by Brian Robbins

 Disney Infinity was one of the most most popular booths at this year’s E3. It could be that they were giving away T-shirts or the action figures you could use when the game launches but I have a hunch that people were also just curious to play it. Basically, Disney wants a piece of Activision’s Skylanders pie. As you probably know, in Skylanders you have action figures that you can level up in the game and you can bring them over to your friend’s house and play your characters there. It’s a really cool idea and it’s  been uncontested for two years now. With recognizable brands and almost unlimited potential for new gameplay experiences, Disney could really give Skylanders a run for its (and your) money.

I got to skip most of the line because instead of standing at the Disney Infinity booth I checked out their demo kiosk at Nintendo’s. All of my hands on time with the demo was on Nintendo’s Wii U. That being said, the game didn’t really take advantage of the unique features that the system could bring with its Gamepad. This was mildly disappointing considering all of its potential but that’s another can of worms. What I did experience was a fun beat-em-up experience set in the Disney Universe.

The gameplay is strikingly similar to Skylanders: not exactly deep or engrossing but it was entertaining. The story mode has you playing in levels called Playsets. You can select the level based on what toy piece you put on the scanner (like the portal in Skylanders). For example, when I was playing on a The Incredibles’ Playset,  I was limited to Incredibles characters. Which is sadly very limiting but there’s much more than just Playsets to play around in.

The meat and potatoes of this game is the level editor which is called- appropriately enough- the Toy Box. In this you can create custom levels for you and your characters to play around in. In the E3 2013 trailer, you can find that it’s possible to create unique game modes with your friends. You could take it from sports or maybe even make your own version of a classic Mario stage. That’s one of the main reasons why I believe Disney Infinity will be a massive hit this year.

 A slight problem I could see with Infinity’s Toy Box mode is that it gives you almost TOO many options and it might be difficult for a younger player to make his or her own level. The demo showed older gamers expertly making complicated game modes and cities to zip around with their characters.  I suppose it’s a good problem when one of the main issues of your game is that it has almost too many options for customization. It did look pretty easy to set everything up and make it work, so I’m sure the younger audiences will have no problems at least getting started. Besides, I saw Sully from Monsters Inc. use Buzz Lightyear’s jet pack. That’s just awesome.

Disney Infinity already has an advantage over Skylanders in its robust selection of brands. Disney has arguably the most recognizable characters in the world. From Mickey Mouse to Wreck it Ralph, there won’t be a shortage of playable heroes or villains for this game. When I asked one of the Disney: Infinity’s spokesperson if there will ever be the chance of seeing Star Wars or Marvel characters in the game, he gave me a courteous nod and said “Wouldn’t that be something?” Take from this what you will, but it seems to me that this could very well be a possibility in the future. I’d love to see Boba Fett hang out with Woody from Toy Story.

I was also struck by the gorgeous art style they chose to go with the game. Somehow all the characters look like they belong in the same universe. They all have cartoony appearances to them and mesh incredibly well. Even Disney’s live action movie characters look great, from Lone Ranger to Captain Jack Sparrow. The levels look gorgeous too; it was often bright and vivid and everything had a spark of Disney charm to it. It was hard not to get all nostalgic.

From what I’ve seen, Disney Infinity impressed me. It’s one of those few rare  games that seems appropriate for anyone in the family. It even has online cooperative play, something that mysteriously has been left out of the Skylanders franchise. It’ll be interesting to see how many characters they release in the future and how much everything will be. If it’s around the same price as Skylanders: Swap Force, this holiday season could get ugly for Christmas lists.