HANDS-ON: Bendis Takes a Key Role in "Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes"

Tue, June 17th, 2014 at 10:28am PDT

Video Games
Mike Rougeau, Contributing Writer
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Disney's E3 booth for "Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes"

It was no surprise when Disney announced at E3 2014 that Spider-Man would star in his own "play set" in the upcoming "Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes." After all, Spidey appeared briefly during the sequel's April announcement in Hollywood, a tease that would have been difficult to misinterpret.

The "Spider-Man Play Set" includes Spider-Man and Nova figurines and playable characters, plus a storyline and missions that see the heroes fighting hordes of Venom clones created by Green Goblin and Mysterio. Playable Nick Fury, Iron Fist and Venom figurines will be sold separately, while Doc Ock, Black Cat, White Tiger and Luke Cage appear in the story in non-playable forms.

Marvel Hopes for Mass Appeal with "Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes"

In this sequel to "Disney Infinity," Marvel heroes and others fight side-by-side with characters like Merida, from the movie "Brave," and Maleficent, Disney characters announced for "Disney Infinity 2.0" at E3. But despite all the care the writers at developer Avalanche Games might take, the potential for missteps and mishandling with these beloved Marvel characters is off the charts. Recognizing that this a real possibility, the developer brought in famed Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendisto pen the "Spider-Man Play Set" story. More than that, every bit of writing for the game goes through him for approval first, Disney Interactive's Matt Solie told CBR at E3.

"It was really, really important to us that we had a very high level of commitment to their brands, to support them and make them great," Solie, the game's producer, said. "That's why we're so sensitive and we try to make sure 'Let's get Bendis in here to take a look at this.' And literally, everything he's taken a look at, he's given the thumbs-up on."

When "Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes" arrives on Sept. 23 for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, PS Vita, Wii U and iOS, players of all ages will experience Marvel and Disney characters colliding in virtual playgrounds of their own making. Among them will be Solie, it seems, who's such a big fan he could barely keep it together when Bendis became involved.

"I wasn't allowed in the room because I sort of geeked out a little bit. I guess I'm allowed; I've been reading comics since I was five," he said. "I wake up every morning going, 'Holy cow, we actually did this.'"

The "Spider-Man Play Set" was playable at E3, and Spidey controls fluidly. It's easy for him to gain altitude, and he bundles enemies in webbing and throws cars around with ease. He also arcs through the sky and between buildings regardless of whether there's anything above him for his webs to cling to, because the play set is based largely on the "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon series, which tends to disregard physics in favor of fun. Solie, who's also worked on several other Spider-Man video games, said this approach is much better for kids, "Disney Infinity's" target audience.

"I had my nephews, who are eight and five, try 'Amazing Spider-Man 2,' which is the epitome of physics-based, buildings attached -- [it's] not really fun for them. They didn't understand, 'Why can't I swing?'" Solie said. "It just made sense for a kids and family game."

Besides the characters announced at E3, "Disney Infinity 2.0" will also feature Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man and the entire modern Guardians of the Galaxy crew -- Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket Raccoon. The reason all these Marvel characters fit with Disney favorites, ranging from Jack Sparrow to Buzz Lightyear, is that the game actually stars the toy versions of the characters, an approach which allows Avalanche and Disney to take a lot of liberties, such as making them all roughly the same size. In fact, that's how they got the entire Infinity game approved in the first place.

"It was pitched as a Pixar match-up game, and [Pixar Chief Creative Officer] John Lasseter was like, 'Nope, makes no sense.' Buzz Lightyear's 6 inches tall, and ['Monsters, Inc.' character] Sulley's eight feet tall," Solie said. But Lasseter was sold when Avalanche came back with the idea to make it about toys based on the characters instead of the characters themselves. "John Lasseter has two great loves: hawaiian shirts, and toys," Solie said. "He loved the toys so much, he became sort of like our first big executive outside the company, and was like, 'We need to make this game.'"

That the playable characters are represented by real -- and really purchasable -- figurines was the stroke of genius that got the game approved, but Solie said it's the potential for outside-the-box play that keeps both kids and adults interested (and spending money). In addition to the scripted play sets, creative players can craft their own environments and missions in the game's "Toy Box" mode.

"Remember when you were sitting in your living room as a kid, and you would play with toys? For instance, Optimus Prime and Duke from G.I. Joe would raid Barbie's Dream Mansion," Solie asked. "That was what's sort of cool and fun about ['Infinity'], is we can open up that child's imagination and mind, and that's how we can get it all to work."

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