Growing up as a kid, I loved G.I. Joe. When I wasn't engaging in imaginary warfare in my backyard, my real American heroes doubled as pro wrestlers. Zartanwas just as good changing colors under sunlight as he was delivering a flying elbow drop.
That sense of freedom is a key concept conveyed in Disney Infinity, the upcoming action title launching next month. Players can enjoy Pirates of the Carribean or The Incredibles as intended, but they will have the freedom to experiment and enjoy those characters however they choose.
"It's like your parents' living room floor, where you can play with your toys how you want," says Disney Infinity producer John Vignocchi during a demo of the game.
The easy comparison Disney Infinity draws is to Activision's Skylanders series. Both feature collectible figurines that players bring to life through a special portal. However, based on a hands-on demo of the game, it appears Infinity takes a larger step forward.
The game boasts characters and playsets from several Disney properties, including Pirates, The Incredibles, Cars and Monsters Inc., with more on the way. Starter packs, which will sell for $74.99, will include three playsets, three characters and a power disc that bolsters a character's abilities or adds new items to the open Toy Box mode (more on that later). Additional figurines and power discs will be sold separately.
Up to two characters fit on the external portal, with a hexagonal slot for power discs. If players want to power up a character, they can place circular discs underneath for an added boost. Each playset features an adventure tailored to that franchise, starring only characters from that series.
In the case of The Incredibles, players enjoy an open-world superhero adventure, where players can roam the city as any one of the fearsome foursome. Each character has their own abilities, from Mr. Incredible's super strength to Elastigirl's stretchy limbs.
The Incredibles portion of Infinity plays out like the standard open-world action title. Players roam the city, aiding police and thwarting the efforts of villain Syndrome. Players use a basic attack to pummel enemy robots, or pick up heavy objects and toss them into buildings.
Every playset features a different style of play, each totaling between 6-8 hours. For example, Cars will lean on racing, while Monsters Inc. will require players to pull off pranks and scare kids.
Perhaps the most interesting element to Infinity is the Toy Box, a creative mode that blends universes in any manner the player decides. It's reminiscent of PlayStation title LittleBigPlanet, encouraging players to use their imaginations, create special environments and share them with friends.
The key piece to Toy Box is your magic wand, which serves as the primary tool for manipulating the digital canvas. Players can use the hexagonal power discs to start with a standard template, or create from a blank slate.
Players have a selection of terrain and 1,200 "toys" they can use to create and play in their worlds. Players can rotate, shrink, flip and expand terrain to fit any design they prefer. Also, unlike the playsets, characters from different universes can play together, like Jack Sparrow and Sulley from Monsters Inc. The hexagonal discs also add special vehicles to the universe. At one point, I was driving around a track as Mr. Incredible using Cinderella's carriage and mounted machine guns. Players can mix and match in any combination.
But it's not until I started digging a little deeper into Toy Mode that the possibilities opened up. Certain objects can be assigned special rules when placed in the world. For example, I may add a special plate that activates a move when stepping on it.
After entering a nearby stadium, I add a pair of soccer goals and a scoreboard. I connect the scoreboard and goal, so every time I score a goal, it adds a point. Before long, I've created my own mini-soccer game. And the options for players to build their own types of games (platformer, racer, etc.) seem endless.
Players will have Disney accounts they use to upload their levels for others to enjoy. The best part is levels work across platforms, so if you build your level on a Wii U, it will work on another player's PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Characters will also work across platforms, letting PS3 players head to a friend's house with their figures and use them on an Xbox 360.
Disney Infinity feels like an ambitious endeavor for the company's video game division. The level of depth is impressive, and should keep kids and adults entertained for long stretches. The games launches on August 18.
Brett Molina, USA TODAY