Disney Infinity Marvel 2.0Disney Interactive Studios has supercharged the toys-to-life category with the launch of Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition). Now, kids can play as their favorite superheroes, including the Avengers, the scrappy band of intergalactic misfits from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spidey and his friends from The Amazing Spider-Man.

The starter pack includes four key components: a brand new Infinity 2.0 base, three superhero figures (Iron Man, Thor, and Black Widow), one play set piece (Avengers), and two toy box game power discs. So, let’s break that down a bit:

Infinity 2.0 Base 

There is nothing strikingly different from the 1.0 base to the 2.0 base, and parents will be happy to know that the original Disney Infinity base will work with the 2.0 software, figures, play sets, and power discs in most cases, such as on PlayStation consoles and the Wii U. Kids simply place their figures on one of the two circular spots on the base and add a play set to the hexagonal space to enter into a story (or, kids can of course have free range in the Toy Box, in which case no play set is necessary). Getting started is quick and easy, and kids ages 6 and up likely won’t need any help from parents to get the game going.

Play Sets

Disney Infinity Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) launched with three different play sets: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Amazing Spider-Man. While I was originally intrigued by the Avengers when the game was first announced, I’ll admit I spent the majority of my time in the Guardians’ Knowhere, exploring the exciting and beautiful galaxy with Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Star-Lord, Drax, and Gamora. The game opens with a few simple missions so kids can get acclimated to the controls, but older players are welcome to up the difficulty in the game settings if they want more of a challenge.

The play sets give kids a structured way to play: complete missions by defeating bad guys and earn points, disks, and unlock skills. The play sets move game play along and guide kids as they play by letting them know how many paces away their target is, giving them a compass to find their next mission, and encouraging them to keep going during missions.

Best of all, kids can now play with characters unrelated to the play set when completing missions—but there’s a catch. If you simply place Iron Man on the Infinity base while in the Guardians world, he won’t be playable. Instead, you must use the Guardians characters in your play set to complete missions and earn discs to play with characters from other play sets, which encourages kids to keep completing missions while also urging them to collect more characters—well played, Disney.

Lastly, when characters run out of lives in the play sets, kids have to retire them for a while and let them charge back up. Lucky for me (the novice I am), I had four spare Guardians on-hand when Star-Lord was defeated during a mission, but for kids with only one or two characters, losing lives can greatly delay gameplay.

Disney Infinity GuardiansCharacters

While, of course, this game is all about the new characters and allowing kids to play as superheroes, it’s also about what the characters can do. Each character has a skill set deeply rooted in his or her well-known history. Iron Man soars just like we expect him to, Hulk can smash enemies with a single lumbering punch, and Spidey can web-sling expertly. Kids will enjoy these signature moves, and the more kids play, collect, and unlock, the more the new skills their characters will acquire in the Skill Tree, which kids can access at various points throughout the play sets.

In addition to the character gameplay, the figures themselves are highly stylized. They have weight, they are seamless depictions of the superheroes we’ve been seeing for decades, and they are strategically and beautifully posed.

Power Discs

Kids can use Power Discs in 2.0 to add abilities to their characters, add toys to gameplay, or for customization options. Power Discs are sold in two-pack blind bags, so kids will have fun collecting them all. Power discs allow kids to customize the settings of the Toy Box, such as adding Rapunzel’s Birthday Lantern sky to Avengers Manhattan, or giving things a touch of Frozen Flourish. As for the toy discs, these unlock exciting vehicles, such as Falcon’s Wings or the S.H.I.E.L.D. Containment Truck, which certainly enhances gameplay. And of course, the abilities discs give characters fun new power-ups, allow them to change costumes, and give characters a buddy to play with, such as adding the Winter Soldier to Captain America.

Toy Box

Not all kids like structured play, and the Toy Box allows them to play with their Disney Infinity fleet however they like. Here, kids can play with characters from any Disney world the game has to offer. They can bring Iron Man together with Sully and build Knowhere on a Pride Rock backdrop. Also, if kids already have elaborate Toy Boxes created on 1.0, they can still play with them on 2.0—and even take advantage of all the new customization features 2.0 has to offer. The starter pack also includes two Toy Box game discs, so kids will be able to play exciting adventures right out of the box.

Best of all, there’s a building crew. The building crew helps kids build worlds faster than ever before, so kids can move on to customization. Plus, the interiors of buildings are now open for décor, expanding kids’ unique Disney Infinity worlds even more. The possibilities are—quite literally—endless.

The biggest difference between Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes and the original game is the difficulty—and this comes as no surprise. While the game is designed for kids ages 6 and up, the collectibility of the characters and the addition of fan-favorite superheroes skews the age range of the game up a bit, making it enjoyable for just about anyone who has a love for Marvel (so like, everyone).

We tested the game on the Wii U, and while the gamepad didn’t seem to add a whole lot to the play experience, it was nice to be able to view missions and more on the second screen. The game is also available on the PlayStation3, PlayStation4, Sony PS Vita, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition) was chosen as one of our Hot 20 picks for the 2014 holiday season! See the full list here.

And watch the video below to check out the game in action!