Finding Dory Playset Review
Well, it’s finally here. The last ever content release for Disney Infinity. It’s still heartbreaking that it’s all over, but there are definitely worse things the game could have been sent off with. Throughout the series’ life, underwater characters and quadruped characters are things that have regularly been brought up as something that both the fans and developers alike have wanted to see in the games. The developers have always said that these features required a lot of planning and work to pull them off in a satisfying way, and they would take all the time they needed rather than rush them out (especially given the criticisms made about the Cars characters). So it’s fitting that the series ends with something the fans have been waiting a long time for. The news that this playset would be a sidescrolling platformer bummed me out a bit because I thought it would end up being pedestrian and uninteresting, but it actually has some really unique and interesting aspects that make use of its underwater theming.
The playset is split into two distinct sections – a 3D hub that you can roam around, and 2D sidescrolling levels. The hub area plays like an area out of the more traditional playsets. You can swim around freely, exploring a bay within the Marine Life Institute from the movie. This area mostly serves as a place to learn and practise new mechanics as they’re introduced – each time a new ability is acquired you’ll return here, where you’ll complete a short quest that shows you how it works. There’s also collectibles hidden around the area that you’ll need to use your different abilities to find, which will reward you with new Toy Box toys for your efforts. The hub also features some side missions and the usual kinds of challenges – races, ring collection and the like. None of these are particularly challenging, but they give you a good enough excuse to make use of the swimming mechanics and experience the beautiful locations the playset has to offer. The bay can be personalised by placing landmarks and coral in certain spots. A fully-decorated hub is quite soothing to swim around and experience.
The sidescroller levels are where the bulk of the game is. They’ve got a unique spin on the idea of a platformer game as you can swim freely in 8 directions, unimpeded by gravity while underwater. Skills and challenges you normally face in platformers, like timing and positioning, are applied to new scenarios brought about by the underwater setting. For example, instead of having to time a jump between moving platforms, you’ll need to quickly move between rotating coils while a route through them is available. One of my favourite things is when you need to move between two separate bodies of water, and so in order to make the distance through the air. you have to build up enough momentum and angle yourself properly.
The aim of the playset’s levels is to swim around rescuing trapped fish, overcoming obstacles by using different abilities in a sort of light-Metroidvania fashion. You start off with the ability to blow bubbles and attack with your tail, which allows you to encase enemies in a bubble and send them flying forwards. Trapped enemies will bounce off walls, and can break certain other enemies and structures, allowing you to progress. Every so often you’ll either find a new companion creature with their own unique ability you can use, or get an upgrade of the abilities of one you already have. These abilities provide new challenges as the playset progresses, and grant access to new areas in old levels that house collectibles. That pipe blowing a heavy current you couldn’t swim through in a previous level? Head back there once you’ve found the hermit crab and you’ll be able to hunker down and fight through it. It’s a bummer when you see areas you know you won’t be able to access for a while, but at least when you come back to replay the level there’ll usually be a new puzzle or challenge to face – only a few of these areas feel arbitrarily locked. Not every level will require a replay anyway, and hunting for these collectibles is made easier once you unlock a feature where all collectibles are marked on your minimap. It’s a much more enjoyable task fully completing this playset than, say, hunting Mynocks and Holocrons in the Star Wars playsets.
Each level is themed off one of four different aspects of the Marine Life Institute. Open Ocean levels are focused on navigating undersea labyrinths. They’re a bit more relaxed than the others, but have lots of hidden paths where collectibles might be hidden. In Touch Pool levels you’ll need to move fast and deal with all sorts of hazards – most notably, bratty kids slamming their hands down.These levels are a lot of fun when they keep up their high pace and provide frantic action, but often you’ll be faced with lots of hazards within tight areas that make it frustrating to move around. Quarantine levels introduce a stealth mechanic – every so often a human worker in the background will shine their flashlight towards the tanks. These tanks are meant to be empty, so if you get spotted they’ll assume you’re a sick fish who’s meant to be quarantined and take you away (you just return to the last checkpoint, the penalty’s really lax). In order to avoid getting spotted, you need to hide behind muck on the tank that obscures their view, or within physical structures inside the tank that hide you away. These challenges are simple enough at first, but by the end of the game you’ll be need to balance up a variety of factors like enemies that are attacking you and keeping up with moving contraptions that provide cover. The final level type takes place in the pipes flowing around the Institute. These levels are focused on speed, as there are less collectibles in them and you’re rewarded for finishing within a set time limit instead.
There’s a great deal of variety between the themes, and the themes are mixed up so that you’re not playing a string of similar levels in a row. The pacing is well done, with few sudden difficulty spikes across levels – they gradually get more involved and exciting as you progress through the playset.
Merely completing the playset will take around 3-5 hours, but if you go after every collectible and every challenge it’ll be closer to double that. The playset comes with a single figure, and so the price is reduced, but unlike the Marvel Battlegrounds playset there’s only two figures compatible with it. So while you could use any Infinity 2.0 figures you already had to play multiplayer in that playset, you’ll need to fork out a little more for the Nemo figure in order to play with a friend in this one. There’s not a huge amount of differences between Dory and Nemo, so you’re mostly paying for co-op.
While the figures themselves are really nice, the characters they unlock aren’t much fun to play as outside of the playset. They’re not as limited as the Cars characters, thankfully, as they can perform all platforming tasks, wield packs and tools, and use vehicles (it turns out fish do have a use for bikes after all!). That being said, their combat options are limited – they only have basic melee attacks (no combos), a ranged bubble attack (that can be charged), and a special move. The Inside Out characters are a good comparison if you played as them. The fish characters can’t swim freely in the Toy Box, but their movement animations make it look like they’re swimming through the level.
When not in the playset you’ll also have access to a number of new Toy Box Toys that you can use to make your Toy Boxes feel like they’re underwater. A new terrain texture and two new skyboxes can be bought as soon as the playset piece is loaded on the portal, as well as a limited selection of toys. As you progress through the playset and find the collectibles hidden in it, you’ll unlock coral and structures that you can place around your Boxes to spice up the place. There’s very few functional toys (most are purely decorative) but you didn’t have a lot to work with before if you wanted to play in underwater seascapes, so the selection is nice if that’s something you’ve been after. Some of the coral varieties would also serve well in platforming Toy Boxes, with alcoves you can stand on and use to ascend to higher terrain.
I’ll admit, I’ve been getting emotional while writing this up, because there’s a sense of finality in the air as it sets in that this is the last ever Disney Infinity playset that will ever release. This is it. While it’s not a film I would have chosen as the send-off, it’s not like the developers had much choice. Besides, the playset actually ended up being much more interesting than I anticipated. Its underwater theming forced the level design and mechanics to be more than that of a run of the mill platformer, and I greatly enjoyed my time with it. It’s just a shame that the rest of the package isn’t that great. The Toy Box Toys are decent enough, but you can’t play the playset with another player out of the box, and Dory is a pretty useless character when not in the playset. I’m glad we got to experience all the hard work put into this playset before the game got cancelled. So long, Disney Infinity, and thanks for all the fish.
This review was written based off game content bought with the author’s own money. Review scores are designed to be directly compared with other expansions in the same series, not other series. We use the full 10 point scale 🙂