First things first, let's get this out the way: Disney Infinity is not a Skylanders clone. Aside from the interactive figures, the game itself is an entirely different experience. Comparisons can obviously be made, but it's not until you see it in action that it becomes clear how different they are.
From what we have seen, Disney Infinity takes a touch of nostalgia, throws in all the creativity of games like Little Big Planet and then adds open world gameplay mechanics. There is a lot to get your teeth into here and Disney has clearly worked hard to create a game which offers entertainment to everyone, of any age.
There is a caveat to this early judgment, in that all we have seen of Infinity so far has been played by Disney representatives. We are yet to really take the game to pieces and have only seen small sections of what the final product is expected be.
Disney Infinity works as a bit of a two-parter. The core single-player experience consists of various play-sets, each themed like a Disney movie. These playsets span the whole range of Disney movies, but the exact sets are yet to be confirmed. We were shown the world of Monsters University and The Incredibles, both very different.
Then there is the toy box, Disney Infinity's answer to Little Big Planet. The idea is that you can take any item, from any play-set and place it on any character, or use objects from each set to create your own world. Want to stick Pride rock from the Lion King on top of a Tron background? Or give Jack Sparrow Buzz Lightyear's jetpack? It's all possible in the toy box. More on that later.
Firing up the story experience of Infinity is done by using a combination of character models and clear plastic discs. You place a play-set disc on the Infinity reader along with a compatible character and you're away. So stick Mike Wazowski on the reader with the Monsters University token and the game will let you play through that part of Disney Infinity. Here really is where the similarities with Skylanders end.
Each playset is different, ensuring that the game doesn't feel like one single gameplay style with different characters shoved in. Monsters University, for example, was all about cleaning up the mess made by rival college Fear Tech. It involved laying traps, riding bicycles and even a Metal Gear Solid-style sneaking section where you headed to the rival's campus to do some pranking yourself.
The Incredibles was almost entirely different. This part of the game was all about combat and action, with less of the puzzle solving and a slower pace of Monsters University. Swapping out the various Incredibles figures on the Infinity reader, it became clear how different each gameplay style was. This wasn't a case of a single move done differently, here every character played differently.
Mr Incredible, for example, was very top heavy and able to inflict large amounts of damage with his fists, Dash, on the other hand, could zip around, attacking multiple enemies. It is a gameplay style that lends itself well to multiplayer. One person could play as Dash, keeping multiple enemies at bay, while the other does the brunt of the damage as Mr Incredible.
Any missions you complete grant you in-game points that can be spent at the toy shop for each playset. You can purchase in-game items which will help you along your way - like a car for Mr Incredible, for example. All these items then go into the toy box, so you can test them out with different characters later.
The toy box element of things is where the game really came alive for us. Clearly Disney has invested a lot into creating complex enough story modes for each franchise to warrant the purchase of a new disc, but the toy box is where the fun happens.
Think of it like a big, flat, open world in which you can place anything already discovered in the game, provided you have unlocked it. Changing the playset disc will change the theme of the toy box - say to Monsters University, for argument's sake. This will alter the background and texture set, although all of this can be deleted or opted out of if you fancy doing your own thing.
Any of the restrictions placed on characters and what they can wear or use in the game are removed in the toy box. So now you can go wild: stick Buzz Lightyear's jetpack on Jack Sparrow's back, do tricks over jumps you have made in Cinderella's carriage or just go mad with some of the items from Monsters University.
The toy box is all about creation, giving you a vast set of items from all corners of the game. The Recognizer from Tron is there, complete with Daft Punk music. The creation possibilities are endless and the simple-to-use building UI, designed for even the youngest of gamers, is very flexible.
In fact, the toy box is what has us most excited about Disney Infinity. It changes the game from being a fairly flexible third-person experience, to an anything's possible user created content-fest. Disney is going to curate levels created within the toy box that are shared online, but this should only push the best to the forefront of things.
The flexibility goes far beyond what you might expect. Being able to adjust camera angles meant we were shown Contra-like, side-scrolling shooter levels and even a remake of a track from Mario Kart. It really is early days, but the possibilities of Disney Infinity have us very excited.
As for the figures themselves, they are really well put together. Think of them as cartoon interpretations of their movie counterparts. They are also perfectly re-created in the game, even with action figure-like animations, to add to that feel of bringing the toys to life.
The last thing to talk about is Power Discs, which are the Pokemon cards of the Disney Infinity world. Sold in blind packs, each disc adds a buff to your character when placed beneath them on the reader. You can stack up to two at once and they can alter the characteristics of each figure with skills from others.
Disney Infinity is going to go on sale in several different forms. The starter pack will cost £65 and ship with three figures, the reader and a play-set token for three adventures: The Incredibles, Monsters University and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Alternatively, figures can be picked up individually for around £10, with three packs costing £20. There is also an expansion pack that comes with a new world disc and a number of characters. Pricing is yet to be confirmed for these.
Disney Infinity will ship this June on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and Wii U. It will also be coming to mobile platforms later in the year. Versions for 3DS and PS Vita are also being developed.