Monday, September 30, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 1

Welcome to my Disney trip recap. This was my 11th trip to Disney and because of that, we decided to approach things differently this trip. The emphasis for this trip was to see as many new things as possible. It was a huge success and I think that this was by far my favorite Florida trip.

After a smooth flight, things got off to a bit of a bumpy start when we arrived at Pop Century to check in. It turns out that their internet was down which didn’t let them do much of anything. We couldn’t complete our check-in which meant that we couldn’t activate our park tickets or our dining plan. The MagicBands that we were so excited to use were currently only good for FastPass+. I had set up some FastPasses in the Magic Kingdom in case we had some time there after checking in, but the long wait due to the internet outage put the kibosh on those plans. We were sent on our way with old fashioned tickets for the night, a temporary room key, and instructions to save receipts for any food purchases we made so that they could be applied to the dining plan.

Due to the delay, we decided to skip eating at the resort and grab some food at the Magic Kingdom. That plan didn’t work out as well as planned since most of the food carts and stands that we passed were closed for the night. We had a good night though. It was slow going upon entering the park due to the Main Street Electrical Parade so we took the first opportunity to ditch the crowds and hung a right at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and went down past the Tomorrowland Terrace. I jealously gazed at the goodies being offered at the Wishes Dessert Party. We didn’t partake on this trip, but we had a great time at the party on our last trip. If you haven’t done it before, it’s definitely worth checking out. You get some great desserts, a nice seat before the fireworks begin, and an area to stand in that’s not very crowded once Wishes begins.

We wanted to get on at least one ride since we had some free time before our Wishes FastPass and the 5 minute wait time at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was calling our names. We walked right on and taught Zurg a lesson. Unfortunately, I hadn’t picked up my PhotoPass+ yet and forgot to write down our picture numbers so we lost those ride photos. I had my highest score ever, but Cassidy beat me. Right near the exit to Buzz, we saw that the Tomorrowland dance party was in full swing and went to check it out.


We weren’t there for long, but the dance party was the first thing on our list that we’d never done before. This is a cool thing for parents to bring their kids to if they want to wear them out before returning to the hotel for the evening. Stitch was there dancing along with everyone along with Chip ‘n’ Dale in their space outfits. Jenne and Cass did some dancing while I took some pictures.

From there, we made our way to our Wishes FastPass with the goal of acquiring food on the way. We got to the Rose Garden successfully, but the only food we saw was popcorn which none of us were really in the mood for. So, we weren’t in the greatest of moods as we settled in for the show.

For those of you considering the use of one of your three FastPasses for Wishes, there are some pros and cons. The biggest advantage you have is that you don’t have to stake out a spot an hour or more before the fireworks begin. The time lost waiting for parades and fireworks is one of the worst things about a trip to Disney and avoiding that was one of the things I was most excited about.

The biggest disadvantage that you have of watching from the Rose Garden is that you have an obstructed view of Cinderella Castle. If you haven’t seen the Wishes pre-show before, this could be disappointing. That being said, I thought this was a great place to watch the fireworks. The explosions are high enough in the air that the tree wasn’t an issue even when I was sitting on the ground. The area wasn’t crowded and you didn’t get bumped and poked while watching the show. Getting a viewing area like that with only an investment of around 30 minutes is totally worth it in my book. If you don’t mind spending a little more time, jump in the line for the Rose Garden early and make sure that you get the exact spot that you want.

I normally never leave the park right after Wishes, but we were all hungry and joined the herd moseying down Main Street. We fell for the Cast Member tricks and ended up in a very long line for the ferry. The line did more pretty quickly, but since everyone was being directed away from the Monorail, we would have gotten back to Ticketing and Transportation a lot quicker that way. It was a nice ride across the Seven Seas Lagoon though and there is that great view of the park that you get from across the Lagoon.

Our night concluded with dinner at Pop Century (along with a hundred or so people who had the same idea) and finally completing our check-in. With our MagicBands working, Cassidy now became the official door opener for the trip. Not a bad way to start off the trip. Our first full day was going to be spent at a non-Disney park, but we had to fit in a little Disney first. After all, we don’t make this trip if Disney World doesn’t exist.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Disney Infinity

We’ve had Disney Infinity for two weeks now and I feel like I’ve finally got a good feel for the game and figured that I’d share my thoughts for those of you who may not have it yet. There are a bunch of different things to consider when it comes to this game and hope to address them all here.

