An expensive trip to Radiator Springs
Disney Infinity is out, giving you a taste of three worlds from various Disney and Pixar properties -- some welcome, some not -- but the starter pack isn't the only bit of content in town. In addition to characters for the starter levels, there's also two new sandboxes to play in: Cars and The Lone Ranger.
Of course, it wouldn't be Disney-like without a ton of add-ons to buy, and the first one up on the chopping block is the Cars Play Set.
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Disney Infinity: Cars Play Set (3DS, PC, PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 [tested])
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Released: August 18, 2013 (NA) August 23, 2013 (EU) [3DS, PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360]
MSRP: $34.99 (Play Set with two characters)
So what exactly is a Play Set? Well, as you know the core game comes with three worlds: Monsters, Pirates, and The Incredibles. With the starter set, that's all you get, but if you want you can buy a Play Set package, which comes with two characters and a Play Set piece that unlocks a new world. At retail, this is a $35 package that comes with three bits of DLC -- two toys which operate as in-game characters (which are normally $13 each), and an open-world sandbox (which can basically be priced at $9 in this context).
In the case of the Cars Play Set, you're getting the characters Lightning McQueen and Holly Shiftwell, in addition to the Radiator Springs sandbox. The Cars characters themselves are a bit of conundrum, as they offer up a decent variety of gameplay (considering, well, they're not humanoid toys like 90% of the game), but they all play roughly the same. Unlike most of Disney Infinity's characters, their vehicular cohorts can powerslide, jump, turbo boost, and equip more formidable weapons (mostly themed to the secret agent-styled Cars 2) -- essentially, they operate like mini Mario Kart racers.
Although these two characters can be used fully in the Toy Box mode, part of what you're paying for here is Radiator Springs. It's a bit more low-key than most of the action-packed sets, but thankfully it sports a pretty solid and open design, offering up a fun cityscape to drive through, as well as the large mountain in the middle, and even some caves. There's a tiny Dark Cloud-esque city-building mechanic, but it's mostly just a wasted addition that distills down to "place a building on one of six specific lots."
But even beautiful vistas won't hide the blemishes of the franchise itself. To be blunt, if you don't like Cars, this set is going to do nothing to change your mind. There's no plot involved here other than your standard excuse to race, race, and race some more, and the characters are even more stereotypical than they are in the films (and without a lot of the same voice talents).
Truth be told, I was never a fan of the Cars films because the characters often don't transcend the identity they were given at the very start -- whether that's a stereotypical Italian like Luigi, the "Blue Collar" Mater, or a "cocky tough guy" Chick, there's no real depth or dimension to anyone. It's not that they're problematic so much as they aren't very funny -- this spills over to the Infinity Play Set, unfortunately.
There are a few high points, though -- like when the Cars 2 spy organization makes a small visit to Radiator Springs and equips you with missiles, mines, and machine guns. These small challenges are brief, but fun, and show off a more violent side to Disney Infinity that should appeal to older players. But unfortunately that's not enough. The other extras aren't as compelling and mostly consist of multiple turbo boosts, towing contraptions, and stunt structures.
While I can't wholly recommend the Cars Play Set itself, getting a Cars character or two outside of the confines of a pricey pack wouldn't be a bad idea for Toy Box purposes. You can set up a ton of different scenarios with multiple players that involve made up objectives centered around racing, and putting humanoid characters into vehicles pitted against Cars toys makes for some fun gameplay sessions.