Disney Universe is set to be one of the biggest gaming titles we'll see from Disney this year, and represents the first time multiple Disney properties, including the Pixar films, have been brought together in one game. I got a sneak peek at an early version of Disney Universe, and what I saw has me hopeful this will be a game that appeals to all ages, like Disney's classic films. The gameplay in Disney Universe most closely resembles that of Traveller's Tales' LEGO games or even LittleBigPlanet, with a few notable additions. Up to four players can don costumes of their favorite Disney characters and battle to save the virtual world of Disney Universe. Platforming, puzzles, and collecting are all here, but the most interesting thing I saw was the enemies. There's one thing all Disney villains have in common: cleverness. Though they're bested in the end, Disney bad guys always manage to toss the hero a few twists and turns. In Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent tricks Princess Aurora into touching a spindle; in the Little Mermaid, Ursula manipulates Ariel, convincing her to give up her voice in exchange for legs to walk on land; in Monsters Inc., Randall convinces Mike he wants to help Boo, but really schemes to kidnap her. Video game enemies rarely have the ability to trick us, but Disney is hoping to bring some of the mischievous qualities of its film villains into the enemies in Disney Universe.
They look like your standard cartoony bad guys, and they run up and attack you just like you'd expect, but they also try to make your life difficult in a number of other ways. These enemies actively build obstacles and set traps throughout the levels as you're playing. They'll track down items you need and attempt to hide them or destroy them. During my demo I saw one enemy break off from a larger pack to lay down a row of spikes in a tricky platforming area set amongst racing groups of doors from Monsters Inc. But you've got plenty of tools in your arsenal to mess with them as well. Each costume you wear has a different main weapon that can be leveled up as you accomplish certain goals. You can also grab weapons from enemies, and pick up the enemies themselves and throw them off ledges or swing them around. In the Alice in Wonderland-themed level that I saw, the enemies were equipped with the flamingos that were used to play croquet in the film. It was fun to grab the flamingo and fling the enemy back and forth as he attempted to hang onto it. Monsters Inc. and Alice in Wonderland were the only two settings I saw in my demo, but Disney Universe is set to launch with levels from six different properties, and more will be released via DLC afterward. Disney is approaching this game as ongoing world, making the DLC feel less like an add-on and more like an extension of the original retail release. Costumes in the game will include the aforementioned properties as well as Tron, Lilo & Stitch, and others Disney hasn't chosen to disclose yet.
Disney Universe is set to hit Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PC later this year.