Go Big or Go Home
Disney certainly went big at E3 this year with their own private Disney Infinity press event the Sunday before the show and a fair chunk of real estate in the South Hall at the L.A. Convention Center. It had clean, white furnishings, eighty-foot long LCD screens, and massive set pieces from their upcoming game, such as Cinderella’s carriage, which required a hydraulic lift for anybody wanting a photo op. It was like a beacon of light amongst the loud and dark booths of Ubisoft, EA, and Activision. With a three hour-long line just to get a customized Infinity t-shirt, Disney certainly found a way to draw some attention away from the next-gen hype.
I went into E3 fully informed on Disney’s upcoming figurine-based title, or so I thought. After an exclusive showcase with many different representatives, plenty of new details about the game were revealed, as well as one major issue that could corrupt the entire experience. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
I first had a chance to get a close look at the Lone Ranger and Cars Play Sets, yet although there are similar features such as an open-world environment, quests, and collectibles between them, I was impressed at how different each universe plays. In the Lone Ranger Play Set, the hero of your choice (Lone Ranger or Tonto) is placed in a Old Western town, complete with a saloon, bank, ranch, hotel, and other period pieces. You’ll spend plenty of time repelling bandits who are bent on destroying the town. Buildings can get burned down, in which case you will have to spend resources to rebuild them. Of course, this is a family-friendly game, so the Lone Ranger holsters a cork pop gun, and enemies simply break apart like an action figure when dispatched. There’s no blood. There are various horses and other mounts to unlock, but the best way to travel is via the steam train, a customizable vehicle where you can add various resource cars and even a flat bed with a chain gun (a cork pop chain gun, of course). The cars can also be skinned with all sorts of wacky designs once you’ve unlocked them. Sprawled across the barren wasteland are red and green capsules. The red capsules are specific customizations to the Play Set, and once collected, are available to purchase with the silver you collect while playing. You can then create your own Western backdrop and go to town on, well, your town. The green capsules unlock parts for the Toy Box, which add Play Set-specific toys to the sandbox mode for you to manipulate.
Unlike the action-packed Lone Ranger Play Set, the Radiator Springs setting for the Cars Play Set is all about speed. With open plains, dirt tracks, and canyons to scale, you’ll never want to take your foot off the gas, unless you want to stop and watch some cow tipping–I mean tractor tipping. Even the buildings can transform into ramps and other stunt-creating structures. Going through the Cars Play Set with the Disney representative, I was also introduced to some new features. Beyond the main and side quests, each Play Set also has challenges to test your skill, marked by blue beacons for you to spot from a distance. These challenges have three different difficulty levels, where succeeding in the easy task unlocks the next one on the scale. Gold Star Missions are the real hardcore challenges, and they reward you with an accomplishment banner blazoned on your profile screen. Also, there are treasure chests scattered around the world, but you must possess the figurine that matches the avatar disc on the chest in order to plunder its prizes. The loot in these chests are character-specific customization unlocks as well as Toy Box tools. Finally, there are Disney Vaults that require every character from the Play Set to be unlocked before it spills its treasures. Yes completionists, this is going to get expensive.
Though the Play Set demonstrations won me over with robust gameplay options, the Toy Box station is where I left a little concerned. The poor attendant tried to show off some features, but she was clearly not familiar with the tools. She tried to create a stadium and soccer match (though I wanted to create a trampoline mini-game where you fire weapons through hoops at various heights), but she was having difficulty scrolling through the tool wheel. The linkable toys, called Creativi, have limited options, and some of the results didn’t even match the input. She even had trouble highlighting objects. Now, I have no doubt some incredible obstacle courses, mini-games, and mile-high towers will be created, but if the interface is that finicky in this near-finished game build, there will be a lot of frustrated kids with wild ideas but lacking control skills. Hopefully, when I get my hands on the game for the review, I can quell this worrisome impression I was left with.