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Game Review

The world of bring-your-toy-to-life kids' games has certainly been flexing its plastic muscles over the last few years. There's Skylanders, with its parade of colorful monster and dragon collectables, of course. And the  Disney Infinity series has proffered toy figure favs ranging from Cap'n Jack Sparrow to Buzz Lightyear … and now superheroes, too!

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) swings wide the Marvel universe doors with an initial wave of 16 collectable super-dupers. Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow are all part of the Avengers starter Play Set. Spider-Man and Nova can be procured for the Spider-Man Play Set. And, yes, even characters from the current box office blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy get their own 2.0 adventure with Star-Lord, the green Gamora and the ever-loquacious Groot.

Avengers Assemble (No Assembly Required)
A starter Play Set, like the Avengers one mentioned above, gets you the video game disc, an Infinity portal, some hexagonal power discs, a clear statuette and three action-posed plastic heroes. And they all work together pretty intuitively.

After plugging the flat platform-like portal into your game console, that clear statuette is used to open a gaming sandbox version of New York City—along with a lightweight adventure challenging the Avengers to stop Thor's evil brother Loki from freezing everything and loosing an army of frost giants on the innocent populace.

Once that's set up, you choose your hero. You want Iron Man to swoop into the air and blast baddies with his pulsar rays? Just pop his figure on the portal and bring him to life. You think Thor and his mighty hammer might do a better job? Then use his figure instead.

One fun little feature (and genius marketing ploy) in the trio of Play Set adventures also lets you cross over some characters from one Set to another. After collecting a dozen crossover tokens in the Avenger adventure, for example, the Guardians' own Rocket Raccoon can join in on the NYC battle. Of course, Mom or Dad will have to run out and buy his plastic figure to make that happen!

Hulk Smash Puny Skill Tree!
Speaking of plastic figures, I should mention that all of the game's progress and any particular character's upgrades get stored on the plastic hero's internal chip. That means you can take your back-flipping and bad-guy-walloping Black Widow over to a buddy's house (even a buddy with a completely different console) and your hero will retain all her skill tree upgrades. (Those skill trees are something new for 2.0.)

When players complete missions or (bloodlessly) beat up villains with power blasts and magic hammer thumps—which is pretty much 90% of what's done here—they collect various colored "sparks" that are left behind by the fallen foes. With enough orange sparks, you can unlock new and improved abilities that range from a beefier health meter to super moves capable of bopping a whole crowd of charging frost giants.

Even the action figures from the first Disney Infinity series will gain these new skill tree improvements. But how can someone like Wreck-It Ralph or Frozen's Anna and Elsa interact with, say, the Hulk, you ask? Well, that's where the new and improved Toy Box comes into play. In this special zone, any character from the Disney Infinity stable of stars can romp and play together while leveling up and gaining new skills. Toy Box "hosts" give players instructions and teachable missions that help them master the ability to create literally anything their imaginative hearts desire.

Play It Any Way You Want
In that Toy Box, gamers can create communities or landscapes one stone and tree at a time, or use creator pieces that quickly generate unique castles or elaborate cities in seconds. (It's sorta like being handed Green Lantern's power ring and given free rein … if you don't mind me mixing Marvel and DC heroes!) There are even little characters that can be sent off to plant trees or build various structures wherever they roam. It's all part of an incredibly flexible world where everybody can race and battle, swoop and soar—or just sit around eating as many virtual pastries as possible, if that's what you want.

Of course my young granddaughter was more interested in playing with the cool-looking plastic figurines than she was in the game itself. Which maybe isn't the worst thing that could happen, and could give moms and dads an altogether different toy box option.

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