Disney Infinity preview, can it beat Skylanders?

If you've got kids of a certain age then you've more than likely heard of Skylanders from Activision.

Skylanders is a game that merges the physical and virtual worlds by letting you bring a range of physical toys to life by placing them on a plinth that "magically" teleports them into the game. The toys are cute, the characters fun, but unless you are aware of the Skylanders universe, they have no back story. Shocking, we know.

Disney is hoping that it's solution, called Disney Infinity, solves that problem. Pocket-lint went hands on at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles to find out.

The premise of Disney Infinity is virtually identical to Skylanders. You can buy dedicated "clever" toys that when placed on a plinth connected to your console can be transported into the video game.

The difference between the two here is that instead of playing a character that is half man, half octopus, you can play one of around a dozen or so characters from the Disney and Pixar movies.

Characters include the Incredibles family, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, Lightning McLean from Cars, and Sully and Mike Wazowski from Monsters inc.

Well made, the toys are good enough to stand up on their own regardless of their special powers, which is what it's all about. 

In addition to the toys, the game comes with a number of discs that let you create different environments (more on that in a moment), and harness special powers.

These discs will be sold separately in blind packs with Disney explaining to Pocket-lint that kids will be able to swap and trade with other kids to get the powers they want. All that the player then has to do is place the disc on the plinth and things start to change in the game.

Still with us? Good.

When it comes to the video game aspect, there are several worlds or environments to play, as well as something called the ToyBox.

The environments, as you might expect, are from the characters' movies. So if you buy the Mr Incredible, Sully, and Captain Jack Sparrow set you'll be able to play with Sully in the Monsters Inc environment but not the Pirates of the Caribbean one.

Those environments should last around six hours each and involve solving puzzles - it's standard video game stuff.

Where things get interesting however is in the Toy Box. A holodeck landscape, if you will, that allows you to build your own puzzles, tracks and other personal whims and wishes.

Because it's a sandbox experience you can play whatever character you like and that's where the fun begins. We never thought we would see Mr Incredible driving around in Cinderella's pumpkin chariot.

Pulling inspiration from the Little Big Planet approach to gaming, gamers get a pretty extensive range of options and can then share what they've created with the community after it's been approved by Disney.

 

The sharing element is good because it means that if you want you can just play other people's efforts rather than wasting time building your own.

The ToyBox is also the place where you can add more characters regardless of what movie they are from. We witnessed Sully being dragged around by Lightning McLean through a Finding Nemo world, for example.

In practice and the whole experience seems fun if not a little complicated. The ToyBox controls are vast with the ability to do so many things that it might restrict the level of enjoyment for younger players. True, they still have plenty to do, but it's worth bearing in mind. We're not sure we would have understood logic gates at the age of 7.

First impressions

If you or your kids are huge Disney fans then this is a no-brainer when it comes to picking this or Skylanders. The ToyBox feature is fun and does hugely extend the length of gameplay allowing you play community levels or build your own.

Having played both, we can't help feel that the more traditional single-player elements of Skylanders is better, especially once you start having fun with the ability to swap and enhance your characters by sharing weapons and body parts between the physical toys (top half, bottom half),

Skylanders might not have the same character heritage as Disney Infinity, but it shouldn't be ruled out.

We will make sure we do full reviews of both when the games are released later in the year.