Impressions: Disney Infinity looks like a toy-collecting, world-creating good time

I’m going to be completely honest here: I was pretty skeptical when I walked into the El Capitan Theatre in LA to check out the big Disney Infinity presentation. I didn’t exactly know what to expect, but I had heard plenty of rumors about a Skylanders-like IP with Disney characters. It certainly seemed like a cool idea, but no one knew for sure if that was going to be unveiled. Epic Mickey 2 left a bitter taste in my mouth, and that's exactly the reason I was so skeptical about this whole thing. After Disney Interactive’s big presentation, however, I was glad to walk out of the El Capitan Theatre completely stoked for what seems to be a potentially awesome project.

As it turns out, Disney Infinity is the Mickey Mouse company’s take on the Skylanders model, utilizing different figures that can be transferred into the game world via a panel-like reader. The project is being dubbed more than just a single game — according to Disney Interactive, this upcoming title is an "entire platform" where players can enter the worlds of their favorite characters. By placing figures of characters on the readers, you'll be able to interact with those worlds, take on different storylines, and even create your own adventures thanks to a robust editing tool.

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Disney Infinity is due out sometime in June 2013, and three of the play sets that will be available at launch are Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The whole thing is inspired by Toy Story in that characters who wouldn’t normally exist in the same world can interact with each other. What you essentially get is the chance to actually play with different toys per se, allowing characters to enter different universes and use items from those universes. One example would be to strap Buzz Lightyear’s jetpack onto Captain Jack Sparrow. It’s a cool idea that wouldn’t normally happen unless you were actually playing with toy figures. Disney Infinity will allow you to take that mentality into the video game space, which is incredibly neat.

The reader and figures are an integral part of the Disney Infinity experience, and there will be different ways for you to alter your characters’ skills. In addition to the toy figures themselves, there will also be small discs that can change things up considerably. Circular discs act as buffs that enhance your characters in different ways, and you can stack two of these underneath each toy figure. Meanwhile hexagonal discs will spawn different features in the game world such as Abu in his elephant form, providing a powerful mount for your character. These discs will be sold in blind packs, so you can imagine the collecting and trading that will go on between friends. This form of character customization — in addition to increasing levels and XP — will hopefully add a nice light RPG-like wrinkle to the gameplay of Disney Infinity.

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There will be plenty of customization to play around with. The Incredibles play set, for example, will allow you to build HQ buildings that you can play with as if they were toys. Monsters University will offer a similar feature, giving you the chance to create student housing for your monsters and allowing you to customize it as you see fit. As far as Pirates is concerned, ships will be a huge part of the experience, and you’ll need to rely on these vessels to travel across different islands. The Catalogue and Toy Box features will further serve to enhance this emphasis on customization, and Disney pointed out that there will be hundreds of toys to collect that can be used for your characters and creations.

The creativity doesn’t end there, though. In addition to being able to build things for the campaign, you’ll also have the opportunity to create your very own content. Think of it as a cross between Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet. Thanks to the various tools you’ll have at your disposal, you’ll be able to concoct anything from action-packed shooter mini-games with an isometric camera angle to 2D platforming stages. Heck, you can even create racetracks, as was evidenced by the awesome replica of Bowser’s Castle from Mario Kart that was briefly shown off during the presentation. Disney is really hoping to push the creativity meter with this project, and with pleasant mechanics such as enemy spawners, win conditions, and online functionality, it’s obvious that Disney Infinity could very well be a vast hub for players to build their very own fantastical creations.

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We’ve already seen what creative minds can do with something as simple as the level editor in Mario vs. Donkey Kong, so it goes without saying that a lot of Disney aficionados will definitely dig this upcoming project. It should also be noted that Disney Infinity encourages multiplayer. You’ll be able to team up with a buddy to take on the characters’ adventures in two-player local co-op, and there will also be support for up to four players online. Add to that the possibility of user-generated multiplayer creations, and you potentially have a party game of sorts.

If you dig the lore of Disney, enjoy the creativity influenced by titles such as Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet, and have an affinity for Skylanders-like toy collection and in-game integration, you may want to watch out for Disney Infinity. The game is due out by summertime on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii, 3DS, and mobile platforms. If, like me, you had a bitter taste in your mouth caused by Epic Mickey 2, Disney Infinity definitely seems like it could replace that bitterness with some delicious, sweet goodness. Also, those toys really look freakin’ sweet! And with the potential of more Disney IPs, as well as the company's ownership of Marvel and Star Wars, it's very easy to see Disney Infinity offering practically limitless possibilities.

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