Last night, the Thumbs family descended on Airship37 to check out a final preview of Avalanche Software’s Disney Infinity (Disney’s Skylanders killer) before it is launched at the end of this upcoming weekend. Mehran got a chance to check it out a few months ago at E3, and he did a great job breaking down the costs and so forth. For this post, I’ll give you some of my impressions and those of my young associate (her opinion is probably the most important of all the Thumbs anyway).
We arrived at the venue just as the ball started rolling. Standees of various Infinity versions of the Disney characters were spread out along a red carpet (and were also prominent around the room in which the event was being held). A number of gaming stations were set up to accommodate young and old gamers who were anxious to try the game out. Smallest Thumb and I went to the far corner, had some cotton candy and liquid nitrogen popcorn1, and picked up some Xbox 360 controllers so that we could try out the game. I placed Tonto onto player 1′s socket and Mrs. Incredible (Helen Parr) onto player 2′s. We proceeded to run, willy-nilly, all around the grounds of Cinderella’s castle.
The detail and build quality of these figures are pretty amazing.
Paul Mombourquette, one of the dudes from the Disney Infinity development team, showed us all of the possibilities with the characters. He demonstrated how we could clobber each other (with ranged or melee attacks), or cooperate – depending on our mood, of course. One of my favourite tricks was to pick up Helen and throw her up to the next floor of the castle2. He also showed some of the stackable hexagonal power discs, giving us Mulan’s horse and Cinderella’s coach to play with in the game. Paul also showed us how easy it was to change the landscape by dropping a Sugar Rush power disc onto the base – within seconds, the green grass and mature trees were gone, replaced by cotton candy and peppermint sticks. It was definitely impressive.
Characters have access to some of their abilities at the start, as we found out at a different gaming station (where Mrs. Incredible could not do half of the things that she could do at the Xbox 360 that we started at). Kevin Keele, another dev team member, told us how the abilities can be unlocked using in-game currency that is attained by doing quests, breaking certain objects, and defeating bad guys. Also, pressing the right shoulder button brings up an items menu (once you attain items), allowing your character to use objects such as a hover board, a hang glider, and many other items. Smallest Thumb and I had a bit of a ranged battle with her using a toilet-paper launcher and me using a paintball gun.
Smallest Thumb and one of the other media fellas spent some time kicking the crap out Syndrome’s robots – and each other.
I had previously read about the customization allowed in the game – but I was totally blown away by how much latitude there is in the creative process. Some of the kids there changed the landscape fairly significantly, making completely different areas to play in. I mean, the fact that each character has about 6 to 10 hours of game-play aside from team adventures and world creation is awesome – but to have the ability to make up your own worlds and stories (while mixing multiple franchises)? That’s like giving kids the ability to draw and paint on all of the surfaces of your house (while high on sugar) – without the fear of catching hell from their parents.
After talking to Paul and Kevin, I have to hand it to Disney (and Avalanche Software) for creating this masterpiece. A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into the game – and it shows. Both gents were on the prowl during the event, making sure that everyone was having a good time and that this build was behaving as it should. I know that Smallest Thumb really enjoyed the flexibility and easy-to-learn controls3, and some of the older kids were definitely having a ball playing with the Toy Box mode.
Smallest Thumb, Paul and Kevin try to fit in with some Disney villains.
I know that we’re excited to review Disney Infinity in the upcoming weeks. Given the vast number of characters and settings that Disney has to choose from, as well as their established brand power, I think that Disney Infinity might be giving Skylanders (and other toys) a run for their money this holiday season.