For the third year in a row, the hybrid videogame-collectible figurine game Skylanders has come out with yet another cross-platform title. The Skylanders line of miniatures used in a video game no longer stands alone in this category, as Disney’s Infinity has now swept onto the scene drawing on its vast wealth of proprietary characters and environments to create a similar, but different game experience. Both games are designed to encourage gamers (parents) to purchase additional figurines to use within the game. With most gamers (and parents) having limited reserves with which to purchase games and toys this holiday season, which is the better game? We take a look at the two games in a head to head matchup to help you decide which game is the right one for you. In both cases, the 3DS version of the games differ significantly from the main titles, so we’ll focus in on the console versions here.
First, lets get some background information out of the way for people completely new to both games.
Skylanders came on the scene two years ago in the holiday shopping period of 2011. The Skylanders games are based around a sort of combat RPG form of game, with gamers playing through a series of levels linked together to make an overarching storyline. If a figure loses all of their health, they “expire” and can no longer be used in that play through of the level. The game can continue, however, but using additional figures as if they were “extra lives”. Each figurine gains experience and coins as they play through the game, storing the information within the figure itself (so it could be brought to a friend’s gaming setup and continue its experience and coins from where it left off.) Experience will slowly “level up” a figurine, increasing its various statistics – most notably the character’s health. Coins, however are used to purchase “upgrades” for a figurine, giving it additional attack abilities, which is the true “fun” part of upgrading one’s figurines. Players can typically venture through the story in several levels of difficulty, being able to hop into any scenario that was previously visited. The first Skylander game had a number of standard figurines available usable in the main story as well as a combat arena (either vs other players or against the computer.) The sequel “Skylanders Giants” introduced new figures along with some extra-large figures (the giants) that had some extra abilities in the game. The newest game, Skylanders Swap Force has as its new feature a set of eight figurines that have detachable tops and bottoms that can be “swapped” to form new combinations of figures to use within the game. The new game also introduces “jumping” to the game, which changes the functionality of attacks of the previous figures. The figures from older games can all be brought into the newer games (thus figures from the first game can be played in any of the three) but newer figures are never backwards compatible.)
Disney Infinity, on the other hand, is almost two games in one. The first, called “Play Set” mode, is very similar to the Skylanders series. Place a figure on the input device and one can play through a short series of adventures in the setting of that figure. For example, putting Mr. Incredible on the stand opens up a series of missions to be accomplished within his home city. The second play mode is the “Toy Box” mode. This mode is entirely unique to Infinity and the closest thing to which I can compare it is the popular game Minecraft. In Toy Box mode there are few rules or objectives, players must make up their own rules and objectives. In addition, playing the game (in both modes) will slowly unlock items which can be used in Toy Box mode to build new environments. Gamers can even share things they’ve built (except on the Wii version) with other gamers, with new sets of particularly impressive Toy Box creations being released to the general public weekly.
Enough about each game, lets set them in head to head competition and see who wins.
Comparing the two sets of figurines directly is a difficult task, as they have entirely different styles. Skylanders have very dynamic figures full of action including accessories that give a feeling of their powers. Meanwhile, Infinity figurines manage to capture a some very creative personality within a figure, even though they are almost entirely a figure standing alone with no “special effects” present. The Infinity figures also have the strong advantage of Disney’s huge library of famous characters. Can a little mushroom guy truly compare to the likes of Lightning McQueen or Mr. Incredible? It is a tight call, but I’m going to go with Skylanders on this one. What seals the deal is the use of the figures within the game. The Skylanders figures grow significantly over time and develop strong personalities. I enjoy this sort of role-playing aspect (as do my kids), playing the game over and over again
simply to “upgrade” Skylander characters who have not yet unlocked all their abilities.
Winner: Skylanders. I’m drawn into the the personalities I’ve created for the Skylander figures, while the Infinity figures remain the semi-static characters one finds in the Disney canon. Finally, Skylander figures are slightly cheaper than Infinity figures with standard Skylanders running about $10 and Infinity characters around $13. This brings us to…
Game Value of Figures
Judging the value of each game, price vs content, is a difficult one at best. However, for the sake of this comparison we will look at how the figures affect access to the game.
