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Disney Infinity preview: Skylanders challenger not the usual toy story

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Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive


Disney Infinity sees the House of Mouse launch a new gaming platform that combines physical toys, video games and the extensive Disney film vault for a massive entertainment collaboration this summer.

The 2010 Toy Story 3 video game stood out among movie tie-ins with its unique idea for a Toy Box mode, where players could customize the world and create their own stories with the iconic film characters.

But developer Avalanche Software's first pitch to Disney had a much broader vision for the game, bringing in characters from across all Disney films for players to use in their Toy Box.

Disney vetoed it at the time, but when the game was a hit and the time came to make a sequel, the idea reared its head once again.

This time Disney gave the greenlight and ran with the idea, taking the concept of a Toy Box quite literally by linking Disney Infinity to its own line of collectible Skylanders-like figurines.

Disney Infinity artwork

© Disney Interactive



How Disney Infinity's figures work

Disney Infinity should seem instantly familiar to anyone who has toyed around with Activision's Skylanders games, as users place figurines on a base stand to use those characters in-game.

The Infinity Base has three spots to place toys, two round and one hexagonal. Character figures fit nicely into the round holes, instantly bringing that character into the game. The presence of two slots means that all modes in Disney Infinity will support local co-operative play for two people.

However, it is the hexagon hole that starts to set Disney Infinity apart from Activision's toy tie-in game. While figurines import characters into the game, there are also world discs that open entire new games called Play Sets.

Disney Infinity - Scully

© Disney Interactive



Each Play Set is essentially a self-contained game, themed after a specific Disney movie or series. The idea is to offer a pure experience for fans of particular franchises and ensure that each Disney world retains its own identity.

This means that users will only be able to access toys and characters that belong in a given Play Set, so sadly there will be no way to bring Jack Skellington into Monsters University or Buzz Lightyear into Pirates of the Caribbean.

Instead, Play Sets offer their own stories that build on the classic Disney films, which a Disney representative estimated can last between four and six hours each.


Finally, there are the power discs, which users can stack underneath figurines on the Infinity Base to bring all sorts of extras into the game. Some confer buffs to characters, like enhanced speed or raising the value of all coins you collect.

Others will add new items, which mostly took the form of vehicles for the announcement demo, such as Cinderella's carriage or even a rideable Dumbo modelled after the theme park ride. There will also be environment customization power discs which can change the sky and ground textures.

Power discs will have the same limitations as characters where Play Sets are concerned, can be used freely in the Toy Box mode. The environment discs are an especially nice touch for movies like Finding Nemo and Tron, which gives the Toy Box a makeover in those styles even though those films do not have their own Play Set worlds yet.

Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive



Play Sets explore the worlds of The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean and Monsters University

The Disney Infinity Starter Pack - priced at £64.99 / $74.99 - will include one world disc that opens Play Sets for The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean and the upcoming movie Monsters University.

What is interesting is that each one plays very differently. The Incredibles Play Set is the most combat-oriented of the three, as Avalanche Software has made sure to give each member of the Incredibles family their own unique attacks and combos to complement their abilities from the film.

Mr Incredible can throw heavy punches, Mrs Incredible can stretch to attack from a distance, Dash gets in multiple hits from his super speed and Violet can create defensive force fields that can also be launched as projectiles.

Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive



The way the family runs through the city streets and across rooftops while taking on missions is almost reminiscent of games like Crackdown or Infamous. While story missions and combat will be the focus, Avalanche has also included random events, like burning buildings that players can put out, which are meant to cement the feeling of being a superhero in The Incredibles world.

Next came the Pirates of the Caribbean Play Set. While Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa's world still had plenty of combat, it played out quite different from The Incredibles. The captains use a combination of sword and flintlock pistol, but also have access to tools like pirate grenades to cause damage both to enemies and the environment.

