Game Review

Disney Universe Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

A dull new world

Disney Universe holds a great deal of promise. A game in which you can play as a large number of characters spanning Disney's rich and impressive history? Levels designed in honour of some of its most classic films? Multiplayer for up to four people simultaneously? Yes, yes, and yes. Which is why it's so disappointing that the game is not all that good.

On paper, it sounds great. In practice, it's something of a repetitive mess.

The story is this: a virtual Disney amusement park has been created, allowing visitors access to limitless worlds based upon those in their favourite films. Unfortunately, something's gone wrong, and the attractions are turning on the guests — think Westworld, but with less Yul Brynner and more of the cockroach from Wall-E.

You and up to three friends assume the role of little colour-coded monsters who, we guess, were visitors to the park. The designs of these hideous creations are salvaged only somewhat by the fact that you get to dress them up as your choice of Disney characters, most of which are unlocked as you progress through the game. Why the developers want you to play as these freaky little imps instead of the actual characters, or even Miis, is somewhat puzzling, but it's not a deal breaker.

What is a deal breaker is the gameplay experience itself, which consists of button mashing followed by button mashing followed by button mashing. Enemies, bosses and barrels all require the same treatment: mash buttons until they disappear.

The different worlds are all impressively sculpted, visually speaking, but it won't take you long to become tired of bashing your way through them. Every so often a boss fight or sequence intends to spice things up a bit but involving projectiles or some other vague gameplay quirk but, ultimately, the experience is not one that evolves during the course of gameplay, and since it's pretty dull to begin with, that's a problem.

As mentioned, each world is based upon a different Disney film — such as The Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin. Within each world are several levels through which you beat and bash your way without variation. Objectives flash up on the screen, nearly always requiring you to raise or lower platforms so that progress can continue, but rarely are they anything much more fun than that. You can access brief challenge sections if you locate the arcade machine in each level, but those don't find you doing anything more than what you've been doing already: killing enemies, dodging hazards or fetching items.

You and your friends are mainly playing cooperatively, but you can toss each other into pits if that makes the game any more fun for you. This will actually happen more frequently than you might intend thanks to poorly-designed levels that allow you to walk through walls and off scenery, coupled with a bizarrely dark colour scheme that makes black barriers impossible to distinguish from black pits. Go figure.

After each level you and your friends will be rated in terms of who collected the most pick-ups. There's no reward for this, but it does add a competitive element that you may find enjoyable.

In addition to the main game you can unlock concept art by locating hidden pick-ups and change and upgrade your costumes as you go. None of this, though, shakes up the initial experience at all, and despite the seeming variety in a game that's based on so many different films of varying styles, concepts and atmospheres, it all blends together into one amorphous vanilla smudge, and that's unfortunate.

Disney Universe has potential, and it's indeed playable, but it's unlikely you'll find yourself coming back for more after you complete it. If, that is, you even bother to complete it. We wouldn't blame you if you didn't.


Disney Universe plays it safe in nearly every way, and that's a problem. Choosing any character and running amok through the expansive worlds of various films should have been a recipe for perfection — or at least variety — but it's all in service of a mindless beat-em-up that's both too dull and too easy. The graphics are great, if a little dark, and the music is certainly nostalgic, but there's not much we can say about the run-and-punch gameplay that makes up the entire experience. Don't go out of your way for this one.

From the web

Game Trailer

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Your first look at Disney Universe, a brand new adventure game for Wii, due for release in 2011

User Comments (47)



ImDiggerDan said:

Every time my son sees this anywhere he says "Little Big Planet". The characters do remind me of Sackboy, so if I was Media Molecule, I'd be consulting lawyers.



Ikalpo said:

I wouldn't have bought it if it was based on nintendo characters anyway.
Or if if came with a free T-shirt.



Pokefanmum82 said:

but people seem to forget who this game is geared towards....little kids. my son wants this game and you know what i want it too. I don't care if it's really challenging. I just like the idea of the game.



irken004 said:

Maybe if the player could play as actual Disney characters, instead of those little creatures wearing stupid hats...



Kyloctopus said:

@Ikalpo You would totally buy it if the blue people were dressed as Mario, Link, or my favorite, Professor Layton.

@Mumof2kids82: Your right. Kids don't care for graphics. They just care if it has a gimmic or not. Which it does. And if the gameplay is good.

This is probably the worst review this website made since Super Mario All Stars for Wii, because you forgot this is targeted for children.



