When Disney Infinity was first introduced a few months back, it created a new business model for Disney Interactive. The game allows players to pick and choose which characters and worlds they can play around with, while still having hours' worth of content to explore and create (via the included Toy Box feature). We recently saw the first of many upcoming expansions for it, one that introduces Pixar's racing comedy Cars to the fold.
Sold separately from the main game, the playset is activated using a crystallized Piston Cup figurine placed on one of the three interactive portals that come with the game. The other two can be filled in by one of four characters from the Cars film, including Lightning McQueen, the clumsy yet good-hearted Mater, the suave and speedy Holley Shiftwell and the F1 rival Francesco Bernoulli. Any of these characters can race around a virtually recreated Radiator Springs, which resembles the location straight from the film, right down to the rock formations in the distance.
But Disney Infinity isn't just about show. The developers at Avalanche have packed this particular racing world with a number of challenges. There are various racing events happening around the city and the goal is to compete and take first place in all of them. Eventually get to the "final opponent" that has taken over the city – the main rival from the original movie, Chick Hicks. We were shown a couple of these events and what they lack in variety is more than make up for with racing fun.
These events reminded us of the 2011 game release Cars 2, which consisted of several competitive events featuring weapons and stunts that you could perform through each lap. Whether you're racing along a rock wall and flipping in mid-air (sort of the same way that Tony Hawk would on a skateboard) or shooting a playful rocket at an opponent and taking over the lead, this racing action is lots of fun and should certainly please players of all ages. The game won't feature any sort of online racing component (Disney Infinity is off-line only), but there's a good chance you'll be able to play with two cars at once locally.
Racing is just part of the picture. Radiator Springs is ripe for exploration and you can chat with characters and pick up a number of extra missions throughout the city, which help you unlock virtual goods in the Toy Box. You can also "tow" cars around the city, hitching up with random cars around the road and even flinging them if you happen to be in a punishing mood. (There's no penalty, except for the potential one on your conscience.)
The demo wasn't hands-on, but it looks like Avalanche has adapted a friendly play style with this Disney Infinity world, one players can get into without any difficulty. What's more, the Piston Cup figurine opens up a great new world in the Toy Box, letting you build your own racing circuit from a plethora of materials.
It's not just from the Cars world either. You can recreate a track that has a Cars-like vibe to it and then place bits and pieces from other Disney games, like Scrooge McDuck's money vault from DuckTales in the distance. But with the help of power discs sold separately from the game, you can change the motif almost entirely. To prove this point, our rep put down a Tron-like skin disc beneath the Piston Cup, which enabled him to turn the world from a familiar Disney designed universe to a neon lit one with glowing roads and other little Tron details. These discs can also give you an incentive boost, depending on which character you're using at the time.
Many more "worlds" will be introduced over the next few months with Disney Infinity, but the Cars one really showed just how devoted Avalanche Software is to the design of each movie-based world. With all the goods you'll be able to unlock for your own use in Toy Box, where you can mix and match however you please to create some fantastic effects, it really adds to the replay value. But even if you're just coasting around Radiator Springs and goofing off in races, you'll have a good time with it. Who knows, you might even find the opportunity to have Lightning take on Sully in an, ahem, "Monster" truck rally. (Get it?)
Disney Infinity will be released this August for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.