While Pirates of the Caribbean offers numerous islands to explore on foot, the majority of the game takes place on the high seas. Players will have their own fully customizable pirate ship, collecting new hulls, sails and cannons from the plunder of enemy ships they destroy.

Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive



While steering the ship players will be able to navigate and fire broadside cannons, but there will also be a host of special cannons on the ship's deck for a second player to directly control.

The special cannons include interchangeable options like a triple-barreled rapid-fire cannon, a long-range sniper shot and even one that launches fireballs.

Both players can run around the deck controlling and swapping out cannons, and will eventually be assisted by crewmen you can hire. Of course, as with everything else about the ship, the crewmen are fully customizable to give players their own personal pirate crew.

Finally, Monsters University brings yet another gameplay style to Disney Infinity, taking place on the monster college campus from the upcoming animated prequel. Mike and Sully's school finds itself in a prank war with a rival campus, which sees players both defending their own campus while taking on missions to invade their rivals.

Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive



There will be a day and night cycle, with different styles of play depending on the time. At night, players use stealth to invade the rival campus, sneaking up and scaring the patrolling guards.

But during the day missions are all about pranks, as players customize the landscape to set traps like a spring-loaded signpost that comically sends both players and enemies flying when they get close.

Though it wasn't shown in the demo, a Disney representative hinted at tower defence-like missions where traps will come into play.

Digging into the Toy Box: A creative sandbox world

While playing with Disney toys in their own Play Set worlds is great, the Toy Box is where Disney Infinity really shines.

The Toy Box pulls everything players unlocked through Play Sets into a fully customizable world. The idea is to mimic how children naturally play with their toys, picking up pieces from different sets and creating their own stories for them.

The Toy Box gives players their own world to completely customize and explore. Customization can come from little things, like spawning vehicles or buildings on the fly, or grander ventures like completely reshaping the landscape with ramps, hills, paths, bridges and more.

Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive



To show off the power of its customization tools, Disney showed that one of the game's testers managed to recreate a fully race-able Bowser's Castle course from one of the Mario Kart games, while another built a scale replica of the USS Enterprise.

During a demo, an impromptu football game broke out between four players connected online. This wasn't an average football match though, as players placed moving walls, swinging mallets and vehicles at will to try and knock the ball into the goal.

At one point, a player even created a magnet hanging from the sky that pulled the ball right out of a player's reach. Another player was riding in a vehicle that suddenly vanished right from under him when his opponent removed the vehicle's power disc from his Infinity Base.

Disney Infinity screenshot

© Disney Interactive



Later a gun appeared that made everything it touched bigger, which of course meant turning the wheels on Cinderella's carriage into monster truck wheels. The match was mad and chaotic, but also ridiculously fun as players set their own ever-changing rules.

Similar to LittleBigPlanet, players can also link actions in the environment, opening up the potential for more structured games as well. A simple example would be to link the goals in the football match to a scoreboard, but much more elaborate options are also possible.

Players can link switches with elevators, create elaborate Rube Goldberg machines or even set a fixed camera angle to turn Toy Box into an overhead game or a side-scrolling platformer. The demo only provided a brief glimpse of the customization possibilities, but it already looks like it could give LittleBigPlanet a run for the level editor crown.

Gallery - Latest images of Disney Infinity:
To Infinity and beyond

Licensed games often get a bad reputation for being simple cash-ins on familiar names and characters, but it was clear from the demo that Disney Infinity has greater ambitions than that.

That ambition has led Disney and Avalanche Software down a risky path, introducing completely different gameplay mechanics in each Play Set world from the brawling of The Incredibles to high seas battles in Pirates of the Caribbean and stealth in Monsters University.

All of the disparate parts then come together in the Toy Box, giving players a blank canvas to create their own stories and game modes. For a Disney fan, you really couldn't ask for a better sandbox to explore than Disney Infinity.

Disney Infinity will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, 3DS and Vita on June 28, and on mobile and online platforms later in the year.

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