Disney Infinity hands-on preview
It speaks volumes that I spent my opening moments within Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode beaming in a helicopter, from which I fulfilled my uncontrollable desire to chase a dragon that was ominously circling the world’s expanse. I grinned for hours, despite being fruitless in my pursuit.
For all the appeal their family-friendly characters have, Disney share Nintendo’s unquestionable trait of attracting a diverse audience. Disney Infinity looks surely set to capitalise on that, delivering five play sets at launch – The Lone Ranger, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Cars – the selection of which will be progressively broadened down the line.
These individually serve as expansion packs, seeing players gallivant through levels as characters from each respected franchise. Though the downside here is that there’s no character crossover, so Johnny Depp’s now infamous Captain Jack Sparrow can’t fumble his way down the halls of Monsters University just yet.
So, it falls to the game’s Toy Box mode to deftly break away from the confines of Disney Infinity’s play sets, players letting their imagination run wild as they fuse together their favourite franchises to craft their own dreamscape.
“We firmly believe that creativity breathes life into the game,” lead producer John Day explained, before taking us through a brief tutorial to showcase just how much there is to play around with. Aerial courses, race tracks, stunt courses, the possibilities are endless.
Armed with a mere Magic Wand, or transitioning your character into a floating Spark, it’s clear that the only real limitation here is your own ideas… as well as an on-screen thermometer that indicates how much space you have left to add more to your creations.
At this point, the Wii U version really comes into its own with the GamePad’s screen serving as an assorted menu that allowed us to scroll through everything available to be placed within our world – an aspect that seemed slightly more confused on other platforms, mainly due to the wealth of content at your fingertips divided between multiple menus.
With total control of the world around you, players can alter terrain at whim: placing roads, decorating their surroundings with plants, creating multi-tiered platforming challenges, or positioning cannons, catapults and vehicles. Each can be customised with differing skins inspired by Disney’s stable of franchises, and you’ll most likely be at a loss when kicking off your ideas.
Set pieces are also an option, players able to position grandiose buildings such as Cinderella’s Castle within their worlds, with other examples being the Cave of Wonders and Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.
Everything becomes more complex through the introduction of switches, basic programming seeing players employ logic rules such as items falling from a box if someone steps on the switch to trigger it. Those fearing that these may lead to immediate bemusement can find more detailed explanations through in-game tutorials.
Whilst play set progression will allow you to unlock more content for use within the Toy Box mode, Disney will also serve up what they call “Power Discs.” Available at retail in blind packs, these will provide additional items, backgrounds and terrain which can be beamed in-game through the game’s Infinity Base portal.
Meanwhile, characters themselves can enjoy getting their hands on items plucked from other franchises – Monsters University’s Mike strapping on Buzz Lightyear’s jet pack and taking to the skies to whizz around the area. Weaponry sees guns that allow players to enlarge or shrink anything around them with a simple blast, which resulted in us mucking around with Bullseye for a good half hour and being regularly reduced to uncontrollable laughter at the results.
As with any game creation tool, it will be those that invest their time that will reap the rewards of what Avalanche Software’s enticingly-filled toy box grants. A 10-minute challenge set by Disney saw us tasked with building “surprising” race tracks, the conclusion of which saw plenty of loosely constructed concepts emerging.
With more time on your side creations will naturally become more sophisticated, with John Day revealing that members of the development team have already modelled remakes on classic Donkey Kong and the Bowser’s Castle track from Mario Kart. Four-players can join you online to speed such detailed creations up, whereas two-players can do so co-operatively locally.
There’s clearly potential here for players to begin to expand the gameplay experience without the need to purchase additional content, an aspect Disney themselves have come to realise. You’ll be able to save and upload your Toy Box world to Disney, who, following moderation checks, will make them available to download across all platforms – meaning Wii U owners can share their skills with those playing on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode so easily embodies Sony’s own “Play. Create. Share” moniker, which most notably saw success through Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series. It’s a comparison that should flatter more than criticise what Avalanche Software have achieved here, and for that I’m very excited indeed to see what the game has in store.
Disney Infinity will release across North America on August 18th and Europe on August 20th, across Wii U, Wii and Nintendo 3DS.