Every world consists of three areas, each of which is made up of three levels. These levels are quite small and self-contained, but clever design means there's a quite a lot packed into them. The main thrust of the game is to move from left to right, bashing the AI over the head with your "tools" (there are no "weapons" in Disney Universe), while solving some very light puzzles as you go.
So, for example, in the WALL-E world you have to blast cubes of compacted waste to open up new routes and control a giant trash magnet to raise platforms. Meanwhile, in Pirates of the Caribbean world you'll be rotating wheels and firing canons to progress. Everything you need to do is indicated by a pleasingly large blue arrow, bobbing above the next area you need to get to. It's definitely not challenging, but it's certainly infectious.
Similarly uncomplicated, the combat is breezy and light. Alongside your standard attack, there are power-ups dotted around the place. Each offers a different ability, from ice guns to one-punch boxing gloves and laser guns. There's very little depth there. But the Mickey Mouse-shaped gold coins bursting out of enemies, the plumes of fire that spew forth from defeated robots, plus the cutesy exhortations of your character, ensure that it never gets boring. You're surrounded by so many tinkling coins, beautifully drawn themed backgrounds and secret bonus objectives that you are always engaged. Disney Universe is a lovely place to be.
Indeed, the game offers up very little in terms of punishment. Fall off a ledge, stumble into poisoned water, or succumb to the attacks of the malevolent AI and you'll lose some of the coins you've collected (most of which you can recover), only to reappear a few seconds later without any annoying game over screens.
Disney Universe's real pull, however, comes in the multiplayer. Playing through the worlds with three friends is utterly, charmingly chaotic. It's co-operative in nature - you all share the same objective, but it also encourages competitive play throughout, leading to some hilarious griefing. At the end of each level a winner is announced, based on how many coins or collectible objects have been snaffled up. With this in mind, grabbing a co-op partner and flinging them around just as they're about to collect a bonus trinket is endlessly entertaining. Add rewards for playing through worlds more than once, a level ranking score and a bunch of hidden areas and there's enough incentive to keep you coming back for more.
Ultimately, Disney Universe constitutes the ideal family game. It's quick and simple, but has charm, character and inventive little puzzles galore. For decades, Disney has mastered the art of creating movies that appeal to kids and adults alike. It has now achieved the same with games. It isn't going to be troubling the big boys in the Game of the Year stakes, but it does offer an inviting, kid-friendly alternative. I'm taking it to my cousin this Christmas and we're going to play the hell out of it. His video game education starts here.