It is a rare thing in any entertainment industry for a major success to go ignored by the industry at large. That's why it comes as no surprise to see a new videogame so strongly resemble Skylanders -- one where physical action figures are placed on a stand to make them appear in-game -- without the Skylanders or Activision name appearing anywhere. Because make no mistake about it: Skylanders is a veritable success, having earned $500 million in sales in the United States alone since its launch in October 2011. So while it shouldn't take anyone aback to see a game like Disney Infinity that seems to have taken more than a little inspiration from Skylanders, what is unexpected is just how much it expands on that formula in an exciting way.
At their core, there is no denying the similarities between Infinity and Skylanders. Infinity is a multiplatform game scheduled for release this June on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii, and 3DS, Vita being the notable exception as even iOS will be getting a companion app that extends the game in certain ways to phones and tablets. No matter the platform, it will come with a base upon which you'll be able to place specially designed action figures that spawn the represented Disney character in the game. The base and a few characters come with the game for $75, and additional figurines will be sold separately for $13 each, according to Wired. Easy as it would be to write it off as "Disney Skylanders" because of all this, that would be unfairly reductionistic and a disservice to what Disney Interactive and developer Avalanche Software are aspiring for.
At launch, three Disney universes will be available: Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Each will have its own world, known as a "Play Set," full of levels with their own gameplay twist to be played through -- but only with characters from that property. Even though every character has been crafted in a way so as to look like they fit together, you can't take Jack Sparrow into a Disney-made Incredibles levels or anything of the sort. As the trailer suggests, however, this is not true of the entire game.
Playing through the various Play Sets unlocks content for use in Infinity's Toy Box mode, which has already drawn comparisons to games like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft. It's easy to see why, as this sandbox mode allows for levels or even games to be created from scratch. It's in Toy Box mode that any of the characters in Infinity can mingle with each other. "Who would win a race between Lightning McQueen or Dash?" asked Disney's John Pleasants at a press conference earlier today, Polygon reported. "Who would win a sword fight between Jack Sparrow and Phineas Flynn? This is the promise and magic of Disney Infinity. It's up to you to unlock the heart and soul of Disney Infinity."
Toy Box, like the Play Sets, support multiplayer. The mode will offer a lot of flexibility with what can be built. With the ability to modify the positioning of the camera, among other things, you could treat it more like LBP (examples that have been cited include a recreation of a Mario Kart track and a Donkey Kong stage) or Minecraft (one of the developers has apparently already recreated the Starship Enterprise in-game). Either way, it will be possible to share levels with friends, but, being a kid-friendly game, it won't be as easy to do as in LBP. Moderator will have to give levels their approval before others can save them, although once you've gotten the thumbs-up, your level could be featured online by Disney for others to see.
Disney's plans for Infinity are big. More characters and Play Sets (meaning new properties) will be released over time -- today's trailer showed characters from Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph, Cars, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Phineas and Ferb, and others -- and the possibilities for further expansion are nearly endless. There are the classic characters people most commonly associate with Disney, like Mickey, as well as others like Roger Rabbit, Darkwing Duck, and even those from Star Wars or Marvel. (Yes, those are being considered.) Just imagine Han Solo standing side-by-side with Indiana Jones and Deadpool as they look up at the Mario sidescroller level you've recreated, and you can begin to fathom the potential if Disney allows it to go that far.