By Steve Wright
I'm sure I went a bit white when John Day, Producer of Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes, asked me, "You know what a Marvel No-Prize is, right?"
I know my way around the Marvel universe, but I consider myself more of a DC guy. Still, I wasn't about to let Day know that straight off the bat.
Wracking my brain, I came up with the answer eventually. For those unaware, famous Marvel man Stan Lee awarded letter-writers the No-Prize as part of each comic book's letters section. Found a continuity error in a Spider-Man comic? You probably earned yourself a No-Prize.
Originally suggested for entry in Infinity 2.0, the No-Prize was eventually canned because developer Avalanche Software thought the reference was a bit too obscure. What did make the cut are a host of improvements and refinements as compared to the original game.
For those who think Infinity 2.0 is nothing more than a cash-grab, forcing those who have the game on Xbox 360 to purchase a starter pack again for that same console after just a year, think again. According to Day, Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes features a host of improvements that come as a direct result of fan feedback. The changes themselves affect every inch of 2.0, from character models to tweaks and additions to the game's engine.
The first big criticism that the original Infinity faced was that each of its playable characters essentially behaved and played the same. This isn't the case with 2.0, as each character has been designed to have his or her own flair and move sets. Moreover, each character has an upgradable skill tree which will help bring out that character's unique qualities.
"[The Guardians of the Galaxy] all behave differently, with their own move sets," Day said. "Groot's big thing is that he's a big, slow, lumbering colossus dude. He can grow bits of his body and do weird thing with 'em. [Drax], despite his physique, is actually incredibly fast and is a high-damage, high-mobility type dude.
"They all play pretty differently and have full voice sets," Day asserted, also mentioning that Samuel L. Jackson has reprised his role of Nick Fury in the game.
Play Sets themselves have also been tweaked in 2.0. Each of Marvel Super Heroes' Play Sets have been supervised by Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis, and will feature original content rather than a rehash of a comic book or film. Day estimated that "The Guardians of the Galaxy" Set will take around 5 hours to complete, and far longer for those who want to collect all items littered throughout Knowhere, the Play Set's locale.
One of those types of collectibles are called crossover coins. Scattered throughout various Play Sets, crossover coins are used to bring certain characters into the worlds of others. As an example, both Iron Man and Nova, who feature as part of "The Avengers" and "Spider-Man" Play Sets, respectively, can be placed into "Guardians of the Galaxy" once each of their own, unique crossover coins have been found.
Iron Man and Nova weren't just selected at random to appear in different Play Sets; both characters feature heavily in the Guardians of the Galaxy comics. "It's the sacredness of certain Marvel properties," Day said. "Iron Man has a prominent role in the… comic series, and that's why he's allowed to come in. Comic books crossover all the time, so it made sense.
"The Incredible Hulk can go into the 'Spider-Man' Play Set as well," Day confirmed.
Side-characters also get their time to shine thanks to new team-up power discs. Day showed Stevivor the Winter Solider power disc, which brings Captain America's former side-kick into the game as an ally. The discs operate on a cool-down, so you'll have to wait a couple minutes before using the character again.
Power discs will also provide alternate costumes for a majority of characters. Spider-Man, as an example, has access to his black symbiote costume via a power disc, as does Captain America and his World War II-era threads. Costumes via disc rather than a secondary, more costly figure show that Disney Interactive is making a push for increased value in the game.
"The costumes, we only do them when they fit exactly on the same model. They're a re-skin. Honestly, we had fears if we had made the black [costume] Spider-Man a figure, fans would think, 'is that high enough value for a reskin?'," Day confessed. "We don't have a definite answer… but for now, we're going to do the [power] disc thing."
Characters like Thor, who will be a female character in the Marvel comics going forward, is the type who could receive a secondary figurine because Thor as a man and a woman are two very distinct and separate forms.
The game's Toy Box mode also has seen major refinements and additions. A main piece of criticism of the mode in Disney Infinity was that it was simply too time-consuming or difficult for most to use.
"Big changes in the Toy Box include tools to help you build things faster than before. Feedback from the community was that we love building things in the Toy Box… however, it can be kind of time consuming to build my own [stuff]. So, we've invented these tools we call creators.
"I can place down just a single piece of race track and go, 'you know what, I'm not real particular about exactly how my race track looks, but I want one, and I want it right now.' And so it'll plot out… [and] calculate a route around all the existing stuff that's in the Toy Box… and we can do that again and again and again, and it'll be different every time," Day said.
Another major criticism of the Toy Box mode was that it had little to no replay value if you weren't the creative type. Day said that these shortcomings have been addressed with a number of tools that will drive players back into the mode.
"In Infinity, you could create gameplay, but only now can you create an entire game" Day said, summing it up. Thanks to publishing and polishing tools – things like text tools, game makers, challenge makers and advanced cameras – using the Toy Box should become substantially easier.
"I could make a game [in Infinity]– an example I give is I could build a maze and fill it with bad guys -- and say, 'cool, you're going to come play with me and I want you to go through my maze'… and you could say, 'great, I'm going to use my Dumbo the elephant toy and just fly over your maze' and break it," Day said. These new tools will help place limitations on creations, so that toys can be used or disabled, or logical conditions can be placed on pieces of the Toy Box you've built to encourage a specific style of gameplay.
Templates can also be accessed to build pre-built games and items. We saw a pinball game that can be dropped in the Toy Box. All the while, Day reminded us that all pre-built items can all be edited so a gamer can take a pre-built item and really make it their own.
"We've made building stuff a lot more painless than before, but we still have 100% of the control and power that we had before," Day summarised. "If you still want to build a castle piece by piece, we'll give you all the pieces and you can build it."
Ultimately, Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes is like any other video game sequel, improving past performances while adding a wealth of functionality to the franchise. Xbox 360 or PS3 Infinity owners can simply delve into that same console edition of Infinity 2.0, or upgrade to the Xbox One and or PS4 versions, gaining more memory to use in Toy Box mode. Whether you upgrade or remain on your original console of choice, don't forget that original Infinity figures can be used within Disney Infinity 2.0 Toy Box modes on any platform.