Allright, that’s a vague title, and I apologize. It was the best way I could describe what I’m looking at. Disney announced a new line of products today, and they seem to be insanely, insanely cool. Basically, they’ve decided to take their action figure, roleplaying, and smart phone app toys and make them all work together seamlessly to make kids (and let’s be honest, us adults that will also be buying this) feel like they’re inside the world of The Avengers or Star Wars. It’s not a video game, not really. Right now, it’s in four parts:
- Roleplay toys, like the Iron Man gauntlet the kid is wearing in the picture above. This gauntlet will apparently take you on missions, guided by JARVIS, that require you to go out in the world and interact. You’ll unlock new special moves and abilities by doing so.
- Smart figures, like Captain America and “Iron Skull” (Iron Skull? I must have missed that issue). Both of these figures interact with the arm band, the app, and the power up base you can see Cap standing on in the picture. They can go on adventures with you and teach you new moves. Based on the site, they appear to be more Infinity style statues than actual action figures.
- Said power up base, which somehow connects to everything.
- A bunch of online mobile smart apps.
This could be brilliant. Or the technology might not be ready, and it could be kind of stupid. It will definitely be expensive. Here’s a take from a journalist at The Verge who got to try the thing, and it sounds awesome.
I used what is essentially the Disney Playmation starter kit, which includes the Iron Man “repulsor” arm piece, two base stations (called “power activators” in Playmation parlance), and two action figures: Captain America and the villainous Iron Skull. I slid my arm into the repulsor arm piece, tightened it down to a snug fit, then tried a few of the weapon options at my disposal. My thumb triggered a laser hit, while holding up my palm and sliding the lower half of the arm piece shot off a repulsor blast. When I say “shot off,” I mean the repulsor arm piece made an appropriate sound and slightly vibrated to make it seem like I was doing something. It was simple but surprisingly satisfying. But that’s a boring, one-off action out of context — what was fun is when you actually have to perform a mission.
Given that it’s primarily aimed at kids, Disney first demoed the product for journalists with, you know, an actual kid playing it. That mission was a battle in the jungles of Wakanda (Marvel fans, you know what that is; everybody else, it doesn’t matter). The two power activator stations served as both the source of “bad guys” and also a place where the player could perform additional activities like set explosions. The voice of JARVIS set up the mission for the player, and she walked around the demo room — decorated as a kid’s bedroom — as she “explored” the jungle. The power activators were able to track her motion through the room via IR, and when the sound alert came that villains had spotted her, she jumped behind the bed to shield herself from the attacks, and popped up to fire blasts at the bad guys, which were represented by color-changing lights on the stations.
To complete the mission, she had to take down multiple bad guys, then set an explosive at the station. The voice narrating the mission warned her to clear the blast radius — she actually had to physically leave the room to avoid taking damage — and after she’d finished the arm piece, it let her know how she’d done and that she earned a power-up (in this case, a freeze blast).
Afterwards she was able to sync up with the mobile app, which provides a secondary means of tracking progress, comparing scores with friends and downloading additional missions. But rather than being the heart of the experience, the mobile app is an add-on that seems almost superfluous — the joy seemed to be clearly in the physical play, not staring at an iPad.
Oh my god. That sounds amazing. Check out the trailer below, and keep an eye out for Playmation in stores this October. Preorders start in July.