In the Disney Universe - not the metaphorical ether connecting each of Walt's films, but an actual tangible landscape - players can don one of 40 iconic character costumes - such as Tron, Alice, and Lilo - and jaunt about hybrid game worlds as their favourite Disney heroes. Mum says it's just magical.
While the title might have connotations of the massively-multiplayer, Disney Universe is just for four players; and it's a game Disney is targeting at families, primarily. To that end, online play won't be supported, making Disney Universe a local-only affair. Iain Riches, senior producer at developer Eurocom said "off-screen interaction is just as important as on-screen" as justification for the lack of online play. For better or worse, this is a game designed around the living room.
Donning the green suit of Monsters, Inc's Mike, I tried my hand at the 360 version of the game (the game is also releasing on PlayStation 3 and PC). The influences of Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet are immediately apparent. While each player has one 'character', a host of suits allow them to be dressed up as any Disney hero they wish - providing the game's wardrobe has it.
With a Disney trio trotting along beside me, I explored a virtual Wonderland - not the 1951 animated classic, but Tim Burton's dark and twisted 2010 remake. Disney Universe weaves together worlds of not just the oldies, but the reboots and Pixar offerings alike. Only Wonderland and Monstropolis - the setting for Pixar's Monsters, Inc - were revealed in the presentation, but Disney definitely has no shortage of environments to choose from.
The fundamentals of gameplay are built around three buttons; jump, attack and interact. Within this simple framework are elements of platforming, combat and puzzle, nurturing both co-operative and competitive play. Wonderland was mostly formed from puzzles, requiring the four of us to work to together towards a common goal. Of course you could choose to obstruct that goal; pressing the Y button near a friend will yank them from the ground, where you can spin them around and throw them out the level. As long as it's not being done to you, it's hugely entertaining.
Monstropolis shifted the focus from problem solving to platforming and combat, inciting competition in the process. Kill more enemies, collect more coins and die less than your comrades, and the game will recognise your skills. At the end of each level, a podium screen breaks down your performance, offering bragging rights to whoever 'won'.
Riches was tight-lipped on what to expect from other IPs. There's a wealth of environments to choose from, and Disney has said that DLC will play a big role in covering it all. Presumably the DLC model will also cover additional suits, but Riches wouldn't elaborate on this. With only four suits and two worlds shown, there's still a lot left to learn about Disney Universe.
A release date has yet to be settled on, but it'll be out this autumn in time for Christmas.