The mind-boggling complexities of Disney Infinity
17th Jan 2013 | 09:00
This week Disney Interactive officially announced
The press event was a little confusing, however, meaning there are a lot of mixed messages flying around today and a lot of false information. With that in mind we've decided to break down what's been revealed so far so you can better understand exactly what Disney Infinity offers.
In June 2010 Disney Interactive released Toy Story 3: The Video Game, developed by Avalanche Software. Toy Story 3 was a rare movie tie-in in that it was actually entertaining, mainly thanks to its unique Toy Box mode.
Described by many at the time as Disney meets GTA, the Toy Box lets you play as Woody, Buzz or Jessie as they run around a series of sandbox areas based on Toy Story locations, accepting missions from other characters and unlocking different toys, gizmos and customisation options. While the main adventure in the game can be finished in five hours or so, Toy Box easily has 20 or 30 hours of gameplay in it. It's superb.
Due to the success of the Toy Story 3 game, Avalanche was asked to start work on a second video game focused on Buzz Lightyear. As development progressed the Toy Box mode evolved and eventually Disney Infinity was born.
The general idea
Disney Infinity is a much larger, more varied version of the Toy Box mode in Toy Story 3, one that spans numerous Disney licenses and has the potential for expansion in the future.
Borrowing an idea from Skylanders, it comes with a special peripheral (dubbed the Infinity Base) that players can place Disney characters, stages and items onto.
The game is split into two major sections - Play Sets and the Toy Box mode. Play Sets are essentially the game's story mode, while Toy Box is a more open world environment where you can spawn characters, items and buildings whenever and however you like.
The Play Sets
Play Sets are virtual environments based on a specific Disney licenses. Different ones are unlocked when users place certain Disney toys on the Infinity Base. For example, if you place the Monsters University Play Set piece on it, the game will unlock the Monsters University stage and a story mode.
Each Play Set is strictly locked to the toys associated with it, so if you choose to play through the story mode in the Pirates Of The Caribbean Play Set, you can only use the likes of Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbosa while playing through it - you can't bring in Mr Incredible to help you out.
What isn't yet clear is whether multiple toys from the same licence (for example, Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars) will have to play through the same missions, or if they'll each unlock their own unique mission set.
The Toy Box
This is where the "Infinity" aspect of the game comes into play and is the true heart of the game. At the press event last night Disney's John Lasseter compared it to his childhood days when he, much like every other child, would mix and match his toys when he played with them. "I wouldn't just exclusively play with GI Joes," he explained. "Lego came into it, and Hot Wheels and all this stuff".
As you play through each character's individual Play Set and clear the various missions in them, you unlock characters, gadgets, items and customisation options. The Monsters University one, for example, lets you unlock a bunch of stuff related to that film including a bicycle and toilet paper gun.
The interesting thing is that these are not only unlocked for that specific Play Set, they're also made available for use in Toy Box mode. Unlike the licence-specific story modes featured in the Play Sets, here players can mix and match everything in a huge open world environment. Woody can have a scrap with Jack Skellington, Sully can race Wreck-It Ralph, Lightning McQueen can run over Phineas Flynn.
"It's just like Andy [in Toy Story]," Lasseter explained at this week's press event. "In Andy's room there's a toy box, and it's full of toys from all different things and they come together and he plays with them all in a very creative way".
As well as the ability to freely roam around and choose from potentially hundreds of toys that can be unlocked, Toy Box mode also has "adventures", which are essentially missions that initially teach you how to make use of the various mechanics - combat, construction, racing, etc - and then master them. If Toy Story 3's Toy Box is anything to go by, there will be many of these.
The Power Discs
What makes Disney Infinity slightly different to Skylanders is the way you can stack things under the characters to add power-ups to them. These come in the form of Power Discs, little Pog-like plastic discs with chips built into them. You can stack these discs under your character to give them a special power-up based on a Disney licence.
This means you could give Jack Sparrow a Power Disc that lets him use Buzz Lightyear's wings to fly, or give Mike from Monsters Inc a special Wreck-It Ralph disc which makes him more powerful.
While most of these discs will be circular there will also be some special hexagonal ones that fit on the third space in the Infinity Base. These generate extra characters in Toy Box mode which you can interact with. For example, one of them makes Dumbo appear, allowing you to ride him around, while a similar one makes Abu from Aladdin appear in his elephant form.
These Power Discs allow Disney to add characters and items from many other licenses without having to create whole new worlds based on them, much like the Assist Trophies in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Disney has already confirmed a load of brands that will feature as Power Discs, including Mickey Mouse, Brave, Bolt, Frankenweenie, Tangled, Finding Nemo, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Tron and Kermit the Frog.
The final selling point of Disney Infinity is the level of customisation promised in the Play Sets. Players can customise their HQ in the Incredibles set, for example - but in Toy Box mode they can go one step beyond by generating, positioning and colouring individual building blocks to create larger environments. It is clear that Disney is hoping Infinity will not only grab the attention of Skylanders fans but also gain interest from Minecraft devotees too. The ability to make your own constructions and share your own worlds with friends also shows potential.
The launch details
Disney Infinity is set for release in June and will be headed to Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, and Wii. It'll then be rolled out onto mobile and online devices throughout the rest of 2013.
The starter pack will come with three figures - Mr Incredible, Sully and Jack Sparrow - as well as their three respective Play Set pieces (The Incredibles, Monsters University, Pirates Of The Caribbean) and one Power Disc.
A total of 17 character figures will be available, though it's likely these won't be made available on day one and will instead be rolled out over the months following the game's release.
One thing's for sure - this is going to be an expensive one for parents. While the UK prices haven't been properly confirmed yet (they're a bit all over the place on Amazon at the moment) the US prices have, and it could add up to a lot. The Starter Pack is $74.99, Play Sets cost $34.99 each, three-packs of figures are $29.99 and individual figures are $12.99. There will also be blind packs of two Power Discs for $4.99 each, no doubt designed to encourage trading but also likely to infuriate parents.
Our initial impressions
We have conflicted feelings about Disney Infinity. The cynical part of us sees it as Disney's attempt to jump on the Skylanders bandwagon and make a shedload of cash off what is essentially on-disc DLC, the vast majority of which is locked away on disc.
However, the fact that Disney merchandise is highly collectible and parents buy Disney toys for their children anyway means these new stylised character toys are likely to sell well regardless of how they fit into the game.
Since Infinity's content is all on-disc and there are already rumblings that Disney Infinity 2 is already being considered, it seems unlikely that it'll be further expanded with DLC. That means it's unlikely that Star Wars, along with various Marvel and other Disney franchises will be appearing in the game - or at least in the first one.
Activision's Skylanders sold in huge numbers despite featuring a series of characters that were completely unknown. Considering Disney is doing the same thing with some of the most valuable IP in the world, and with a game that looks fun, the potential for Disney Infinity's commercial success is staggering. Whether it will be worth your time and money, however, is another question entirely.