Mrs Incredible (anyone know her first name?) I bought her so I could have two player action in the Incredibles world. I guess over time I’ll acquire the whole darned set..
Some time back I was lucky enough to be able to make a trip to Disney World in Florida. The place is amazing. The design and execution of the buildings and the rides and the way the experience is packaged is just fantastic. You can have great fun just looking for the places they have have hidden the iconic outline of Mickey Mouse and his big ears. Those three loops are in the paths, on the walls and even on the water tank. Everyone at Disney World is committed to giving you a great time, from the cheery train drivers who welcome you in the morning and say a heartfelt goodbye as you leave to the “cast” members in costumes who are happy to sign autographs all day long.
And yet, and yet, the place is really a great big machine that has been designed with the purpose of taking as much money as possible from you during your short stay. Around every corner are hot dog stands, ice cream stalls, souvenir shops and ride photo booths. While in theory it is possible to pay nothing once you have entered the park, in practice it is actually darned difficult. Particularly with kids.
Which bring us to Disney Infinity, the new release from Disney Interactive. It is a computer game and toy series that seems heavily influenced by Skylanders and Lego City, but able to draw on the vast reserves of Disney characters. For your money (and you will need money) you get a video game, high quality plastic models of Disney characters and a base that you can plug into your video game console of choice.
Each figure contains some RFID cleverness that lets the game recognise the figure so you can play them in the game, and also store game stats. In addition there are “power up” disks that you can add to give extra items, such as a horse to ride or boost a character health by 25% or so. There are also “world” models that give you access to different worlds.
In the starter set you get characters from Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles along with a “world” block that gives you access to those three words. In no time at all you can be wandering round the campus as Sully, scaring all and sundry.
Each world sets you a number of challenges, very like the Lego City game, although for me the interaction with the environment isn’t quite as smooth as the Lego world and the narrative is nowhere near as interesting or well presented. When you complete challenges you “power up” your character, get cash you can spend on more toys and also tokens to unlock game elements that you can use to build your own worlds.
And therein lies the really interesting part of this enterprise. Because the Disney Infinity folks have also been taking a long hard look at Little Big Planet and Minecraft, and have included a mechanic that lets you build and share worlds. The only snag(and I reckon it is a big snag) is that you have to work through lots of mildly diverting, but not great, gameplay to get all the pieces that you will need to construct your creations. And a lot of the time it feels like work. And that is not what a video game should feel like.
The underlying engine seems able to handle the worlds very well. For me perhaps the most impressive part of the game was the very first stage, where you travel through a landscape that builds itself as you walk towards it. I’ve not really got far enough into the game to be able to make much interesting yet. My characters are slowly ascending through the ranks and making appearance in the “Hall of Heroes” that you must visit, simply to view the huge number of empty pedestals for heroes that have yet to be purchased…
Disney are in this for the long haul. They have spent a lot of money building their virtual theme park and the have huge amounts of back catalogue on which they can create new scenarios and sell us more pieces of quality painted plastic. The power ups provide a nice swapping mechanic (you are never quite sure what you will get in a bag) and the prices are enticing rather than completely extortionate.
If you went to Disney World and enjoyed it then you will love Disney Infinity. The starting pack is a very well thought out entry point, in that it gets you into the game but leaves you wanting more, and the beautifully painted models are an end in themselves. And if you really want to create your own fairy castle, complete with race track and pirate cove, you can use Infinity to do it. Good for children of all ages I reckon.