Captain Jack Sparrow and Mike Wazowski are racing through a hairpin turn at breakneck speed, Jack in a black sports car, Mike on a super-powered hoverboard. They trade paint before dismounting at the base of an enormous castle, only to keep going on foot. In no time they’re grabbing hold of the castle’s stone edifice and continuing their race vertically, lunging from ledge to ledge. Jack’s hand slips somewhere near the top, but before he can fall back to earth he throws on a jetpack and flies into the lead, overtaking Mike just as he makes it onto the roof. Neck and neck the pair run straight to the edge and, without hesitating for even a second, dive off head first. Mike hits a silver ring on his way down and fireworks begin to burst overhead. The pair tumbles and lands unharmed, just in time to join a celebration below. We have a winner! It’s just another day in Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode, where worlds don’t just collide, they spring up around your feet at the wave of your magic wand. It’s also a day that was years in the making, the work of hundreds of designers, developers and artists at Disney Interactive. And, if you can believe it, they’re just getting started.
Disney Infinity is an ambitious new game that’s actually two distinct experiences in one: Play Sets and the Toy Box.
Play Sets are what you might normally think of when you picture a video game. Each Play Set is a unique world with its own look, gameplay, story, and items, and is only playable by the characters that belong in that world. It will take four to six hours to complete all of the quests and challenges within a Play Set, but also finding all of the assorted items and collectibles hidden throughout each will take hours more of climbing, jumping, and hunting. The Incredibles Play Set takes place among the skyscrapers of Metroville, where you’ll take the place of one of The Incredibles as they combat Syndrome’s evil robot army. The Monsters University Play Set, on the other hand, takes place on the MU campus, where you’re on a mission to pump up school pride and teach your rivals at Fear Tech how real scaring gets done. Those two Play Sets as well as Pirates of the Caribbean are included with the game’s Starter Pack, while Cars and The Lone Ranger are also available if players choose to get them, and more Play Sets will become available down the line. A Toy Story Play Set has been announced for release in October, and you can expect more franchises to follow.
The Toy Box is an experience that is much harder to define, thanks to the extremely wide range of activities that it provides. Players get to act like game designers, creating their own levels from the ground up. While Infinity provides some prefab toy boxes to build upon, the most fun is starting with a completely blank slate and then filling it in using all of the terrain, structures, and gameplay mechanics that are found in the various Play Sets. It’s an endlessly customizable experience, and the tools that Infinity puts at your fingertips are so powerful that you can completely transform your toy box to a point where the uninitiated may not even recognize it. Things quickly venture into have-to-see-it-to-believe-it territory in a way that proves Infinity is less of a video game and more of a high tech imagination engine, built from the ground up to let you express yourself. Kids (and adults) who love to create and tinker will get lost for hours. There aren’t any pesky rules to get in the way in the toy box, and this is where characters from different movies can interact and play together in whatever way you feel like.
If all of the software that runs Disney Infinity weren’t enough, there’s also the matter of the real world toys that represent your in-game characters. Disney Infinity game figures are premium hand-painted sculptures with special chips hidden inside them that speak to the video game console through the Infinity Base, which is included with the game’s Starter Pack along with the first three figures, Sulley, Mr. Incredible, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Placing a figure on the base makes it appear in the game. Set a different figure on instead and watch the in-game character morph before your very eyes. The figures themselves are incredibly detailed and bring to mind the high quality of a Vinylmation toy; it wouldn’t be odd to collect the figures without ever playing the game, they’re simply that much fun to look at and display.
The most “Disney” thing about Disney Infinity isn’t the roster of famous characters or the Play Sets themed after classic movies and park attractions. What truly defines Infinity as a Disney production is the scene that takes place around the game, as opposed to inside it. Through the Toy Box mode and the depth of the construction tools within it, Infinity becomes a platform on which fans can express creativity, imagination, and maybe even a little mischief, much in the way that Mickey in his sorcerer’s apprentice hat or Walt in his director’s chair did in their own times. Allowing players to bring their own figures into the mix only broadens the possibilities of what’s possible in the game, and encourages a sense of collaboration that extends out from the TV screen and into the real world. You can borrow or trade figures and Play Sets and change the game overnight. You can also play together in person or online, and Infinity allows you to upload your Toy Box creations onto the web and download new worlds from Disney as well as from other gamers, just in case there isn’t a steady supply of other players for you to share your experiences with in person.
For an example of what’s possible in Disney Infinity, take a look at the video below. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s a virtual Disneyland, created entirely with Disney Infinity’s Toy Box mode, and it hasn’t even gotten into the hands of fans yet. The really exciting part is what is still yet to be built.