And so, my excitement levels were off the charts for “Marvel Battlegrounds,” the newest playset for “Disney Infinity 3.0,” which adds a new kind of hero-versus-hero gameplay and some new characters to the mix — just in time for the forthcoming “Captain America: Civil War” movie.
Disney was kind enough to hook me up with a “Marvel Battlegrounds” set. But it’s my sad duty to report that for all my excitement, it’s a huge, hero-sized letdown. I blew through the majority of the game in under an hour, and I’m not exactly itching to get back to it.
The way the Disney Infinity 3.0 game itself works is both simple and addictive: The more $14 action figures and $30-ish playsets you buy, the more game you get. 'Marvel Battlegrounds' is one of the latter; a $30 playset that includes a fresh set of levels and a stylin' new Captain America figure modelled on movie star Chris Evans.
Past 'Disney Infinity' playsets have been really enjoyable story-based adventures in the worlds of Disney/Marvel/Pixar/Lucasfilm blockbusters, including 'Inside Out,' 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' where you fight bad guys and go on simple quests.
But 'Marvel Battlegrounds' styles itself as more of a competitive fighting game for up to four players. It's just a tiny bit like Nintendo's 'Super Smash Bros.,' with heroes fighting other heroes (and villains, of course) in arenas drawn from the Marvel movies and comic books. Disney is positioning it as 'Disney Infinity' expanding into a new genre, to freshen the game up for long-time players.
Just glancing through the Amazon reviews of 'Marvel Battlegrounds,' there are generally two camps: Some people love it, since it's a multiplayer fighting game that even young kids can pick up; others are disappointed that there isn't more to see and do. I definitely fall into the latter camp, but your mileage may vary.
In the story mode, one or two players are thrown in to an exceedingly short adventure that sees you meeting and shortly thereafter beating up most of the fan-favourite Marvel characters. You can knock that out in maybe forty-five minutes.
After that...well, there are some pretty simple challenges, usually along the lines of 'beat this character as that character.' Most aren't really worth the time, unless you're a total completionist or just really dig the fighting system. Once you're done with that, all that's really left to do is beat up your friends or the computer in versus mode.
To its credit, the game features lots of varied arenas, featuring lots of destructable objects and environmental hazards -- a SHIELD satellite features flamejets and an electrified floor. And the heroes get some upgraded, unique powers just for 'Marvel Battlegrounds,' alongside some new moves to make it more like a traditional fighting game.
But in my experience with the game, the fighting is pretty simple, shallow, and worst of all, repetitive. It doesn't take a lot of skill, and fighting is all there is to do.
It's not all bad news: To support the release of 'Marvel Battlegrounds,' Disney released a handful of new characters drawn from recent and future films: In addition to the included Captain America figure, new heroes include Ant-Man, The Vision, Black Panther, and a rereleased Black-Suit Spider-Man. They all have cool and varied powers, and look great.
Plus, the game supports the whole range of Marvel superhero figures, past and present, so it can give your old Infinity toys new life. And it has an in-game gimmick to let you try out superheroes you haven't actually bought yet in the game's versus mode, which might be a good bet for budget-conscious parents.
Ultimately, it's just a shame that all those great new characters don't have a great big story to go with them. And at a base retail price of $30, it's hard to recommend, unless you really want that Captain America figure or have three more likeminded superhero enthusiasts.