SKYLANDERS: In Skylanders, any figure can be used to “complete” the main storyline. However, there are eight basic “types” of figurines (air, water, fire, etc…) and throughout each level of the game players will find several secret “areas” which can only be unlocked and played if the correct figurine is present. The second game included “Giant” figures which also would unlock new small areas in that game, but in most cases the areas could be reached with just a bit more effort. In addition, any of the small “Giant” type areas (typically just a platform or two with extra loot or hats) could be unlocked with any of the eight Giant figures available (and the main game came with one.) In the newest game, Swap Force, there are now additional little challenge areas that can be accessed if one has the correct Swap Force figure along (actually the base, since the challenges are based around movement powers.) Overall, someone who wanted to access every aspect of the newest Skylander game would need one each of the eight types, one Giant (which unlocks very little), and the eight swappable Skylanders to access each of the 8 (I think) movement challenges. However, the swap force figures each have an element so simply having one of each of the eight swap force figures will grant access to every part of the game.
INFINITY: Disney Infinity places a much higher value on each figure. While anything goes within Toy Box mode, one can only access a Play Set mode with a character from that specific genre. Thus, since the game comes with three characters, only three Toy Box areas are initially available. To access the Cars Play Set area, for example, one has to go out and buy a cars figure. In addition, each figure unlocks only a small series of missions within its Play Set, so buying additional figures of one type (Francesco Bernoulli, for example) will unlock new missions in that Play Set.
Winner: Skylanders. While I would estimate the cost of accessing every area in Skylanders to be comparable to every area of Disney Infinity, a small investment in Skylanders (even just the initial 3 figures that come in the box) will allow players to play 90% or more of the game. Disney Infinity’s adventures are too closely tied to individual figures, requiring a much larger figure investment.
Both games offer multiplayer modes, and offer a similar multiplayer experience. Skylanders allows gamers to play a two player mode with any two figurines. Disney Infinity is limited, however, in that one must own two figures compatible with a specific world to play co-op within the adventures of “Play Set” mode. For example, one would need both Lightning McQueen and Tow-Mater to play Co-Op within the Cars Play Set, a Mr. Incredible figure just wouldn’t work. Disney Infinity, though, allows gamers to play co-op online. (Note, that the Wii version of Infinity is severely crippled compared to other console versions, since it doesn’t allow multiplayer at all in the “Play Set” mode – possibly more than half the game!) Infinity even splits the screen two different ways – switching to a horizontal split when gamers are playing a race-oriented activity.
Winner: Disney Infinity, primarily due to the online multiplayer (which goes up to 4 player in some situations). The one exception is the the Wii ( not Wii U) version which doesn’t allow co-op play even in local “Play Set” mode.
Skylanders has a main storyline that can be completed at different difficulties. Levels can be returned to again and again to find each secret area/item/hat to earn stars for the level (including a measurement of how quickly one can complete the level.) Even ignoring “leveling up” Skylander figures, the base game can keep dedicated gamers occupied for quite some time. Eventually, the magic will probably wear off and there won’t be as much interest in repeating the levels again and again (unless you’re like my young boys.) In this, Disney Infinity has one huge advantage over Skylanders in its Toy Box mode. In this mode (not present in Skylanders), players acquire building blocks over time (and effort) and can then build their own environment. Players can build a race track for racing, a platform-jumping game, and many many other possibilities! Even better, gamers can share what they’ve built online (except for the Wii again) with each other with some of the best examples highlighted each week for download by the general public. In many ways, it reminds me of the extremely popular Minecraft game that is half-game half-building simulation. Due to this feature, which can even be played multiplayer, Disney Infinity could be played using “new” (user generated) content for far after most gamers will have moved on from Skylanders. Comparisons could also be made for Little Big Planet where gamers created an amazing array of creative activities using only the basic level designer in the game.
Winner: Disney Infinity since Skylanders has nothing to compare to the level design / level sharing found in Infinity’s “Toy Box” mode.
Once again, it is a tough call. It is a simple choice if you have a Wii. Due to the lack of multiplayer and online shared worlds, the Wii version of Disney Infinity is lacking some of best features of the Infinity game and I can only recommend Skylanders Swap Force. As for the other consoles, Skylanders Swap Force provides the best storyline, best action/role playing style game play, and will provide more “game” for a smaller budget for add-ons like more figurines. Disney Infinity wins hands-down for its creative building mode. If you don’t find constructing or exploring other player’s level creations, you will probably still want to side with Skylanders Swap Force. However, Disney Infinity provides an outlet for creativity and long-term game play that isn’t found anywhere in Skylanders Swap Force. It comes down to a comparison of short-term slightly more engaging adventure game play (Skylanders) or a long-term experience (Disney Infinity) which will provide a creative outlet long after most gamers have burnt out on the Skylanders Swap Force storyline. In an ideal world, you’ll simply just have to save your pennies and eventually purchase both!