The Starter Pack

Here’s what the $75 starter pack will get you: Disney Infinity game CD, figure activation base, three figures (Sulley, Mr. Incredible, and Jack Sparrow), one play set figure (containing three playsets), and one random power disc. The buy-in for this game is high, but you do get a good amount of stuff in that starter pack box.

So, that’s what you get physically, but what does that actually give you in terms of game play? Right out of the box you’ve got the ability to play three playsets: The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Monsters University. Depending on your skill level and how thorough you are, these playsets contain anywhere between 5 and 10 hours of game play. That’s just the missions that are there for you to complete. You’ve always got the ability to roam around the playset and do your own thing. The only downside is that you can only play in single player mode right out of the box. In order to play two players at once, you need to purchase more figures for the three playsets. Disney gives you a little bit of a break by making the Sidekicks and Villains 3-packs available for around $9 less than what you would pay for three individual figures. That’s ok, you’ll probably end up spending those $9 on something else Disney Infinity related.

When you want a break from completing playset missions, you can check out the Toy Box. This is what’s going to keep people coming back to play more of Disney Infinity. If the Toy Box can’t keep people interested between new releases, it’s a lot less likely that people are going to keep picking up new figures and playsets unless they have some amazing new play mechanic that hasn’t been seen yet. The best way to get started with the Toy Box is with the Mastery Adventures. These adventures will help you accomplish multiple goals. First off, you’ll learn a lot about how to build in the Toy Box. There’s a lot more to it than just placing things on a map. Once you get the Activi-toys, you can create all kinds of complex chain reactions and these adventures teach you how to do them. Second, by completing these missions you unlock a lot of great pieces for use in the Toy Box. Trust me, these are pieces that you’re going to want when you start playing around in the Toy Box. Finally, completing these missions will give you a good number of spins which can be used to unlock even more cool things in the Toy Box. This is how you’re going to unlock things like the Haunted Mansion, Spaceship Earth, and the Matterhorn. It’s going to take a long time and a lot of game play to unlock everything, but this will get you off to a good start.

Something else that you’ve got access to right out of the box is a specialized adventure for each character. You can track down collectibles with Jack Sparrow, rescue townsfolk with Mr. Incredible, or grab your paintball gun and blast Fear Tech with Sully. There are also a bunch of generic adventures that any character can attempt such as a gladiator battle and a bunch of races. Completing these adventures will get you even more spins to unlock things in the Toy Box. You can also gain spins by leveling up your character. This is most easily done by completing missions in the playsets, but it can also be done fairly easily in the various adventures. This will become important when series 2 of Disney Infinity launches.

The Toy Box itself takes some getting used to as far as the controls go. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be designing things in no time at all. Designing in two player mode is tough due to the restricted view with the split screen. I’d recommend designing one person at a time and then bringing in the second person once your creation is complete. That being said, my daughter and I have had a blast in the Toy Box “designing.” It usually last for around 10 minutes before we’re just running around finding creative ways to attack each other’s characters.

What Else Is there?

The rest of what’s available to purchase after you get the Starter Pack falls into three categories: figures, playsets, and power discs. I don’t have too much of a problem buying figures of all of the characters that I like. Want to know why? Take that little Disney Infinity figure and walk over to the action figure aisle. The prices for these figures aren’t that far out of line with everything else that you’ll find in the action figure aisle.These aren’t junky figures either. The sculpts are great and perfectly capture the cartoony style used for the Disney Infinity game. The paint job is also well done on the figures that I’ve seen. Disney could have put sloppy Happy Meal toy paint jobs on these and they still would have sold, but they have produced quality figures and that helps to lessen the impact on my wallet.

