Disney Infinity’s leap into the Marvel universe is bafflingly bad – a gut-punch of a sequel stripped of most of the magic, wonder, and imagination that made the play sets from the first Infinity game enjoyable for children and adults alike. The adventures offered for The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spider-Man rank among the worst super hero games of recent memory, pushing players to complete mundane tasks like “fetch a battery” or “activate this device” over and over again.

The initial Disney Infinity game shipped with individual play sets for Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean – all offering about three to six hours of adventuring. Marvel Super Heroes only offers one play set for The Avengers, an experience that is roughly the same length as the aforementioned sets, plus two Power Discs that unlock a fun tower defense map and an odd isometric mini-quest.

While offering far less content than its predecessor out of the box, the action figures that come packaged with it all work with The Avengers play set, meaning you don’t have to purchase an additional figure to play cooperatively with a friend.

The retail game comes packaged with Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow. Their teammates are sold separately.

The Avengers adventure gets off to a roaring start through a great comedic story sequence. This introduction establishes a fun, light tone for the game, and implants the desire to see more narrative moments. Sadly, they never come. The humor dies off.

Once the action kicks in, the game adopts a new identity – that of repetition. From the start of play to its final moments, this adventure becomes one-tracked, pushing the players to battle ice giants or smash icicles ad nauseam. Little effort is made to differentiate the conflicts, and the time players put in is not rewarded well – not with story, not with interesting unlockables, and not even the thrill of playing as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

All of the characters start off weak, and are only capable of performing one combo and unleashing an alternative attack. After gaining experience and leveling up, new powers are added to the arsenal. In concept, becoming stronger as you go is great. By the end of the game, if a character has been used through most of the adventure, he or she will be equipped with a handful of powerful moves and perhaps even new traversal mechanics. Their powers ramp up evenly with the increasing difficulty, and add depth to the combat experience.

All of the figures can interact in the Toy Box. Only a select few characters (Hulk, Nova, Rocket) can enter other play sets.

But what happens when Captain America perishes in a tough battle and another action figure must be placed on the portal? They are thrown to the wolves and don’t stand much chance with their default move set. The progression system becomes a problem when new characters are used late in the game.

Opportunities to farm experience are not that enticing, either. Unlike the play sets from the first Disney Infinity – which were chock full of side quests and different tasks to complete for townspeople – The Avengers is designed more like a standalone superhero game. This means it doesn’t offer goofy side content, the fun base building aspect, townspeople to help, or much of anything other than trying to achieve medals in races and scoring challenges. The fun collectible loop of hunting down hidden Toy Box items and tokens is also gone, leaving little to do in this sizable open world.

Travel means are paramount, as most of the objectives are located a good hike from the mission giver. Airborne characters like Iron Man and Thor have no problem navigating this space quickly. Land-bound characters are not so lucky, and are forced to either run slowly down New York’s streets or access a vehicle station to grab a motorcycle. The motorcycle controls are finicky, leading to missed turns and far too much frustration. Thankfully, they don’t have to be used long, as developer Avalanche Software implemented a peculiar S.H.I.E.L.D. motorcycle that is capable of flight. Seeing The Hulk on this bike is as hilarious a visual as it is awful – a clear sign that this green buffoon should have been equipped with the mobility of his comic book and movie counterparts from the outset of play.

Outside of mobility issues, all of the Avengers characters are equipped with the move sets you would expect, and are genuinely fun to play.

The Spider-Man set parallels the design of The Avengers adventure, not only in offering a slightly different version of New York to traverse, but in getting off to a fast start and tanking shortly thereafter. Spider-Man’s eye-opening intro is a gameplay sequence that puts Mysterio’s ability to warp reality (and the world) into the spotlight. After this stunning sequence ends, Spider-Man and friends are put to work, and asked to compete tasks that no superhero should. He spends a fair amount of time in Oscorp carrying batteries, in sewers carrying electrical devices, and in New York’s streets carrying scientists. Almost all of his combat encounters are against Venom-spawned Symbiotes of various sizes. These battles can be cheesed late in the game when a flying bike outfitted with rocket launchers is unlocked. This vehicle can hang back and rain down death from afar. The final bosses for this play set are done well, but are not enough to make up for the misery leading up to them. Again, there isn’t much of a creative spark in this play set. The open world mostly goes to waste.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s hottest property at the moment, fares the worst of the three sets. Battery transportation, which is a strange running theme in these play sets, is tapped way too frequently for missions. Uneventful turret shooting sequences and easy enemy encounters round out the experience. The story plays out like a strange alternate version of the movie, pushing the Guardians to work with a horribly animated version of Cosmo the dog, and the Collector, who often needs batteries moved from one location to another.

The Toy Box once again offers a wealth of Disney-themed content. New Disney figures are on the way at a later date. All of the 1.0 themed toys work with the 2.0 Toy Box.

All of these disappointing play sets funnel directly into the Toy Box, the mode that allows players to build their own worlds and games. The Toy Box is this title’s saving grace, although it may not appear to be so at a glance. When you first enter this mode, the selection of building components available appears to be duplicated from the first game.

All of the new content is contained in the Toy Store, which is tucked away in the pause menu. Here, a dizzying number of new building pieces can be purchased or unlocked through various means of play.

Avalanche has loaded the Toy Box up with an excellent (and vast) selection of Marvel-themed items, including Avengers Tower, the Infinity Gauntlet, and shawarma (yes, you read that correctly). New Disney content is also in great abundance, and there’s no shortage of pieces for people looking to build cities, mountains, tree houses, or San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6.

The Toy Box is a great cooperative experience for up to four players. You'll find out how creative/destructive your friends are.

The Toy Box functionality remains intuitive and quick, and is loaded to the hilt with new options and tricks for seasoned builders, including a exceptionally well-designed mode for creating interiors. Up to 10 created areas can be linked together, allowing people to forge longer experiences, or multiple levels of a game. I can’t speak for the higher level complexity of certain interactive options, as I’m not that talented of a creator, but there are a host of new interactions and tools to work with this time around. People like me can get assistance from the game with tools that help with the building process, or greatly speed it up.

Sadly, the entirety of the Toy Box experience cannot be enjoyed without venturing into the play sets. The player is forced to complete mundane missions in the sets to unlock a fair number of building pieces. The blue sparks you earn in these play sets (and other modes) are the currency used to purchase new items. You cannot purchase any Spider-Man or Guardians-themed items unless you own those sets.

Avalanche doesn’t make it easy to unlock the building pieces. There’s a lot of fun stuff to play with, but all too often there’s a hoop that must be jumped through or a fee required. Some of these restrictions hark back to the first game, but at least then I had a good time journeying through the sets.

Power discs return in blind packs.

That experience is a burden this time around, a super-sized one that begs the question “What went wrong?” Are we looking at a rushed sequel that was created in a year? Could it be Infinity’s framework isn’t a suitable fit for Marvel’s heroes? Did Avalanche focus most of its attention on improving the Toy Box?

The end result is a tale of two games: One that crushes the dreams of people hoping to wear spandex or a cape, and another that gives artists and creators more power. Stay away if your hopes lie with finally playing a great Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy game. Come play if your ambitions lie mostly with building worlds. Even then, though, heed this warning: You need to play three bad superhero games extensively to round out your building options. Here’s hoping the inevitable Star Wars sequel fares better than Marvel's heroes did.