Disney Infinity is gigantic, ambitious, and potentially never ending.
Just summing up the parts of Disney Infinity is a gargantuan effort. It's similar to Skylanders, with a variety of collectible figures acting as in-game characters that level up. It's similar to LittleBigPlanet in the way you can create experiences. With origins in developer Avalanche Software's open-world Toy Box mode in their Toy Story 3 video game, Disney Infinity is slated for release on June 18 on Wii and Wii U (a 3DS release by Altron will vary from the other consoles, offering what developers called "a portable party experience."). A huge component of these games is the Toy Box mode, a sandbox mode where players can interact with a variety of characters and objects across all Disney's properties to make their own fun using all sorts of tools, ranging from world creation to logic-using contraptions.
Toy Box is only half the experience, though. The other half, designated as Play Sets, features whole worlds and adventures based off Disney properties. In this mode, you can only use specific characters; for example, only The Incredibles can be used in The Incredibles play set.
Before diving into the details of Toy Box and Play Sets, some things need to be cleared up on the Nintendo-specific front. On Wii, the experience should be a quality release on the dated system, as Avalanche has worked with porting Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 to Wii successfully. On Wii U, that level of confidence isn't there. Developers seemed to have a unanimous view point that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions will be the best, as the Wii U development started a little later than the others. Still, when all is said and done, the Wii U version will have been a part of the development for around a year and a half. Because of that limited time, mostly due to Disney not getting final development kits until later, features such as Off-TV Play and other Wii U-exclusive features might not make it. For one, the Wii U will still use the stand every other system uses instead of using the GamePad's NFC functionality.
What was shown at the Disney Infinity reveal event was unfortunately limited, but showed off a good cross section of the experience. Each play set shown, all part of the Starter Kit coming at the platform's launch, gave a good idea of how they will be different and interesting. The Incredibles was more of a beat-'em-up, as you controlled the heroic family to take on different enemies. Each character had unique abilities and attacks, though they all controlled similarly. Pirates of the Caribbean starred Jack Sparrow, and while we didn't see much of it, the sword fighting and exploration seemed to be the key, along with some interesting naval battles.
Monsters University was the one we spent the most time with. Controlling Sulley or Mike, you helped Monsters University engage in prank wars with Fear Tech, which involved dismantling booby traps on your home campus, and sneaking around Fear Tech at night armed with a fantastically ridiculous toilet paper gun. What was shown of Monsters University was unfortunately hampered by the fact that the team at Avalanche is under heavy embargoes for any details related to the upcoming movie. The team members present were mum on additional characters for that set, though they are assuredly on the way.
The Toy Box mode highlighted a lot of the extraneous items coming out alongside the figures and play sets. Circular and hexagonal power discs, which will come in blind packs for $4.99, added buffs to characters and new toys to the Toy Box, respectively. The circular discs featured characters ranging from Frankenweenie to Bolt, with things such as increased health and speed added to your characters. You can stack two of the buffs underneath the figure on the stand. To make the process easy to tinker with, your character does not immediately disappear when you remove from the stand, giving you a few seconds of grace time to line up some power discs.
The hexagonal discs add new toys to the Toy Box, mostly vehicles. However, these toys are only accessible using the discs. At the event, they had everything from the Electric Mayhem Bus from The Muppets to Cinderella's carriage. The carriage could even be tricked out in Toy Box mode by using goop, which gave it monster trucks wheels and added a huge speed boost.
That goop touches on what makes Toy Box so compelling, as you can use it to make anything bigger or smaller, including other players. It can be completely insane as you build worlds with your friends, joyously griefing each other along the way. The developers from Avalanche I spoke to all had fun stories of the countless times they tested the game together and got lost in it because of how much fun they were having. That could be a cute line, but when a team is making a game they are having fun playing, that is usually a good thing.
During my time checking out Toy Box, I witnessed a chaotic soccer game bolstered by characters using invisipads to turn invisible and sneak up on the goal, I attempted a squirrel suit obstacle course created by all four players, using a glider unlocked in The Incredibles play set, and I drove along a winding race track using all sorts of vehicles that all controlled nicely (Avalanche also made Cars 2, a well-received licensed game). It's the sort of fun that you can get lost in, much like the toys and figures they are trying to emulate.
Toy Box can be played with four players online, which could be a way that the experience has more life than just with the younger crowd. It reminded me of the kind of fun chaos you could get into in Grand Theft Auto IV multiplayer. Two players can tackle Toy Box locally, as well as the Play Sets. Avalanche's goal is to get four-player online working across the board, but as of Disney's own press release, the firm commitment to four-player Play Sets is missing.
Disney Infinity is coming to Wii, Wii U, and 3DS on June 18, with starter kits retailing for $74.99. The kits will include the game, three characters (Sulley, Jack Sparrow, Mr. Incredible) and three Play Sets (one for each character). Individual Play Set packs will be $34.99, while individual figures will be $12.99 with a three-pack of figures retailing for $29.99. Lastly, randomized power disc packs will be $4.99.
Still, the most compelling aspect of Disney Infinity is, by far, its potential. With the idea of Play Sets accompanying every major Disney release, this platform should almost standardize Disney licensed video games, making the unfortunate rush and pressure for each title to hit the film's launch less daunting. Also, with Disney's growing portfolio, the possibilities are worth salivating over. Can you imagine if an Avengers Play Set launched alongside Avengers 2 in 2015? What if the next Star Wars movie had a Play Set launch alongside the movie? What if legacy Marvel characters got their own Play Sets? I smiled broadly when I asked a developer about Tron, and they busted out a Recognizer almost immediately. The hooks for your Disney-related IP dreams are in this game, and if it works and succeeds, the possibilities are, dare I say, infinite.