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Comic-Con Today's Date:

Comic-Con 2013:
Disney Infinity ROCKS

Mingling and waiting for sketches..

If you've been a podcast listener, you know that my prediction for greatest product of 2013 would be Disney Infinity, a game that is almost near unto a game system in itself. (Okay, if not greatest product, at least the thing I looked forward to most in 2013 -- even before they officially announced and named it.)

My fingers were crossed that Disney would do something at Comic-Con, at least putting demo stations up somewhere on the floor. Except Disney doesn't really have a booth here, because in just a few weeks, they have their own huge Expo: D23.

So their solution is better -- and it's open to the public, not just convention attendees. They have taken over a downtown storefront (as many studios and companies do during Comic-Con) and created a pop-up gallery, loaded with playing stations for Disney Infinity on a variety of platforms. They can be found for the next couple of days at 343 4th Avenue.

Nowhere near San Diego? It's coming to several cities across the country, ending at Times Square on the official game release date of August 18th.

Last night was open just to members of D23, the company's official fan club. But we were invited to take a look at the game along with those D23ers, and I can only say that yes, Disney Infinity is everything I thought it would be and more.

Bringing law to the Old West...

Game Play
Most of what I saw in action was from the newly-announced Lone Ranger set. Place the figure (or figures, if you've got a friend with you) on the Infinity portal -- Disney has a different name for it but nobody reminded me aloud -- and put your "play set" disc in as well. There are missions and character interactions, with a storyline to play through, as well as ultimately free play in the environment.

The starter pack will be pre-loaded with three "play sets" -- Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters University and The Incredibles, as well as the appropriate figure for each environment. Keep "play sets" in quotation marks because what they really are are entire games. If Infinity takes hold -- and really, it will -- it is an all-in-one product: movie tie-in game and action figures (or figurines) together.

My prediction is before Christmastime, we're going to see a set for Frozen, and something set in the Marvel Universe. I'd rather Thor: The Dark World playable on Disney Infinity than go through a separate super-expensive game. We're also going to see Star Wars coming in, and then you're going to have the ultimate mash-ups -- just like kids do with their toys anyway. But I'll get to that in a couple of paragraphs.

Once the Starter Pack is released, Disney also plans to have the separate Lone Ranger and Cars sets available at a suggested retail of $34.99 -- which again, let's face it, is cheaper than the usual cost of a game running near $59.99, plus you get two action figures.

Punt Punt!

Toy Box
I'll admit it. I got it, but I didn't get it. Then I saw it.

This is where Disney Infinity is going to explode. Within each individual sets, players can unlock items and environmental pieces that store in the Toy Box. Plus you can buy Power Discs which add to these resources.

And these discs are stackable -- you can put up to three AND a figure on an appropriate interface in the portal device, which can either power up your character or just trick him or her out with some cool accessories.

Back to the Toy Box -- essentially, anything can happen. Players can manipulate the environment to create games within the game. At this point, probably somewhat simplistically, but I'll admit I could be thinking small.

For example, my Infinity rep John had put a stadium in his environment, and thanks to the game's cross-branding with ESPN, a variety of sports equipment is available. So Mr. Incredible set up a goal post, created a crowd (and programmed their level of excitement), then practiced drop-kicking a ball between the posts.

Bring a friend, and you've got a ball game.

Slide! Slide!

He then demonstrated a giant water-slide he had built -- and I immediately recognized that my own children had had a similar educational toy in real life. Only now we wouldn't have those big plastic pieces around, and instead of dropping a marble, you can drop a character and have him zoom through the tubes' twists and turns -- a rudimentary physics lesson. Yes, though Disney isn't touting it yet, we're just beginning to see the educational possibilities of this system.

(John Lasseter does recognize and stress his excitement over creativity, especially in Toy Box mode. And of course he's right. But if it could be aimed right at non-gaming audiences and educators, perhaps that word creativity could get more strongly injected into education. But that's a different soapbox I pull out a lot.)

Potentially, a player could build their own Disneyland replica, or better yet, make their own improvements on the place.The game has a variety of buildings and objects to personalize your environment, though (at this point), they are not terribly explorable.

What I mean is that if you plunk Cinderella's Castle down in your environment, you can climb all around it, and a courtyard is accessible, but it has no interior environment. Ditto with the Haunted Mansion and Uncle Scrooge's Moneybin, my second favorite building in the Toy Box.

Good Morning, America!

My favorite? The cross-branding throughout the Disney company is hilarious -- you could put Mr. Incredible and Captain Jack or whoever on the set of Good Morning, America.. So when the game is going that far -- ESPN and ABC crossovers -- you know we'll get Marvel and Star Wars sooner than later.

Then what do you do with everything you've built?

The Cloud
Whatever you set up becomes uploadable and playable by others, regardless of platform. Disney Infinity crosses over and uses the individual game platforms merely as starting points. Kids can build obstacle courses and challenge each other, and they're not stymied by, say, Luke having a Wii and Zack having a PS3. Or even a PC.

The Figures
The obvious comparison has to be Activision's Skylanders franchise, and Disney Infinity does have some similarities then raises the bar. Figures not only remember what powers and abilities they have gained in play, but they also serve as their own save points. So... start in a play set game, take your figure and go over to a friend's house? The figure remembers the game, so you don't start over from system to system.

(I predict this will also make an easier transition up to PS4 and X-Box One when the time comes, but nobody mentioned these platforms last night.)

Suitable for desktops and bookshelves.....

Disney gets it. This isn't just a game. There are going to be people who just like the look of the figures and will drop $12.99 for one or two or twenty. So their game storage system is both functional and able to show off what you have.

Characters can be put into carrying cases, which is great for kids lugging them to play at a friend's house. But they also have hexagonal clear plastic cases, just like for action figures, which are stackable.

Discs can be put in a discreet but colorful album, or in their place in one of the aformentioned carrying cases.

But don't let these just sit on the shelf, though they could and they'd be great to look at from time to time. Play them. Have fun.

I can hardly wait.

The Lone Ranger in play....

Seems more like Orlando than Anaheim's....

Play possibilities....

I want to swim inside.

He's GOT to be coming....

I love the detail fo the flamingo....

They're about to be derezzed by a punky little eyeball....

The Lone Ranger in play....

Silver would never allow this to happen.....

Derek McCaw



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