Disney Infinity preview: bringing franchises together

By Ozzie Mejia, Jan 16, 2013 12:00pm PST

Disney worlds are on a collision course in Disney Infinity. Much hullabaloo has already been made about its business model, which not only apes, but one-ups Activision's Skylanders. In addition to selling figurines for the Infinity base, Disney also plans on selling Play Sets (which determine what world players will jump into), and power discs as well (which manipulate environments, add set pieces, or offer character buffs).

Three play sets will be available at launch time--The Incredibles, Monsters University (the upcoming prequel to Monsters Inc.), and Pirates of Caribbean. Each will feature a distinctive play style, but all will have players working to complete stories in those respective worlds to unlock set pieces for the game's Toy Box mode. The sets also boast their own unique gameplay style, which can be played alone or with a friend for drop-in, drop-out co-op action.

The Incredibles Play Set returns players to the world of the 2004 Pixar classic. Syndrome's rampage continues, and players can control the Incredibles, each with their own unique superpowers. Mr. Incredible can use his super strength; Dash has super speed. Combat is straightforward and simplified, an aspect meant to appeal to younger players.

The Pirates of the Caribbean Play Set also offers some simplified combat, like in The Incredibles, but adds naval battles. Players must mix and match cannons and maintain different parts of their ship in order to deal with the numerous enemy ships that approach them. Different cannons will affect different enemy ships.

The Monsters University Play Set proves to be the most unique of the trio, offering a peek into the upcoming Pixar prequel, set at the titular institution of higher scaring. Players can spend their time scaring some of the MU students across an open-world campus. They'll also find themselves competing with rival monster school, Fear Tech, in a stealth setting. Instead of combat, this Play Set places more of an emphases on humorous pranks, as I saw Sully carry around a toilet paper launcher and Mike get catapulted face-first into a wall.

While the individual play sets provide a faithful look at Disney's individual worlds, the main attraction for Disney Infinity will be the Toy Box mode. Toy Box mode allows for full-on creativity, featuring the building mechanics of Minecraft alongside the level-building elements of LittleBigPlanet. At the game's unveiling, several completed works were shown off, including a recreation of the Bowser's Castle track from Mario Kart 64, and a Donkey Kong-inspired platforming stage featuring Mr. Incredible leaping over cannonballs. All created worlds can be submitted to Disney to share with Disney Infinity's online community.

Toy Box is also the only area in the game where players can mix together characters from Disney franchises. For example, Dash was shown interacting with Cars star Lightning McQueen, while Woody was later shown riding Aladdin's Abu (in elephant form). All unlockable toys earned across all Play Sets will be dropped off into the Toy Box to be played with as players see fit. It's an idea largely inspired by the opening sequences to the Toy Story films, where Andy would take all of his toys and play through an adventure taking place in his imagination.

Given Disney's incredible IP portfolio, Infinity has a lot of potential to tap into. However, do note that there are no plans at this time for content based on Star Wars or Marvel. Disney fans should love the effort taken to include the vast majority of Disney's animated franchises, as I saw power discs based on Alice In Wonderland, Bolt, Frankenweenie, and even The Muppets. Whether the game's potential reaches infinity and beyond will depend on the community, but Disney has laid down a strong foundation for content that could keep fans busy for years to come.

Disney is targeting a June release for the game on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U, as well as mobile devices.

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