Much like many of the other big game companies, Disney came prepared to this year's NYCC with a couple of titles that are yet to be released. Although there weren't any groundbreaking announcements, Disney did showcase two games which had been previously announced. Here is our look at Tron Evolution and Disney's Epic Mickey.
To put it simply, what Tron: Evolution aims to do is bring back classic platforming action while still incorporating some of the newer advancements which have been made over the past couple of years in terms of free flowing platforming. In this vein, the guys at Disney have incorporated many free running elements which Assassin's Creed has popularized over the past few years. So, you'll find yourself running up walls, vaulting over railings and ping-ponging between wall runs with incredible ease and fluidity. Once you get the hang of it, the gameplay really does exquisitely well and gives you a good feel of the fact that you are fluidly free-running through a well-rendered Tron Universe.
Tron: Evolution will bring the same type of smoothness to its combat system, which allows you to build your classic ranged and direct attacks into combos. Much like the movement, the combat simply feels incredibly smooth and gives you the feeling that you are in control of an acrobatic hero who takes advantage of this fact while fighting. Unfortunately there didn't really feel like there was a whole lot of depth in the combat, something which could be due to the fact that we didn't have full time to explore it.
In combat, you aren't just limited to one disk, as up to four can be equipped at any one point. These disks can be updated at various upgrade stations throughout the level. However, your combat disks aren't the only things which can be upgraded here, as you can also upgrade various skills and the durability/strength of your light cycles and tanks (unfortunately neither was playable on the show floor)
What's more, at these points you can also use these points to drop into and out of online multiplayer during your single player campaign. So, you can upgrade your character with a better light tank and then take that online against your friends to duke it out (all of your upgrades in single player carry over into online). Although multiplayer wasn't playable on the show floor, we were told that it would feature up to 10 players. Tron: Evolution was also selected as the final game for the World Cyber Games championship, which certainly bodes well for its depth.
Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of the series of Tron games which Disney is planning on releasing at the end of the year is that different consoles will be receiving very different games which tell different stories. The handheld versions of the game will tell stories which precede the Wii (a more mini-game based title) version which will in turn precede the Xbox 360/PS3 titles. The last set of titles will in turn flow directly into the planned Tron: Legacy movie, which takes place 20+ years after the original. We actually weren't allowed to watch the cutscenes for fear of spoiling the movie.
So far Tron: Evolution looks to be well on its way to putting together many of the innovations it platforming which have taken place over the past few years. If the multiplayer and light cycle battles can live up to the polish that we saw on the platforming elements, fans of the series should have something to look forward to come November.
Disney's Epic Mickey
Also playable on the show floor was a game which was premiered at this year's E3 and garnered a lot of talk: Disney's Epic Mickey. First, as a little aside before I actually get to talking about the game, a quick note about the Collectors edition of the game. Although I'm not normally the type to get all excited about the extras that special editions give you (making of DVDs and little art books were never really my thing) the bonuses that Disney is offering are pretty sweet. The controller faceplate in and of itself is nice but the Mickey figurine is awesome and probably a must have for any Disney fan.
But how does it play? The answer is, from the brief part that we saw, pretty well. As you have probably heard by now, in Warren Spector's latest creation you wield paint and paint thinner in order to alter the world around you. The beginning of our demo had Mickey running away from a robot (check out the opening sequence for the backstory on while that is the case). While avoiding the evil robot's attacks, Mickey was required to find two control panels and spin attack them in order to turn the panels off.
In so doing, Mickey controlled very well, platforming with ease across the gaps in the tutorial which were present to get you used to gameplay. The motion controls were equally responsive, as executing a spin attack (done by flicking the Wiimote) received perfect results throughout the demo, even though the build was a couple months old.
After hopping through the tutorial we got our first taste of the story telling device which Junction Point has created. In staying with the cartoony theme, there is a sort of storybook art style sort of reminiscent of Ivy The Kiwi. It's a very nice touch, as the Disney feel carries throughout the tale of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Update: if you want a little bit of background on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit check out this feature on the history of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
After a brief tutorial, Mickey finally got to play around with paint and paint thinner. In order to make use of this central game mechanic, we completed a little more platforming by climbing a bridge section with some parts missing and blocked. Using both types of world-altering material is a breeze, as they just require you to point at the screen and press B or Z respectively.
Throughout the level, we were required to bridge gaps by filling them in with paint, clear out barriers by using thinner, and even clear out entire sections of the path with thinner in order to drop an obstacle through through the hole only to fill it in with paint again to cross the . The level was quite short, but it showed a lot of potential for just how the world can potentially be manipulated. One down-side was that all that was shown was another "find gears and spin attack them to win" puzzle. We can only hope that there is more objective variety come the release come November.
In between our second and third level we also got a glimpse of the projection screens which serve as your waiting period while the game loads. Rather than just have you passively wait, the load screens take the form of an old-school 2D platformer which you must get through in order to advance to the next level. It isn't something super huge, but projection screens are a nice little addition that let you pick up some in-game currency while the next level loads while simultaneously providing a diversion.
Last up in our demo was a look at the combat system and the "PlayStyle matters" system. The combat also takes advantage of the paint and paint thinner set-up in order to defeat enemies. If you are in the mood to just rid yourself of your enemies you can use paint thinner to have them melt away forever (have to keep it relatable for the kids as well). Or, if you're in a slightly more devious mood, you can use paint to turn them to your side and have them help you in combat. Both are equally viable options, although we chose to use paint on most of our enemies in combat if only to make it easier. Much like the platforming and other elements of the game, the combat seems well executed and fits well within the theme.
Fially, although I didn't realize it at the time, the Playstyle Matters mechanic also came into play during my demo. After defeating some bad guys to open up a ticket booth I was offered a choice of two paths: move on to the next section of the game or help the character who was in the booth. In a rush to complete the demo, I jumped straight on the ferry, finishing the demo.
I was informed after doing so that this would be taken into account by the game in determining what type of hero I would become, something which alters the experiences you will encounter in the game. It isn't as revolutionary as some are making it out to be, but branching paths are always a welcome gameplay addition if only for replayability.
My time with Disney's Epic Mickey definitely showed me what all the fuss is about, as Warren Spector and Co's latest creation certainly has some neat features. We'll see how all of it plays out when the the game is released this November.