a giant rubber ducky across the water. To unmount, you ride to a dock and then press a button. Every time I did this, I fell in the water and drowned. Of course this just meant that I would be resuscitated on shore, but it was still annoying to have a game that couldn’t do something as simple as let me easily get off a giant rubber ducky.
The game is also rather repetitive. Each world has its own tools and methods, but these tend to be used over and over, in exactly the same way each time.
The Upside: Just to Be Fair, Here's All the Good I Can Think Of
There are a few nice touches in the game. Each level has a few power ups that will give you a superpower like the ability to freeze enemies or best them with a single blow. There are occasional super-enemies that are large and strong and require a little more work to defeat. Some extras are well hidden, requiring a little bit of exploration and thought. There is an okay co-op mode. Foes will grab your items and run off with them.
To be fair, Universe is aimed at children, and they may well appreciate the dumbed-down gameplay and not mind the staleness. But I can’t help but feel that even the youngest child would be able to tell that the game was less impressive than the Lego titles that inspired it.
The Verdict: A Perfectly Adequate Kid's Game, If That's What You're Looking For
Until I played Universe, I never realized how distinctive Lego games were. I always thought of them as ordinary platformers with a Lego skin. But now that I’ve seen another game copy the style and the feel and the scale of these games, I realize that they are very distinct and original. It is a style that Eurocom very much wanted to emulate. Perhaps they would have fared better by coming up with a style of their own.