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E3 2013: Disney Infinity (Impressions)

by: Chuck -
More On: Disney Infinity E3 2013

As we entered the movie theatre for the preview of Disney's Infinity it became easy to understand the appeal of the game.  Looking up at the screen we were greeted with the visages of Mike and Sully from Monster U and Tonto and the Lone Ranger from The Lone Ranger movie. 
Seeing the "Infinity versions" of these characters peering down everyone, it was easy to image the company cranking out figures for each of their feature films:
New Marvel movie?   New figures. 
New Muppet movie?  New figures. 
New Star Wars movie?  Tons of new figures. 
I almost wondered if Infinity was the name of the game or a clever way of describing how much money Disney was expecting to generate from the new system. 
It's easy to compare the game to Activision's Skylanders.  Both feature cute figurines that you place on a pad that's attached to your console which causes a digital representation of that character to appear in the game.  There are a few significant differences though.
The Infinity figures don't just represent a character in the game, they represent a new world to play in replete with and new gameplay modes.  The Lone Rangers figures adds all kinds of Western themed gameplay while he Monster U characters bring in college hijinks like a mode where you try to capture the opposing school's mascot. 
It's best to think of Infinity as a game platform and not just a game as the real fun of infinity comes from the single player content as well as the fact that players can craft their own levels.  The levels are built using components from a central "Toy box" that ships with the game.  Each new figure you add to your collection adds new buildings and toys for your toy box.  .  Thus as your collection of figures grows, the tools they will have to craft those levels will grow as well. 

The pad you place the figures on is also a bit different from the one in Skylanders in that it has three different ports.  The front two support the character figures (along with up to three power ups) while a third pad in the back allows you to add special mounts (horses, motorcycles, Tron light cars) to the game.  It's an ingenious setup as now the characters can now be modified with parts that will more than likely be sold separately.
Level creation isn't a solo experience as you can have up to four people helping you build levels.  Couch co-op is supported which will allow parents to create levels with their children.   What was impressive about the levels is how much space you are given to work with.  Levels aren't just big flat spaces but there's a lot of vertical space to work with. 
Levels aren't just about the placing of objects though as players will be able to create their own game modes with Infinity.  Much like Little Big Planet, the game comes with single player content in the box for players to enjoy but also to serve as a tutorial of what the game can do.
Your creations will have some limits in terms of how complex they can get as it would be easy to create massive system choking levels.  Players will be limited by the number of points they can spend on a level and certain things will cost more than others as they tax the system more.  
Once your levels are created you can submit them to Disney for distribution to other players.  Disney will curate the levels and release the good ones (i.e. the ones without any lewdness, profanity, or copyright infringements) into the wild where others can download and play them.  This dramatically increases the quantity of the value of the game as free new content
It's hard not to be impressed with the vision of what Disney Interactive is trying to do with Infinity.  They are taking some of the best elements of several class leading games and mixing in their large portfolio of their iconic characters.  It's also not hard to see how many places Disney is going to put their hands in your pocket for more money.  Beyond the obvious expense of new figures there's also the question of how much new power-ups and mounts will cost.  Sure they aren't necessarily things you need to enjoy the game but you or your kids will "need" to have them at some point.
The platform is set to launch in August and will ship with a three pack of Captain Jack Sparrow, Mr Incredible, and Sully.