That's not to say this four-player platforming adventure plays exactly like Media Molecule's 'Play Create Share' adventure, but tonally it's extremely similar.
Playing as one of four costumed blue-squibs — we were totally Alice from the Wonderland series — Disney Universe is clearly designed with family entertainment in mind. And in that regard it funnels more inspiration from Traveller's Tales brilliant LEGO adventures than LittleBigPlanet. The controls are simple, and the visuals are wrapped in an uber-cutesy exterior that, as the name rather obviously suggests, draws on themes from Disney's vastly popular variety of intellectual property.
We got to check out an Alice In Wonderland stage, but Disney representatives told us to expect Tron, Monsters Inc and Lilo & Stitch stages in the final game. We assume Mickey Mouse, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Lion King and Toy Story stages are possible too — but with such a rich library to draw from it's really tough to predict.
The gameplay itself is simple but demands team-work and communication. In the Alice In Wonderland stage we tested, reversing time became a huge factor of the gameplay. This could be completed by grabbing a stop-watch and dropping it onto various indicated platforms around the game-world. The Mad Hatter's famous top hat could also be dragged around the environment, providing a make-shift bounce pad for hard-to-reach areas around the level.
As we played around with the jump and time puzzles, we were constantly being threatened by various themed foes out to hinder our progress. These could be attacked using a one button combat mechanic that seemed simple but satisfying enough. Apparently the game is able to dynamically adjust its difficulty level, making the experience as easy or as challenging as necessary — which is a neat touch for a family focused game like this.
As we plundered through the game-world, we happened upon a giant spoon and a set of sugar lumps. Using co-operative play we worked with our partners to place the sugar lumps on the spoon and flick them into a set of tea-cups ahead, clearing a path.
Much of the gameplay we experienced was derived very much from the "ah-ha" school of design. Obvious solutions nearly always required additional thought, but the puzzles were never overly complicated. This is partly thanks to some great camera design, which helped guide the experience without slapping a great big beaming arrow on the screen.
The game looks great too. While the Alice In Wonderland stage we tested had a fittingly dark look to it, other stages we observed were much more vibrant and potent. There's a definite consistency to the game's art-style in spite of the various disparate franchises on hand.
Disney's promising that the game's variety of unlocks, worlds, stages and levels will offer more than enough content to keep families occupied across the upcoming holidays. Whether or not the formula is able to stay fresh throughout an entire campaign remains questionable, but at the very least we're looking forward to the initial thrill of exploring each of the game's unique worlds.
Disney Universe is set to release on October 25th in North America and October 28th in Europe.