Disney Infinity has staked its claim as the Swiss army knife of kid-friendly franchises. Its flexible toolset allows it to do just about anything reasonably well, but it almost never feels quite up to par with a dedicated game. With the notable exception of the Inside Out set, which I maintain could go toe-to-toe with most modern platformers, there's always a sense that you're trading some gameplay precision for the enjoyment of using your favorite Disney, Marvel, or Star Wars characters. With the launch of the new Toy Box Speedway, that same philosophy applies to the kart racer.
The Toy Box Speedway takes the basic premise found in the standard Toy Box--a way for all of your characters to take part in races--and bumps it up with extra tracks, vehicles, and mechanics. There are a total of nine new tracks, pulling from influences as varied as Wreck-It Ralph, the original Star Wars, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus it includes a handful of vehicles like the Return of the Jedi Speeder Bike and the motorcycle from Tron.
The tracks are really the standout feature here. The sheer variety afforded by Disney gobbling up properties left and right means that just about anybody will find at least one that hits their nostalgic sweet spot. These tracks have extra care put in them with nifty references to their respective franchises, like Hero's Duty aliens slowly infesting the Sugar Rush Raceway, or the Sarlaac Pit Monster as a hazard in the Dunes of Tatooine track.
However, this is still Disney Infinity, and so the somewhat clunky mechanics used for previous races is still at play. The cars don't handle like you may expect them to, instead having a strange turning momentum akin to a shoebox with wheels. Despite a wide variety, the vehicles don't feel very differentiated. The large boxy Sandcrawler is a bit more lumbering than the peppy little Bing Bong's Wagon, but not as much as you'd expect given their obvious differences.
I also experienced a fair number of unintended oddities, like getting turned around or going off-track when I didn't expect or intend to. The physics seem to bump into themselves this way from time to time making handling your rig even harder, since it's unpredictable. The beginning of every race would have some noticeable texture pop-in as the environments were loaded, providing another sign of how a little extra finish would have done it well.
The Speedway tracks come in three flavors: Race, Battle Race, and Time Trial. The third is self-explanatory, letting you try tracks to familiarize yourself or beat your best times. Among the other two, I highly recommend skipping straight to Battle Race. This is the version with randomized weapons, a la Mario Kart, which spices up the race and feels more like a traditional kart racer. The vanilla Race mode is simplistic by comparison, and feels much more dull. The drift-boost mechanic keeps it somewhat competitive, but it's still not as dynamic as using weapons.
Disney Infinity lives and dies by its familiar, beloved properties. There's definitely novelty in being able to race as any of the wide array of characters, which makes the roster bigger than any other kart racer in my memory, and the tracks themselves are sweet little homages to classic movies and cartoons. Still, though, it was never built to be a dedicated kart racer, and that shows with some of the awkward handling. It's a cute diversion to the main action-combat focus of Disney Infinity, but don't rev yourself up expecting too much from it.
These impressions are based on a PlayStation 4 retail copy provided by the publisher. Disney Infinity's Toy Box Speedway expansion is now available for $19.99. The game is rated E.