Supremeist said:

I don't really think the characters look like sackboy at all.. too me. I don't own any Little Big Planet games but I plan on buying the next one that comes out.


This game just doesn't look good.



NintyMan said:

This is a shame, since with some polishing and the option of playing as Miis would have made this at least a decent game. I guess Disney Interactive saved their effort for Epic Mickey 2.



Dodger said:

From what the review was saying, it sounds like there is a lot that would frustrate children. Glitches, bottomless pits that look like barriers and vice versa, etc. Looks to me like there are other games I would give to a kid first.



kkslider5552000 said:

I'm not surprised. This immediately reminded me of those Nicktoons Unite games and apparently I was right. Cool idea, cool characters, hilariously boring gameplay.



TKOWL said:

Kinda expecting this. These characters look nothing like something Disney made anyways.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Hmm, a Disney themed beat-'em-up game. That sounds interesting. Even completely mindless beat-'em-ups are fun for at least a single playthrough, so I'll keep an eye out for this at RedBox.



bauckster said:

Count me out. I agree with the many who find the character designs to be bizarre and ugly. Repetitive button-mashing on top of that is a definite deal-breaker. Here's hoping Epic Mickey 2 is worlds better!



pntjr said:

My life is over!
I was looking forward to this!
I was just about to buy it!
My hopes were built up, and you smacked them down to the ground!
My heart is broken!
/weep weep sob sob cry cry cry

Now @koops3 knows what I'm talking about! He wins by default!



Popyman said:

Are there any Great Mouse Detective or Treasure Planet levels/characters in it? Oh, and what about Oswald?



Punny said:

@Popyman: According to Nintendo Power, Oswald isn't in this letdown. It's a shame too. I guess the target audience wouldn't recognize him.

When it comes to Disney games, I'll stick with Epic Mickey and Kingdom Hearts, thank you very much.



ToastyYogurt said:

Are we saying it's okay to manipulate children and give them something sub-par over something superb? Chicken Brutus is right. The reason many licensed games are crap is because the developers don't try, because most of these games are targeted towards children, and children don't read reviews, or pay attention to a game's quality. They just want to play as their favorite character. Kids are being manipulated all the time these days...



NX01Trekkie1992 said:

darn, this actually looked good from the ads, oh well, maybe they'll make a sequel that gets it right or something



Kid_A said:

"Think Westworld, but with less Yul Brynner and more of the cockroach from Wall-E."
This review is wonderful, Phil. One of my (endless array of) pet peeves is when critics give a game like this a low score and someone says, "Hey! This is aimed at kids! You can't do that!"
Since when should kids have to put up with lame games? Why, back in my day, kids played Banjo Kazooie and A Link to the Past, consarnit!



Linkuini said:

I wonder if the reason Oswald isn't showing up anywhere else is because he technically still lives in the Wasteland, a world specifically for forgotten Disney characters. That would make it weird if he started getting more publicity. That'd be kind of a silly reason. Yet kind of melancholically poetic...

On topic, I agree that the target audience isn't a very good excuse for a lack of nuance in the gameplay. What it probably is an excuse for is the tame difficulty you mentioned, though. Sure, kids play New Super Mario Bros., I'm sure. They probably also play Kirby's Epic Yarn, and probably appreciate being able to reach the end without big bro's help.



SuperSpank said:

@legendarypasta99 I think this game has no connection to Epic Mickey.
@Imdiggerdan I don't think they will do that, as MM bought a liscense to use Disney characters as DLC. If they complained, they might have to pull the Toy Story, Incredibles, POTC and Tron packs out of the PSN store.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Thanks for the review.
When looking at Nemo i get the feeling that you can’t play as the actual characters because at least he couldn't walk and it would just be strange if some of 'em would solve any problem with violence. But then again they could just have included characters that fight in the cartoons and leave out the rest.




I still think young kids would like this tbh - however, they may get eventually bored of it after several plays. As someone said, would've been better to play as the actual disney characters or their caricatures (Nemo in a waterworld?) - rather than the costumes. Skylanders review next I guess?

