Jun 21, 2013

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E3 Hands-On Preview: Disney Infinity

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We’ve been following Disney Infinity for some time now and I finally got a chance to play it last week at E3. I didn’t expect much from the title since it has always seemed to be geared towards a younger audience, but after getting to play it, I came away pleasantly surprised.

With the game being geared towards a younger audience there are some gameplay elements that might seem rudimentary for the older crowd. But where Disney Infinity shines is being able to mix gameplay styles well enough to entertain gamers of all ages. This stems from Avalance Software’s Toy Story 3 title that came out a few years ago. They introduced a Toy Box mode to go along with a story mode (just like Disney Infinity). The Toy Box mode was sort of an open world GTA-like mode where you could go around the vast area with characters from the Toy Story franchise, completing various missions. This mode was the highlight of the game and thus led to Disney Infinity. In fact the figurine idea was initially pitched for Toy Story 3.

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Disney Infinity revolves around the characters you place on the Infinity base. Each figurine has a chip underneath that unlocks it on the disc so you can play that character in the game. Each character from a particular franchise has a story mode tied to it, no matter which character you chose to play as. For instance whether you’re playing as Sulley or Randall, you’ll still play through the same story but you’ll have slightly different abilities. The story mode’s length ranges from franchise to franchise, but I was told they are usually around 4-7 hours in length and that’s based on QA testers just going through missions. It can be much longer if you chose to do everything in the campaign.

The game saves onto your character, but you can swap out characters at any time. If you want to start playing Pirates of the Caribbean while you’re playing Monsters, you can just save your progress and replace your Sulley with Jack Sparrow. A prompt will appear asking if you want to leave, which is nice because if you happen to topple over your character from the base you won’t lose any progress.

In my demo I was able to playthrough a bit of the Pirates and Monsters University campaign. Both games featured some difference in gameplay and tone as well. Pirates has a more “adult” like tone while Monsters definitely has a more child like feel to it. Makes sense as the two movies are geared towards that audience. In the Monsters University play set I played as Sulley in the world of MU where I was able to explore the campus completing various tasks and missions. One of the early missions is to complete a small race around the main area of the campus by simply running through check points, nothing really too difficult. The main premise of the campaign revolves around scaring and pranking. Sulley has an ability to roar like we’ve all seen from the movie. You can scare anyone on campus, which kids will be doing over and over laughing hysterically at the NPCs reactions.

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You can also go on pranking missions with the TP gun to harass the rival school, Fear Tech. These missions are stealth based missions, which is nice because it adds a bit of a challenge to the game. Overall the gameplay featuring the Monsters Inc. characters is more light hearted and more about silly adventures than anything else. The world is full of interactive areas and characters, allowing kids to get lost in the world without having to complete any objectives really.

The Pirates of the Caribbean campaign has a different feel to it. It’s more beat-em up style with sword fighting and ship battles. The demo featured Jack Sparrow fighting off enemies on his way to the ship. Like I mentioned earlier at any point you can swap out the characters and in this case you can use Davy Jones (who looks awesome). The combat is relatively simple though entertaining. There are platform sequences in most of the story modes available, and in Pirates you’ll have rail sliding similar to the Ratchet and Clank games.

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I thought the gameplay for both story modes were pretty good for the most part. I enjoyed both games very much like I enjoyed the popular LEGO games. It’s much more expansive than the LEGO titles with more mini-games and with a more focused storyline, but the gameplay feels very similar.

The highlight of the game though is the Toy Box mode. I was a little concerned about this mode because I’m not the most creative when it comes to creating my own level in LBP or even Halo, but it’s surprisingly simple to create something pretty enjoyable. Creating a racing level seems to lead to the most fun, albeit it takes longer. The Toy Box mode allows you to use any character across any universe in a massive “create,play,share” mode. While you can’t play as Jack Sparrow in the Monsters storyline, you can use them both in the Toy Box mode.

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In Toy Box mode you’ll be able to control the camera angle, the terrain, drop in objects from the Disney Universe (even Disney Parks), add water effects and control enemy behavior. You’ll be able to race with cars or various insane vehicles and even planes. As you’ve probably seen from the numerous trailers, it’s up to you how you want to build your world. You can build a world where you can only travel via rail sliding or you can build a classic Mario Kart level using Disney characters. You’ll also unlock items in the story mode which can then be brought over to the Toy Box mode. The best part is this will be online multiplayer with up to 4 players (2 players in Story Mode) and you can share your creations with the world. If Disney Interactive handles this well like Media Molecule has, it will be a great way to extend the life of the game past the story mode. Not all players are creative so it will be great to experience other players creations that are “certified” by the community or Disney.

The game is obviously built around you collecting the characters, which are $12.99 – $29.99 as a pack of three, so you will be spending a good amount of money if you want each available character. Though I will admit that the figures themselves look really good, and I love the art style of each character, which is brought into the game as well. When you consider that each character from each movie franchise brings along a standalone story mode with it, the price isn’t as bad as it seems.

I was surprised by how much fun I had with the game, but I guess I shouldn’t have been because Avalanche just has that ability to make simple gameplay accessible to all ages. I have no doubts that this game will be a success at launch, if the lines at E3 for the figure were any indication. Whether or not it can continue to be successful in the months post release will be the question.

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About Eric Galaviz

Currently learning how to play League of Legends and recovering from E3. You can follow me on twitter @theherp80 that's also my Xbox Live and PSN Name if you want to hit me up on there feel free.