The playsets are a different story though. I don’t think these are priced fairly at all. For $35, you get two figures (priced $13 individually or $10 in three packs) and a figure that unlocks the playset. That means that the playset itself will cost you somewhere between $10 and $15 depending on how you want to figure out the prices. The reason that I think this is a bit too much is that unlike the character figures, the playset figures are nothing great. These things are sculpted out of clear plastic and are pretty small. On top of that, they’re just unlocking content that is already there on the CD that you purchased with the game. You aren’t getting much for that $10 - $15 that you’re paying for the non-figure content in that package. There’s a huge problem iwth this though. Without the corresponding playset, you can only use a character in the Toy Box. That doesn’t sound fun to me at all. Luckily, every figure that was released in series one has a corresponding playset that you can play in. [foreshadowing]

The final thing that you can acquire to “enhance” your game play are the 30 (40 if you count the tough to find Toys R Us exclusives) power discs. The power discs are by far the most option part of the Disney Infinity experience. You can go through the entire game without ever purchasing a single power disc and do completely fine. What do the power discs do? The round discs are used in combination with a character figure (up to two can be stacked under a figure) and do things such as increasing the amount of coins or sparks that you get from defeating enemies or increasing the power of your attack. Special combinations will give you a third power up. Hexagonal discs unlock theme and items in the Toy Box. The catch is that these items are only available while you have the disc on the activation base. Yes, you can stack three of them at a time, but it’s annoying that you have to choose just three of the many discs that you may have collected. I understand the need for this. If it were done differently, you could unlock the item and then sell off the disc on eBay cutting into the sales of packs for Disney. Oh yeah, did I mention that these are sold in blind packs? You don’t know which discs you’re getting until you open the package. (Well, unless you’re looking for rares which are easy to find.) If you only want one or two specific discs you might just be better off buying them individually on eBay.

What’s Next?

Series 2 of Disney Infinity will launch around the end of October through November with a few figures getting early exclusive releases. Woody can be picked up early at Walmart and Jack Skellington at GameStop. The main problem that I see with series 2 is that there’s only going to be one new playset released in the group. The Toy Story in Space playset comes with Buzz Lightyear and Jesse and will allow them along with Woody to go on adventures involving the search for a new home of the Little Green Aliens. That’s great for the franchise that started it all for Pixar, but what about the other 8 (Sorcerer Mickey supposedly isn’t coming out until January) characters that will be released? These characters can only be played with in the Toy Box upon their release. It makes you wonder how long you’ll have to wait before being able to use those characters in a playset.

Jack Skellington will be pretty lonely without Sally, Zero, Oogie Boogie and possibly The Mayor. Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope will hopefully be joined by Fix-It Felix and Turbo when the playset comes out, but since there are Sugar Rush power discs is a playset a given? Hopefully there will be a playset of one of the other videogame lands. I’m excited to see Phineas and Perry the Platypus get released, but where’s the Danville playset? Who will it come with? Ferb, Candace, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz should be automatic. My daughter is beyond excited for Rapunzel, but there’s not much you can do with her. Again, the presence of power discs for this character make me wonder if there will ever be a playset released. What other characters are worthy of figures other than Flynn Rider? Maximus is just a vehicle in the game. The two Frozen girls are released right in time for the release of the movie.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there will be sequels. For example, there have been two Skylanders games so far with a third one coming out soon. Each one has introduced a new mechanic. The second Skylanders game introduced giants and it looks like the next game will introduce minis. Who knows what future releases of Disney Infinity will bring. This could be where you’ll find playsets for the toys that didn’t previously have them. There could be cool new mechanics introduced. For now, I’m not even sure that Disney has announced how many series of figures will be released for this first edition of Infinity. You don’t see many figures in the trailers other than those that have been included in the first two series, so I’m worrying a little bit. I wish they’d at least provide a list of everything that’s coming out even if they don’t reveal what series it will be included in.

What Do I Think?

So, what do I think of the game? I’m having a blast playing it with my daughter. We’ve already completed The Incredibles and Monsters University. I liked those worlds a lot because my daughter could roam around while I completed missions. We could join up when we wanted to and do our own things when we wanted to. That aspect of the game is great. That aspect of the game is also a bit lacking in the Pirates playset. There’s a lot of time spent traveling by ship which has to be done together. I’m also interested what solo play is like. It’s ok when one person is steering and another is firing the cannons, but if you have to do both it may not be as fun.

Once we finish the Pirates playset, we definitely want to get the Cars playset, but I can wait until there’s a sale to pick it up. Until then, I’ll put in a lot of time in the Toy Box to see what I can come up with. I’ll also be waiting to see what is revealed for the future of the game. I’d be willing to spend a lot more on this game if Disney were a lot more open about this plans for the future of the game.