At first glance, Disney Mirrorverse looks and sounds like a kid making up a story on the go with action figures. Characters from across the Disney roster, heroes and villains alike, come together to battle a malevolent force that threatens all of reality. These characters aren’t your usual ones, swapping characters from your kids’ movies for something with a little more edge. It’s a bold and interesting choice, something never seen before from this group of characters, and the very existence of this world is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, the Mirrorverse’s audacity comes at a cost, literally, as the idea is buried beneath crystal clear loot boxes, microtransactions, and convoluted progression. What could have been a whole new world for Disney is instead the latest run-of-the-mill mobile game.
Disney Mirrorverse is an action RPG set in the titular Mirrorverse, where enemies called the Fractured are growing in power. You fight these hordes with teams of three heroes called Guardians, chosen from the 44 characters that make up the roster. Each of the 44 fills one of four archetypes, melee, ranged, support, and tank, which informs how they fight. These classes are standard: melee guardians use swords and other hand weapons, ranged heroes rely on magic and projectiles, tanks stay in the enemy’s face while soaking up damage, and supports heal teammates. equipment, weaken enemies, and more. You gain new Guardians through Crystals – the Mirrorverse’s version of loot boxes earned through gameplay and purchased with in-game and real-world currencies. Crystals come in multiple forms, some highlighting specific Guardians or granting specific ranks, and are opened with typical loot box theater via the in-game store.
As a long-time Disney fan, I can’t stress enough how great it is to see these characters in this new light. Belle from Beauty and the Beast emerges from the library as a powerful wizard, wielding a staff powered by the magical rose itself. Her villainous counterpart, Gaston, has gone completely wild in Game of Thrones with his massive bow and wolf pelt draped over his shoulders. Lovable Baloo bear dons his TaleSpin outfit from the Disney Afternoon era and wields a giant airplane propeller as a broadsword. Not all characters get such revolutionary designs (Elsa is an ice-controlling elemental, for example), but even those that don’t stray that far from the source have their charm.
There are multiple modes in which to send these heroes into battle, the main one being the massive Story mode. The story covers seven chapters, each with at least 10 stages of enemies to conquer. You attack by tapping the corresponding buttons in the bottom right corner of the screen: basic attack by tapping, heavy attack by tapping, and final attack by tapping once activated. You can also move around with the joystick that appears at the bottom left, which can be quickly moved, and you can switch between each of your three Guardians on the fly by tapping on their images at the top left. The attack buttons worked without a hitch, even when switching between tapping and standard button pressing, but I struggled with the swipe-to-dash functionality. Most of the time, when he touched, the Guardian he was controlling would take a small step instead of running, often taking damage from the attack he was trying to avoid. Sometimes this resulted in the death of that guardian, which made the lack of response more frustrating.
Each stage contains between one and four battles, where the team fights enemies until the last one falls, then advances to the next battle automatically. Only the final battle of the stage has any sort of flair: a short cutscene featuring a fractured version of a Guardian serving as the stage’s “boss”. Once the Fractured Guardian is conquered, you will see a short victory pose, get rewards based on how many stars you have earned, and proceed to the next stage. There are other formats to explore, including Supply Runs, where you can earn one of the nearly endless currencies in the game, and limited-time events themed around specific Guardians, but this core stage structure remains constant throughout.
This is where the magic of Disney ends in the Mirrorverse – this is the extent of the gaming experience. Whether you choose the story, supply runs, or any of the other modes, each stage plays out the same way. When the final battle is over, you see the same victory poses, followed by the same reward screen, and then return to the stage selection menu. It’s repetitive to the point of boredom, completely burying whatever emotion the original concept created.
All of these currencies are used to purchase resources that fuel the game’s various systems, which range from lengthy to overly complicated.
However, there is one mode that almost saved the day: 1v1 Showdown. This pits one of your Guardians against a single AI Fractured Guardian over 30 stages, with enemies increasing in power each stage. While the main three-person battle system can sometimes fill the screen with action, these 1v1 battles are more focused and tense. I get a “no items, final destination” vibe from these challenges, as the mode distills the battle system down to its purest form. The matches go by fast though, meaning before you know it, you’re at the end of the 30-stage challenge, but it’s fun while it lasts.
However, most of your time playing the Mirrorverse is spent in the menus, doing anything but fighting: collecting quest rewards, buying and opening crystals to gain new Guardians, perusing the Mirrorverse’s multiple currencies, and so on. I counted eight different types of currency used in the in-game store alone, and while most are earned through gameplay, orbs, which are used to purchase the crystals that unlock Guardians, can be purchased in bulk for real money. The store offers packs of coins, resources, and even Guardians, which will continually remind you as you travel through the menus.
All of these currencies are used to purchase resources that fuel the game’s various systems, which range from lengthy to overly complicated. Take Motes, the resources used to level up Guardians. Motes come in five colors, one for each of the four classes, and a fifth that can be used for any class. They also come in three varieties: Minor, which can only be used for guardians at levels 1 to 20, Major for guardians at levels 21 to 50, and Superior for guardians at levels 51 to 100. That’s it. fifteen different types of an item that is crucial to your progress. Additionally, every 10 levels, you must also increase your guardian’s “rank”, which requires additional items called gems, which, again, come in color-coded and generic versions. Oh, and you’ll need Books to level up each Guardian’s individual abilities, and there are also six different types of Books to collect.
All of these complicated systems create a situation where progress stops until the in-game store adds the resources I need to continue. For example: my main group is Tron, Elsa and Maui. Tron and Elsa are ranged guardians, but at level 26 and 25, respectively, I can’t turn them on, as I only have minor ranged motes. Meanwhile, Maui is stuck at level 30 while she searched for two more level 1 sapphires to increase her rank to four. It’s maddening, even more so when I think about how amazing the core idea of the Mirrorverse is, and it makes me want to play something else.
Energy, a classic mobile game where you can play a finite number of missions until you’re forced to wait a certain amount of time to play again or pay to speed up the process, also makes an appearance, but I was able to earn more energy than I the counter suggested, so the normally restrictive nature of the mechanic wasn’t as apparent. At one point, my energy meter said I had 84 energy out of 40 after leveling up my account; while I was happy about the overflow, it eventually subsided and I was back in the waiting game.
I could go on and on, but the Mirrorverse is chock-full of predatory tactics like this. They destroy any remaining desire to further explore what is truly a bold and unique take on the Disney universe, which is a real shame. He hoped that these Guardian versions of the Disney characters he had grown up with would have more time to shine and show off their new abilities. Instead, I buried myself in resources and coins, relegating these amazing heroes to posing on menu screens, and the result is a huge disappointment. I’m looking at the Mirrorverse, but I don’t like the reflection.