Kids games rarely tend to receive favorable reviews among hardcore gamers due to their simplistic nature. It isn’t very often that a game meant for younger children also manages to capture and hold the interest of older gamers. With the announcement of Disney Universe, Disney Interactive is aiming to create a gaming experience that will not only capture the imagination of the younger audience, but will still be a game that older gamers can enjoy playing with them.
Developed by Disney Interactive, Disney Universe allows gamers to take the role of their favorite Disney characters as they battle their way through an adventure spanning six different worlds drawn from Disney and Disney Pixar films. At this point though, the developers have yet to give any insight into the game’s story. The game make use of 4-player co-op to ensure that the whole family gets involved, and gamers will be able to play as one of over 40 different iconic Disney characters from Stitch to Alice, or TRON to Nemo.
This alone will be one of the main draws for most children. While many games present familiar faces to entice younger gamers, few companies have as many iconic cartoon characters as Disney. Since the player will be able to suit up their character as any one of these many Disney icons, there will no doubt be characters that will appeal to all generations of Disney fans.
This character choice is only a cosmetic one though, as all characters control the same and have the same abilities as each other. The only difference between them is that the weapons that they wield differ from character to character. Still, it would have been great to see individual characters possessing skills which are unique to their physical or personality traits, like Mike having the ability to jump higher than normal, or Stitch being able to climb walls.
Having all of the characters behave in the same manner ensures that the game is streamlined so that younger players can get into the game as quickly as possible with little to no hassle. While the aforementioned feature would work well in a game aimed at an older audience, taking the time to make a children’s game that is as accessible as possible to younger gamers while still remaining fun for an older audience requires certain compromises to be made.
In terms of gameplay, Disney Universe handles very much like the popular LEGO games. It seems to be slightly more linear than the LEGO series though, not having as many branching paths. Since Disney Universe is aimed primarily at a younger audience, guidance is an important feature that will enable younger gamers to progress through the game while still having branching paths that will allow more adventurous gamers to explore occasionally.
Like any other platforming beat-’em-up, Disney Universe tasks you with making your way to the end of the level while fighting off any enemies that may stand in your way. As expected from a game of this type, there are switches around the world that have all manner of uses, and light puzzle elements standing in the way of the character’s progress.
Also making an appearance are power-ups which can be obtained for completing certain level segments, or for finding mini-games hidden throughout each level and completing them. Each power-up will level up your character’s weapon, also changing its appearance. This is definitely a good idea that will add a frantic pace to the gameplay as players rush to be the one to pick up the item.
While the gameplay may not be the most advanced, it still manages to be incredibly fun when mixed with the game’s colorful cast and vibrant locales. Disney Universe’s simplistic, back-to-basics nature only enhances the game’s charm. Everything about the game fits in with the cartoony presentation perfectly, whether it’s the floaty jump physics, the button mashing to execute combos, or collecting Mickey Mouse coins from defeated enemies. It’s something that even older gamers can appreciate.
As a game that is aimed at a younger audience, it’s refreshing to Disney Universe’s developers attempting to create an experience that even older gamers will be able to enjoy. By striking a healthy balance between the simplicity needed to make it accessible to younger gamers and the familiar fun that will keep the older audience interested, Disney Universe shows that a single game experience can still be enjoyed by multiple different demographics. It may not be the type of game that hardcore gamers will flock to, but Disney Universe’s undeniable charm is something that children will no doubt love.
Do you think that Disney Universe will be well-received by younger gamers? Will older gamers also be able to find some entertainment in this title?
Disney Universe is set to hit shelves in the Fall of 2011 for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, and Mac.
Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.