For months now, there have been rumors that Disney is developing its own hybrid toy and game franchise, very much in the vein of Activision’s enormously successful Skylanders. For once, the rumors are true. Revealed at an event in Hollywood just this morning, Disney Infinity is that game. Like Skylanders, Infinity makes use of physical action figures that are “transported” into the game world via an NFC platform – but there is much more to it than that.

Drawing inspiration from sources like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft, Disney Infinity offers both crafted gameplay experiences and the opportunity for players to create their own scenarios and worlds. Disney Interactive calls Infinity its “most ambitious gaming initiative ever,” and by all appearances, the description is apt.

Disney Infinity’s technology may be similar to Skylanders (read our Skylanders Giants review), but its gameplay is another matter entirely. For starters, there are distinct modes of play, dubbed Play Set and Toy Box. Play Sets are story-driven experience, each tied to a specific Disney/Pixar property. At launch this June, three Play Sets will be available: The Incredibles, Monsters University (convenient, considering that the movie hits theaters on June 21st), and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Just as characters are imported into the game using the Infinity Base (Infinity’s version of Skylanders’ Portal of Power), so too are Play Sets, each stored on a hexagonal, transparent Play Set Piece.

Play Sets are character specific (Disney likes to say “true to property”), meaning, for example, that only Monsters University characters can be used in the Monsters University Play Set. The sets also promise to offer unique gameplay experiences. In Monsters University, Sulley and Mike are tasked with frightening the students at a rival school. On the other hand, Pirates of the Caribbean (which, thankfully, eschews any elements from On Stranger Tides) focuses on exploring the high seas and ship to ship battles, while The Incredibles is something of an open-world beat-em-up.

Disney Infinity is all about creativity (during the Hollywood event, Disney/Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, called it “one of the most creative things in the interactive world that I’ve ever seen”) and though that element really comes to the fore in Toy Box (more on that in a minute), Play Sets offer ample opportunity for players to exercise their imaginations.

The layout of the University in the Monsters Set is entirely up to the player. The same is true of Captain Jack’s ship in the Pirates Set; everything can be customized to the player’s specifications, right down to each individual crew member. Two players can adventure though a Play Set together. Along they way, they’ll unlock a load of loot, including new characters, vehicles, upgrades and gadgets, all of which are saved to a virtual toy collection and can then be taken back and used in Disney Infinity’s Toy Box.

Again, think Minecraft. Think LittleBigPlanet. Infinity’s Toy Box lets players use any combination of Disney/Pixar characters they’d like, with absolutely no restrictions. The whole world of the Toy Box is a virtual canvas that can be built into whatever the player wants it to be, and a simple logic editor allows the creation of user-designed games (a Donkey Kong clone was shown, along with an impressive recreation of the Bowser’s Castle track from Mario Kart).

During the event, a few pics were shown of giant structures (an electric guitar, the starship Enterprise) created in Toy Box by Infinity’s developers. Up to four players, online or off, can play together in the Toy Box, and levels can be uploaded to Disney (which will moderate them) and shared with the game’s community.

Disney Infinity will launch with a Starter Set ($74.99) that includes three figures (Mr. Incredible, Sulley, and Jack Sparrow) and the Infinity Platform (presumably, at least one Play Set will be in the box, too). Three Play Set Packs ($34.99) will be available, as will seventeen figures ($12.99 each, or a 3-pack for $29.99) and twenty Power Discs ($4.99 a pack) which use the Infinity Portal to unlock powers, customizations and gadgets for the game’s characters.

Disney Infinity Characters

It’s easy to be excited about Disney Infinity. The game comes from Avalanche Software, the same development house responsible for the excellent Cars 2: The Video Game (read our review) and Toy Story 3: The Video Game – in fact, Infinity started out as a sequel to Toy Story 3. The potential for user-generated content alone makes Infinity worth watching, but the novel way that new Play Sets and characters can be added means that Disney could theoretically keep the game fresh for years.

Needless to say, some eager fans are already calling for Disney to incorporate Marvel and Star Wars characters and Play Sets into Infinity. Nothing like that has been revealed so far, though we have seen characters and environments from Cars, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Phineas & Ferb – and there are sure to be many, many more added over time.

What do you think, Ranters? Does Disney Infinity earn a spot on your “Games to Watch” list? What Disney characters/properties would you like to see added to the game? Let us know in the comments below.

Disney Infinity releases in June, 2013, for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, and Wii, with mobile versions to follow.

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