All photos by Jorge Figueiredo
Disney Infinity has been a huge hit in our house since the first version hit the market a few years ago. The stable of recognizable characters and the intuitive sandbox mode made for some very immersive gameplay. Adding the Marvel Universe (which, ahem, I predicted back when I ran Toronto Thumbs) was icing on the cake, giving players access to Skill Trees, new stories, and even more items to use in Toy Box mode and the customizable My INterior houses.
Now Disney Infinity 3.0 looms on the horizon, promising an even larger universe along with some great improvements and interesting new elements. Disney Interactive was kind enough to invite me over for an hour to try out some of the new playsets and hang out with David Mayernik from Disney Interactive. It made for an eventful hour.
UNDER THE HOOD
Like Disney Infinity 2.0, 3.0 boasts a number of different co-developers. Unlike 2.0, each of the eight co-developers has been given control over a particular aspect of the project. For example, Ninja Theory is all about combat, while Sumo is in charge of vehicles.
Beyond the expected gameplay improvements, Disney has also ramped up its support for the community-based portion of the game. The El Capitan Theatre (inspired by the famous Los Angeles landmark) streams Toy Box TV directly into the game, while Flynn’s Arcade contains a number of different gateways to multi-player matchups with no speech or communication enabled, making it kid-friendly.
Disney has even been paying attention to the way people purchase extras. Rather than force people to blindly buy packs of Power Discs, Disney is selling them in themed bundles without any opaque packaging, giving players the ability to collect without wasting too much money (trading was fun, but got tedious after a while). Some collectibles require certain characters, but there are costume swaps that offer players a chance to be those other characters for a limited time to help them get those collectibles.
NEW WAYS TO PLAY
One of the expansions that David discussed was the Toy Box Takeover, a dungeon-crawler mode where the villains have conspired to take the Toy Box Wand, a tool that allows you to manipulate the sandbox world. You have to get it back. Sidekicks join you and help fight the bad guys. You can also use them in a farming operation to grow various resources (like Pizza Plants) that can be used to attain new equipment for the sidekicks.
Meanwhile, Toy Box Speedway adds some racing flair to Infinity. The mode features different cups, various game modes (time-trial and battle racing) and over 9 different tracks, each with a different theme. The tracks are dynamic, with the layout of obstacles changing with each successive lap. All Power Disc vehicles will be compatible with the Speedway, giving players the ability to pick their automotive poison.
It should come as no surprise that the Star Wars Universe is one of the most hotly anticipated expansions, and Disney Interactive has collaborated with LucasArts to provide players with the most complete Star Wars experience possible. There are play sets covering both the period between Episodes 2 and 3 (Twilight of the Republic), as well as the classic Star Wars movies (Rise Against the Empire, which covers chapters 4-6), and unlike previous play sets, the Star Wars Universe features interplanetary travel through space and asteroid fields (as well as some on-rails story levels) with some of the iconic vehicles fans know and love. You can even use a Snow Speeder to take down an Imperial Walker with a tow cable!
While the vehicles are a lot of fun, I have to give kudos to Ninja Theory for the re-vamped combat system, complete with force powers and some swanky light saber moves. For the inexperienced, button mashing can have decent results, but it becomes even more fun once you learn the system. Droids split apart where they were cut with a saber, and there’s some nice theatricality with some slow-motion final moves.
Mayernik mentioned that Star Wars characters will be able to cross over into each other’s play sets, which can result in some interesting combinations (Anakin/Darth Vader would be the weirdest). He also said that there will be an Episode 7 play set close to the release of the movie, but he remained tight-lipped about exactly what it would entail.
Based on the movie that recently hit the screens, Inside Out is very much a platformer. The adventure begins when Riley (the host for all of the emotion characters) falls asleep while the television is on. A scary movie starts to play, causing Riley’s imagination to act up and scattering her memories all over the place. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear all rise to the challenge to help find all of the memories and return to their headquarters before Riley wakes up.
The visual style of Inside Out is completely different from the Star Wars play sets, and is definitely much more fun for younger kids (especially with a parent helping them out using a second character). The presentation of each of the stages is pretty amazing, shifting from orthographic to sidescrolling at the drop of a hat. It certainly keeps you on your toes.
The version of Infinity that I was playing was an earlier build (Playstation 4), but it was already far smoother than Infinity 2.0. While the screen was often busy, it rarely chugged, which was impressive given the version that I was playing.
The controls are as intuitive as they were in previous versions of Infinity, making the game inviting for newbies without alienating more experienced players. As I mentioned before, the work done on both combat and vehicles makes for a much more exciting experience.
The new Skill Tree layout is another improvement, splitting up the muddled tree into several pages of purposeful menus. Want to focus on offense? Tab over to offense. Want to bolster the health of your character? You can do that, too. The streamlined layout is a very welcome change. My only beef is that the level cap is still set at 20, so there aren’t really any new goodies available for your previous characters that are stuck at that maximum level.
With improved game-play, new toys, improved social aspects and some great expansions, Disney Infinity 3.0 looks to improve on an already winning formula. Hanging out with David Mayernik and experiencing the game for myself only serves to heighten my anticipation for the end of August, when the game hits store shelves in all of its various incarnations (including a digital one for people that don’t want a new base).
And yes, there are many other characters to collect aside from the Star Wars and Inside Out play sets. There’s no word on Indiana Jones (at least not yet), but I saw plenty of other neat (well-constructed) figurines standing on the table, including Ultron, Tron, Quorra, HulkBuster Iron Man, Mulan, and Olaf, and the list goes on. I can’t wait. The next few weeks are going to take forever.
We’ll have a complete review of Disney Infinity 3.0 after the game comes out on August 30.