After having dedicated Disney Infinity 3.0: Play Without Limits mainly to Star Wars, the game returns to the Marvel universe with the new Marvel Battlegrounds Play Set. And it's a very nice new addition since there won't be a fourth game of the series released this year as Disney announced that they will instead continue building out the third game with new Play Sets.
This is something we appreciate as we enjoy making full use of a game we already own, and the new Play Sets add more variety than you could possibly ask for so there really no need for a fourth game. At least not yet. Marvel Battlegrounds is a good example of this, as here the semi-open game worlds are left behind in favour of... a good ol' fashioned brawler. For lack of a better expression, we would call this a beat 'em up, much like classics such as Final Fight, Double Dragon - but with the delightful twist that four people can play at the same time. And, above all, they can play against each other.
It's less violent than the above mentioned titles, of course, but still. This Play Set joins the likes of Inside Out as it offers something that is fundamentally different from the base game and thus helps illustrate what makes Disney Infinity so unique among the "toys to life" genre.
The fighting, can be both co-operative and competitive, and it is possible to bring Marvel toys from both Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes and Disney Infinity 3.0: Play Without Limits to the battleground. Thus, you need to dig out your old figurines again, but there is also a selection of rotating characters that your friends (or rather opponents) can use. A smart way to do it so everyone can play even if they don't have a large set of figures.
It is a wise choice by the developers, because there has to be four characers, and the computer opponent fill up the slots if you can't find people. We tend to refuse to play if there is more than one computer controlled fighter. It's simply a lot more fun to face real people, and our friends tend to be more susceptible to the more or less constant trashtalking we engage in. The computer doesn't seem to care much when we call it names - and where's the fun in that?
We don't think it's relevant to compare Marvel Battlegrounds Play Set with Super Smash Bros for Wii U, even though it is a fighting game for four people with a lot of famous characters. We'd rather compare it to Power Stone, or possibly Tobal No. 1, if anyone remembers those games. It is basically fighting viewed from an isometric perspective with plenty of opportunities to circle around people and attack your friends like a coward from behind.
We personally took a liking to Nick Fury, who has been upgraded for Marvel Battlegrounds with some extra attacks. But it's also fun to deal spankings with characters like Hulkbuster Iron Man and Ultron. How well balanced they all are in the long run remains to be seen, but as you can always team up together to beat up the player who leads, it makes for an interesting dynamic.
There is also a short adventure to play through, but it is the weaker part of this package. It took us less than an hour to play it from start to finish and we have no urge to do it again despite the three difficulty levels. The meat and potatoes, the very essence of this Play Set, comes from multiplayer, and here Marvel Battlegrounds shines. It's fun to play, and often when we are supposed to round off the evening, someone uttered: "just one more game" - a definite sign of it's quality.
Marvel Battlegrounds has a few shortcomings, such as the fact that only one new figure is included (earlier Play Sets have had two), and this is a new version of Captain America. It feels a little cheap, and for those of us who already had Captain America in the earlier version, it's a let down. Two figures per Play Set should be the general rule of thumb and something that Disney should not compromise on. Both characters should also be brand new. Players who bought Disney Infinity 3.0: Play Without Limits for the Star Wars content and just collected these figurines will only have a single permanent fighter to play with, Captain America. Not very endearing.
But if you have some Marvel characters from before (or if you're willing to obtain more), and if enjoy local multiplayer, then this Play Set is something you should seriously consider. With just a little more content, this could have been a full price game on its own, and it's difficult to imagine anyone getting bored of Marvel Battlegrounds to quickly.