There’s something inexcusably adorable about taking a virtual child, stuffing them into a big-headed, full-body Disney costume and then tossing them off a cliff.
But I just can’t help myself.
It’s maybe after the fourth of fifth time of doing this to the nice Disney PR lady’s character in Disney Universe that I realise that maybe it’s only adorable to the person doing the tossing. Despite the annoyance of having to play with not one, but two people who enjoy this form of in-game camaraderie, she presses on, explaining to my son and I the nuances of the level we’re playing in Disney’s upcoming action adventure title.
In the game, up to four players take on the roles of a collection of children suited up in Disney costumes out to set the virtual worlds of Disney and Pixar right after a hacker breaks into a virtual-reality theme pack and causes things to go awry.
Because you’re playing an avatar wearing a Disney costume, and not as the character itself, the game developers are able to let players do things that the characters normally wouldn’t; like toss a person off a cliff.
The game is going to launch with more than 40 costumes drawn from a variety of Disney and Pixar films including Monsters Inc., Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Lilo & Stitch, Tron, Finding Nemo and The Lion King.
So far the costumes already announced for the game include Alice, Stitch, Tron, the Mad Hatter, Nemo and Pumbaa.
The game will also have six worlds to play through. So far Disney has only confirmed Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Monsters, Inc as playable settings.
Other worlds may even tap into Disney’s fabled “vault” where the company locks away properties for years or decades between rereleases to theatre and DVD. That could include looking at not just recent animated movies, but also classics and live-action films.
Disney Interactive also plans to continue to release more content for the game after launch as downloads. That will include more costumes, environments and even worlds, the Disney rep said.
Tristan and I checked out the Monsters, Inc world earlier this week during our visit to a Disney event at the Minskoff theatre in New York’s Times Square.
Played alone, I think the game might struggle to keep up with some of the better action adventure games hitting consoles, but as a cooperative game it was a blast. Playing with Tristan, we spent time alternating between helping each other battle the rogue Child Detection Agents that had taken over the world of Monsters, Inc. and trying to prevent the each other from racking up a higher score or getting key items.
It’s the game’s drop-in cooperative play for up four players, and Disney Universe‘s ability to adapt the game’s difficulty on the fly, that really helps set this game apart from other action adventure games.
That’s what makes it feel a bit like a LEGO game or LittleBigPlanet level. You can’t smash apart the world into skittering bricks, or create your own levels on the fly, but Disney Universe makes up for that by blending the colourful, imaginative worlds of Disney and Pixar into one game. It’s a first for a Disney title.
While Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix’s Disney-themed role-playing game, allows gamers to venture across a Disney multiverse, it still contained those worlds, typically not allowing characters to cross into each other’s lands.
In Disney Universe you won’t have to swap costumes when you travel from world to world. So, for instance, you can wear the Pumbaa and the Mad Hatter costumes in the Monster, Inc world.
The costumes themselves are each lovingly crafted adaptations of the characters, each designed with matching “tools” (Disney doesn’t like to call them weapons). The Mad Hatter has a mushroom to beat down attacking enemies, Pumbaa has his tail. From behind, those costumes look like slightly floppy versions of the characters, but when a character turns around you can see the avatar’s face peeking out from under a costume’s chin or inside it’s open mouth.
The game also features positive and negative power-ups which can temporarily turn your character into things like a damage dealing whirling dervish or a slow-moving, floppy old shoe.
Our time in the world of Monsters, Inc had us dodging flying doors, fighting off Child Detection Agents and riding donkeys across shifting paths of doors.
Disney says that developers Eurocom (makers of Dead Space: Extraction and Goldeneye 007 for the Wii among others) worked very closely with Disney and Pixar in creating the costumes, levels and worlds.
Due out this Australian spring on the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360, it will take about 10 to 12 hours to play through, we were told.
While Tristan enjoyed his time playing the game, he said it wasn’t quite as much fun as Phineas and Ferb and certainly didn’t live up to Toy Story 3, the game that was among his favourite last year.
Disney Universe may not have the ability to create your own worlds and adventures, something that Toy Story 3‘s toy box mode touched on, but it’s creative costumes and cooperative mayhem make it worth checking out when it hits later this year.