When we first came across the announcement of Disney’s new interactive, imagination focused toyline Playmation, we were over the moon. The potential of a toyline that combines roleplaying toys, action figures, and the latest in tech to make you feel like a superhero, or a Jedi Knight, was too good to be true. In fact, I said just that in my early impressions – it sounded awesome, but it would only be cool if it actually worked. This past weekend, we were invited to a local Disney Store and got our hands on the actual product. So what is Playmation, and does it work the way we all hoped? You can see our whole demo right here, and then read on for a full report.
The two Avengers Agents there that day explained that the threats against the Earth had become to numerous, and Iron Man and the other Avengers had concocted a desperate plan: They would use the technology at their disposal to deputize willing and able Agents from around the world to fight Ultron, and other threats against the world, on the Avengers’ behalf. We were sworn into service immediately, and given a welcome message from J.A.R.V.I.S.
J.A.R.V.I.S. is the player’s connection to the Avengers throughout this introduction, and most likely the narrator for the main game. Even though he’s currently (spoilers) dead/turned into The Vision. I don’t think that’ll be explained, but I also don’t think this particular product was designed with continuity hounds in mind.
The mysterious boxes were opened, and we newly deputized Agents were handed a prototype Iron Man gauntlet. The device slipped comfortably over even our adult arms, so Disney clearly knows that all of you thirty year olds are going to be buying this, too. The lead agents talked us through the functions of the gauntlet. The thumb trigger fired a basic laser, which you could aim with using a (very, very low power) laser sight that emanates from the front of the gauntlet. We were in a very dark room and I still had trouble seeing where I was aiming – I imagine on a sunny day it’ll be impossible. Of course, Disney couldn’t put anything more powerful in there, as then kids would use it to blind their little sisters. Holding down a triangle shaped button on the top of the gauntlet loads a missle, which is released when you let go. The bottom half of the gauntlet cocks like a shotgun to unleash a full on repulsor beam. Raising our hand to cover our face, you-can’t-see-me style, pulled up a repulsor shield.
Each of these attacks came with a rumble and a sound effect – it’s hard to describe without actually touching the gauntlet yourself, but each attack really felt real. You got the sense that there was a real piece of Iron Man tech on your hand, which is a fantastic bit of immersion.
As soon as we were briefed on how to use our new weapons, Ultron cut into the J.A.R.V.I.S.’s transmission, taunting the Avengers for using such obviously poor recruits. He was attacking the city with an army of drones, and no one, not even the Avengers could stop him! Muahahahaha- oh, sorry. The Lead Agents pulled another new device from the Avengers Lab case – a Power Activator. It’s a small, triangular base with a receiver for your laser and a glowing, multicolor panel on top.
When we reached the mission zone (another part of the Disney Store), we had to sync up our gauntlets to do a mission together. This was a bit of a process – the laser aiming system from each gauntlet had to be pointed at a receiver on the other gauntlet, while a new button on top was being held down. It took us a good few minutes to get it all aimed correctly, so I imagine kids will need a bit of adult help to get this part done. That might hamper playtime a bit, but the kids will forget all about it with what comes next.
J.A.R.V.I.S. spoke through my wife’s gauntlet, telling her that Ultron would attack us in three waves. We would have to follow the pattern of attacks to defeat each wave, and he would be there to walk us through it. But first, her gauntlet broadcast a news report of what was going on in the area – this was a great little bit of immersion, with really good voice acting for a toy. The reporter’s obvious concern made the whole thing a little more real.
Playmation is a toy that Disney says is designed to help you create new worlds in your head – it wants to supplement your imagination, not replace it. The battle we fought against Ultron’s robots was a big example of that. The fight was fairly simple-when the light on the Power Activator was purple, it was time to attack. When it was green, through up your shield. The sound effects made the battle dynamic – but if you’re one of those people who really needs the full experience to enjoy yourself, I can see it getting boring quickly. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t mind playing along and inventing a new world in your own head – like most kids should be – than you’ll really enjoy yourself.
During the third round of the fight, Ultron sent explosive drones against us. After we destroyed them, we had to physically leave the area to prevent getting harmed in the explosion. The first time, we didn’t run far enough, so the second time I ran clear across the store and hid in a princess castle. That defended me – you can always rely on Disney construction.
With our demo over, our guides took the Iron Man gauntlets back and showed us some of the other pieces of the initial set – namely, the two action figures that will come with it, Captain America and the Iron Skull. (Comic book nerds – did I miss something? When did he stop being Red and become Iron?) There was also – of course – a preorder bonus. Disney is holding a special event in their stores for those who preorder. Anyone who preorders gets an additional action figure, for free, but anyone who preorders and shows up to the launch event also gets their own, personalized Avengers badge. You can preorder the whole thing right now at this link.
But is the game worth your preorder money? I would say yes, absolutely, with a few caveats. First, the toys require you to do some work to get into it – don’t expect the hand holding of a video game, you have to create your own immersion here. That’s a really good thing for someone like me, but might not be for you. Second, the gauntlet and the power activator looked and felt fantastic, but the action figures themselves looked a little…cheap. Especially when compared to the Disney Infinity toys elsewhere in the store. Given that you’ll need the toys to get new missions, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of money on them, and I wish they looked a little nicer.
That all said, though, we had a fantastic time playing with Playmation. What an utterly cool idea, and I can’t wait to see what comes next – hopefully, some more roleplay toys than just the Iron Man gauntlet. Maybe a shield for Cap, or Black Widow stingers? And then, of course, there’s the inevitable lightsaber coming next year. Now that’s exciting.