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Disney Universe Initial Impressions

Our review copy is in, come get an idea of what the latest title from Disney is all about.

It's a beautiful thing when review copies arrive early. Unfortunately, for Disney Universe we are embargoed from releasing our review any earlier than its release day, Tuesday, October 25. However, I can talk a little bit about the game in the meantime.

Like a number of other games as of late, Disney Universe hops on the four player co-operative adventure bandwagon, allowing friends to conquer a total of six Disney worlds, each of which are themed to a specific movie or series. Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters Inc., WALL-e, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Alice in Wonderland make up the current worlds available in the game. Sometime after release, DLC will be made available that will expand the scope of the game, though it's currently unclear if that will manifest as new worlds or simply more costumes to choose from.

The game's story and premise tie together the co-op/counter-op gameplay that most four player games of this nature feature. VIC, your tour guide through this virtual Disney world, has been corrupted as have the six virtual worlds contained within the Disney universe. The once friendly members of each world are now on a mission to capture or destroy all visitors in the park. As such, you're tasked with setting things right and rescuing the various captured visitors.

VIC is a proponent of working together and accomplishing tasks, as is typically necessary for these sorts of games, whereas his corrupted alter ego encourages players to steal tokens from one another and taunt them after doing so. It's a nice and simple way to explain to the likely young audience how the game can be approached and allow the participants to decide which style of play suits their group best.

Thus far, I have only played alone, and I have only completed the 3 levels contained within the Pirates of the Caribbean world. I did manage to earn enough tokens to unlock a second universe, all of which cost 2,000 tokens. Presumably it's easier to earn more tokens in a group, but I easily accrued enough just going through the levels myself. I used the tokens to unlock the WALL-e world. Why WALL-e? Because WALL-e's awesome.

Despite unlocking this new world, it's become clear that each world in the game isn't too strongly correlated with its source material. The game takes cues from the world featured in the movie, but the end result is levels that don't always feel like they are too strongly inspired. That's not to say that the actual level designs themselves have been a problem, just that they aren't quite as themed as something like the worlds in Kingdom Hearts.

The gameplay in both worlds has thus far been just about the same. Disney Universe is something akin to the Lego line of games, though I found its objectives and gameplay to be far more varied. Essentially, you will be performing three major functions in the game: jumping, moving items, and attacking enemies. What I've enjoyed thus far is the nice even usage of all three instead of favoring one in particular and focusing too heavily upon it. After a platforming segment, it's likely that you'll have to go through an attack phase, and even before a platforming segment, you'll often have to clear a pathway or move an item to unlock a means of getting from one place to another.

Controlling your character is extremely smooth and generally speaking, the camera does a decent job of showing everything of relevance. To the game's credit, it kept the levels mostly two dimensional, progressing players left to right in most cases, though some levels do take place in a singular room that mostly only has depth rather than left and right breadth.

Before each level segment, the game treats you to a short cutscene involving the typically inept corrupted enemies. I'm not sure who produced these segments, but they have a distinct Pixar feel to them, which is absolutely welcome.

As you play along, you'll collect tokens by breaking various environmental items and destroying enemies, world-specific items that unlock character art and other goodies, as well as blue stars, which make your character level up. Instead of tying progress to a given character profile, each costume in the game can be leveled up to 4 stars from 1. It's a nice little system, and often the stars aren't very easy to come by, being restricted to the prize of a given puzzle.

Thus far I've enjoyed my time with Disney Universe, even playing the game alone. It's likely that it will be more fun when Chessa can jump in for a few levels, but it's shaping up to be a great game for kids that adults can also enjoy when playing alone. Expect our review on Tuesday, October 25 when the game hits retail outlets across North America.



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