Disney Infinity takes shape as a huge investment in transmedia (hands-on preview)

The similarities to Skylanders include the toy-game concept and the base-portal, but that’s where the resemblance stops, Vignocchi said. Inside that Toy Box, you can actually use tools to rebuild the world any way that you would like. It is an open-ended experience that kids can spend lots of time in. Infinity has 60 different game mechanics in Toy Box, such as melee combat. You can customize the world and share it with friends.

The first version of Disney Infinity debuts in August on a variety of platforms, including Nintendo’s new Wii U game console. The first main characters are Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles, Sully from Monsters Inc. and Monsters University, and Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean. More toy lines and games will be announced later. Among the ones coming at a future date is Cars 2, which has cool features for cars such as weapon loadouts.

disney infinityHands-on with Mr. Incredible

I got a hands-on demo with Mr. Incredible. It started in the docks section of the playset for The Incredibles. The villain, Syndrome, is causing trouble, and it is up to the superhero family to save the day. It is set in a specific time in the 2004 film, during a kidnapping. Mr. Incredible’s animations are much like his in the film, with very cartoon-like movements. The buildings are destructible, a feature that isn’t that easy to do in a game.

All the characters have their own abilities. Mr. Incredible is the strongest and can pick up any object. The playset offers melee combat in an open cityscape. Enemies include various “omni droids,” whose designs are embedded in Syndrome’s computer in the original film. The game is thus consistent with the fiction of the film’s universe. You can unlock items such as a hoverboard to make it easier to move through the world.

“We worked with Pixar to re-create all of those different omni droids,” Vignocchi said. “We stay in close collaboration with the filmmakers.”

If you complete a mission and level up your character, you can have a spin at a virtual toy dispenser. Inside of each playsetis a new set of virtual toys. You can unlock virtual toys inside a playset. And as soon as you unlock a virtual toy inside the story, you can then use that toy inside the Toy Box mode.

Mr. Incredible can drive around in his “Incredicar.” Mr. Incredible’s son, Dash, can run around the at superspeeds. He isn’t as powerful, but he can blast things apart by rushing at them. Mr. Incredible’s daughter, Violet, has defensive powers such as her shield. But she can also deliver some offensive attacks and can become invisible. Mrs. Incredible can stretch like a piece of taffy and can zap a bunch of enemies from a range, like a snapping rubber band. You can play all the different characters.

disney infinity 2Hands-on with Jack Sparrow

Jack Sparrow’s playset takes place during the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. The opening scene is set in a rowboat, when Sparrow is navigating through a scene that comes out of the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. You can hear the  “Yo ho, yo ho” song playing in the background.

The idea in the opening of the play set is to show what the ride would be like if the Imagineers had carte blanche to remake the world today. So you have novel things like a cannon in the front of your row boat.

In the game, Jack can board his ship and fight with on-shore pirates, or he can jump off the ship and go into the town to fight his enemies. Some of the characters are in the films, but some are also based on characters who were designed but never made it into any of the films.

You will be able to hop from island to island, such as Tortuga. It has 12 different islands, including three major islands, three medium islands, and six small ones. That makes for a sizable world, and you’ll need a ship to travel between the islands.  Jack, Davey Jones, and others battle for control of a Kracken and the control of the seas. I played a mission where you guide a ship through narrow straits and blow up other ships with your cannon.

“With each play set, you will see the rules of Infinity and the rules of each specific play set,” Vignocchi said.

disney infinity 3Bigger things to come

Each playset is around six or seven hours of main mission play time, and another 10 hours or so with side missions. With three playsets in the initial $75 package, you’ll have at least 21 hours of gameplay, and more if you want to pursue side missions.

Over time, adding new modules to the series will get easier for Disney. But it may sacrifice graphics fidelity for any single game, as any new series will have to work with the existing platform. That’s a calculated risk, but an understandable one given the worlds are focused on cartoon experiences, not photorealistic 3D animations.

“We strive to make sure that every one of the play sets adds a different kind of experience for the platform,” Vignocchi said. “With Pirates, for instance, we add the sailing experience to the play. The Incredibles is about melee combat. Monsters is about scaring and it has comic features like a toilet paper cannon. This is a more efficient way for us to support all of the Disney content coming.”

We’ll see if kids go along with that corporate strategy.

Here’s our video demo with Vignocchi on Disney Infinity.

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