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Disney Infinity’s new play set breaks a lot of new ground for the platform, and it includes … pie cannons.
Pixar’s next film, Inside Out, is set for a June 19 theatrical release, and it will see a complementary game release as a new play set within Disney’s Infinity adventure game. It’s a showpiece for the company’s 3.0 version of the platform, which sees characters from the Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney brands coming together, and it adds new gameplay improvements. This all comes together as one of the strongest entries in the growing and competitive toys-to-life space, going up against Activision’s Skylanders and the upcoming Lego launch from Warner Bros. A new report from The NPD Group shows that parents spent an average of $131 on these types of games in the last half year.
The Inside Out play set debuts in the fall alongside the launch of Disney Infinity’s third version. These sets are typically about $25 and feature collectable figures that, when placed onto a connected base, unlock a new full-length game inside the Infinity platform, based on the franchise the characters are from. Disney-owned Avalanche Software heads up the development of these play set games for Infinity.
The film follows the story of a young girl named Riley, stuck in the middle of a move from Minnesota to San Francisco. The emotions from this traumatic experience are personified, so that Anger, Joy, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust are story characters on their own journey together inside Riley’s mind. Avalanche and Pixar worked together to come up with a sort of sequel story to the upcoming film, where Riley watches a scary movie late one night, setting the stage for her imagination to take control after she falls asleep that night. Deep in her subconscious, the main characters of Inside Out navigate the scary images in Riley’s head, helping her put her mind back in order.
The Inside Out play set puts these characters into a platformer game and gives each special abilities that relate to getting around the levels. For example, Disgust likes to keep everything away from her, so she has a high jump. Joy is light on her feet, and Fear is edgy and fast. As with other Infinity play sets, five figurine toys representing each of the emotions will allow for instant access to corresponding in-game characters. The idea with Inside Out is that players can switch out characters through these pieces to use the one that best fits the situation.
Disney set out to create broad appeal in Inside Out, and it worked in some interesting twists to classic platforming to do so. I tried a stage where gravity manipulation had me running upside down on the top of the screen. It took me a bit to wrap my head around jumping bring the character to the lower part of the screen, and even longer to apply this change to some of the jumping and running puzzles, but once I did, it was enjoyable. Portals in the floor have gravity flipping on the fly, which has players switching constantly between right side up and upside down in a side-scrolling stage. While kids are sure to enjoy Inside Out, the platforming is challenging enough to entertain older players as well.
Other twists on classic platforming open up later on, including musical gameplay that has platforms cueing notes or lines, challenging the player to use their ears as well as their reflexes. These and other action-platforming ideas are presented across both 2D side-scrolling and isometric 3D segments, set in Imagination Land, a strange area in Riley’s mind pulled directly from the film.
The play set was also built to encourage cooperative play in two-player sessions. For example, Sadness will not dissipate clouds while walking on them, so a player would use this character to carry another across clouded areas. And Anger can walk across lava while other players cannot. I tried a cooperative session with another media member at a recent press event, and I enjoyed working together to scale strange platforms, dodge robotic bulls, and defeat spinning broccoli stalks.
The producers wanted to match broad appeal with a “Pixar feeling” for the Inside Out play set. They said a goal was to bring the type of family experience you’d get in a Disney theme park into the living room, and aimed for a universal appeal that could bring people together. This effort had Avalanche working closely with Pixar on everything from the story to the animation. Game director Troy Levitt said that Pixar animators would oversee animation work on the game, and would give constructive feedback. He said that these and other collaborative efforts had a positive effect on Avalanche’s company culture, teaching its people to be more open to direct feedback.
This latest play set is a departure for Infinity, which has stuck with open-world action adventures for its previous play sets. Disney hopes to evolve the platform with newer game types that better compliment the properties the set represents. While Inside Out came from its internal Avalanche studio, future Star Wars and Marvel brand play sets will rope in partner studios, including Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Devil May Cry) and Sumo Digital (Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing).
While it may not have the same story line as the Inside Out film, the play set does a good job of expanding Pixar’s world and characters in different and new ways that compliment it.
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