Disney Infinity is easily my pick for most anticipated game of the summer. Last week I spent a serious amount of time with both the games Toy Box mode and the newly announced Playset for the upcoming summer movie tie-in, The Lone Ranger. For the uninitiated, read on and prepare to start setting aside a little bit from your paycheck in preparation for Disney Infinity’s August release.
Disney Infinity swaps the single input Skylanders portal for the Infinity Base, with slots for two figures and a slot for Playsets. This means Disney will sell you not only the figures, but also levels to play those characters in, individually. The $74.99 Starter set gives you three Playsets (Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters U, and The Incredibles) and a character from each of those playsets. With Pixar’s Monsters U hitting theaters this Friday, this is perfect timing for the movie tie-in.
“We did not go storyline by storyline,” Avalanche Software Development Manager Mike Garner explained, when I asked about the playsets. “We expanded from the movies.” For instance, in the Monsters U playset, you play as a monster during Fear Week and play pranks on rival school Fear Tech.
Playing through the playsets unlocks “spins,” featuring Disney Infinity’s leveling system. Spins are a mini-game where you purchase material unlocked from playsets in the Toy Box, an open-world game building area (think Minecraft meets LittleBigPlanet) where you can build anything, a mode first included in Avalanche’s Toy Story 3 video game.
Disney creative head John Lassiter balked at the idea of characters interacting in each other’s playsets, because those worlds shouldn’t cross over. However, the Toy Box is the open world, the children’s playset where you can invite friends to play with you and have any character interact with any other. Place Syndrome from The Incredibles next to a Pirates character, and he’ll ask where he can get a pirate hat. They were able to retain most of the original voices from the films as well, with a few exceptions with holdouts for more money or scheduling problems.
Additional playsets cost $34.99, expand Toy Box materials and come with two figures per world. Currently, both The Lone Ranger and Cars playsets have been announced with another playset to be announced later this year. The individual figures cost $13.99 and Power Discs will come in packs of 2 for $5. The power disc distribution will be random and blind, like trading cards, and Disney expects them to be a tradable item between players and their friends..
The Toy Box is the huge selling point for creative players and combines the collectible figure play of Activision’s Skylanders with the creativity of LittleBigPlanet. Troy Leavitt demoed not just the building blocks for environments, but what they called Creativitoys, basic programming tools and game mechanics that could be constructed and linked with a flick of Mickey’s magic wand, the creation tool within the Toy Box.
Leavitt shared that they had challenged themselves to remake classic games like Gauntlet and Joust. They even developed camera tools that would fix the camera in top-down isometric view or side-scrolling view for platformers. He mentioned that it was fun to build a world filled with unlockable NPCs on two sides and just watch them slug it out in a level as a simulation. In the Toy Box you can play up to 4 players multiplayer online or two-player local split-screen.
For the Toy Box alone, Disney Infinity is a must buy for anyone who wants to build their own games or is curious about game design. It expands on their previous Toy Story 3 game tools and allows them to introduce more material and have better control over that implementation. Additionally, they have the potential to continuously expand with more Disney franchise playsets (can you say Star Wars and Marvel? YES PLEASE!)
Disney Infinity plans to release August 18, 2013 in the States on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Wii U. It will also have SKUs for PC and 3DS.