Antwats, wasn't going anywhere near this



Magicpegasus said:

Hey, I used to be a kid, and I didn't like crappy games. A lot of the games I liked, like Mario, Castlevania, Duck Hunt, Megaman, I still like...because they were good. Why the sentiment for giving Disney a break because the game is made for kids? Trust me, that company has enough resources to make something good, they just didn't this time. No free rides Mickey.



daznsaz said:

have any of the reviewers got kids that could rate the game.it would probably get a better score.not that it really matters.might get it for my cubs though



misswliu81 said:

i remember when games like donald duck's quack pack attack and mickey mouse castle of illusion had great graphics and gameplay. yet these below par disney licensed games are a mockery of titles such as those ones.

i think disney should stick to making movies and leave the games to actual games developers.



rjejr said:

I'm going to have to disagree w/ this review and give it a 7 based on having played it 2,3 and 4 player w/ my wife and kids, as was intended. Solo sucks and defeats the purpose of playing this game - bustin' on your friends - so a 5 for single player would be accurate.
I've enjoyed playing this more than Epic Mickey, which I still haven't finished since starting last Christmas, though I feel this is almost a successor of sorts w/ the little Mickey ears floating around everywhere and you're playing in Disney(West)World. What makes this game good is the level of competitiveness which even Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One didn't have but we wish it did wen we played it. There is also a greater level of cooperation than R&C:A4O had regarding puzzle solving. The random red pop-up cubes - not present in solo play - make this game extra fun for kids. I can't fault the game for being a button masher as my kids love Sengoku Basara Samurai Heroes and the Dynasty Warrior Gundam games. We actually wish there were more bad guys to hit as the power ups keep coming.
As for the ugly ModNation Racers characters instead of Miis, well this game released on every console, so it makes sense for a generic bland base model. Wii specific Go Vacation has playable Mii's but this is more fun than that. Playing as actual Disney characters would make no sense for the plot thin Westworld story line.
I highly recommend this for the 4-10 crowd to play w/ their siblings and parents. The PS3 has a very short demo and much better graphics (can't wait for WiiU).



Popyman said:

@Wiggler: He wasn't talking about Epic Mickey being connected to this game--but to all things Disney in general. Which brings me to...@Pasta: One of the main reasons for Epic Mickey was to mend Oswald and Mickey's relationship and bring Oswald out of obscurity. He's not a forgotten character anymore (the ending of Epic Mickey further shows that--don't know if you've beaten it so I won't spoil it. ). I think Oswald is just too cool for this game. XD

@misswliu81: Um...what below par Disney games are you referring to? Everything they've made since the Toy Story 3 game has ranged from good to great, this game is the only one that sounds a bit iffy.



TikiTong said:

Well, its not like they included Nightmare Before Christmas characters anyway............



Henmii said:

I expected it to score low, but I didn't expect a 5. I thought it would get a 6.



Thwiidscube said:

Button mashing to kill enemies in Wii games sucks! The motion is what is fun! Why didn't you put THAT in there huh Disney?



DeathCode said:

I think this game should have gotten about 7 or 8/10. This game is actually fun to play. It kind of reminds me a little of FairyTale Fights for the PS3. I love the button mashing for this it suits the game. And there is so many costumes and things to collect throughout the game. There is also a good amount of levels in the game.



photofool83 said:

I have to disagree, as well. I have had a blast with this game. Just make sure to turn off the blue help arrows in the options menu. I have been playing it on the PS3 though. Maybe the Wii version isn't as good or something because this game does not deserve a 5. I would easily give it an 8. I do think it's the most fun with others but I've even enjoyed played the levels again as single player. This game is easily better than any of the Lego titles. (Those lego titles and their damn bugs) Anyways, don't pass on this game people it's actually really fun.



xavierisonl1n3 said:

Doesnt he know the game is like mostly for kids? Probably some adults dont like it but whats the point of giving it a bad review? And why you want actual characters? What you want a nemo guy to wobble around and use that as a attack? Disney Universe is made safe by many ways cause its for kids. What you want the characters to say bad words?



Chloe7 said:

My kids 5 & 7yrs old girls got this game for xmas for their Wii and they love it as I do too. Its very addicting and fun to do for the young kids.It says its for 10+ but my 5 yr old has some mad skills with this game. I will say that we have played it everyday since Christmas and have already unlocked all 45 costumes in 6 days. It was like a reward to see what type of costume would be unlocked if they completed the levels. Now they are wondering what the point of the game is since there is nothing to look forward to at the end of the levels. I have told them they can work on accumulating more coins and getting the other collectibles for art work & music. The kids love the idea of being able to be one of their favorite characters while fighting the evil bots. I wish the downloadable upgrades were available for the Wii System. Our family will definitely continue playing this for fun, we are now teaching the hubby how to play so we can all play together.



Mok said:

Disney shovelware games. Just like their rubbish new films.

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