to the Disney websites have probably noticed that the "Games" button is
listed prominently next to "Stars and Characters." No longer considered
a passing trend online gaming is a billion dollar industry that has
caught the eye of Disney. The company has done well targeting younger
gamers and families through the Club Penguin online community but has
found it a little harder to find a game that caters to the larger gaming
public. Previous efforts to tie in characters and games online have
fallen a little flat among visitors. The Tron
Legacy Lightcycle game was good visually if a little limited
in the control arena. Fans of the arcade original could always try the Classic
Tron game online as well. The introduction of Marvel
characters has helped slightly (see Spider-Man in the Iron Spider for proof). However Disney's finally hit their stride with a new game titled Drive. The game is actually available for both online and mobile (iPad / iPhone) devices.
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Drive is based on the new Disney XD series titled Motorcity.
The series follows the adventures of a motor gang named the Burners
fighting against an evil industrialist named Abraham Kane. Lead by Mike
Chillton and his friends, Julie, Dutch, Texas and Chuck the Burners
drive all over a futuristic version of Detroit in high-powered hot rods.
The character and vehicle designs are reminiscent of Genndy "Samurai
Jack" Tartakovsky with a sprinkling of Duncan Roleau, Joe Casey, Joe
Kelly and Steven T. Seagle's "Ben 10" series. I would even venture to
say that I see some influences from Jaimie Hewlett (Tank Girl /
Gorillaz) as well. The animation featured in Motorcity is a mix of 2D
and 3D. The game has some 2D cut scenes but the gameplay is entirely 3D
based. The world of Motorcity appears part futuristic and part modern
urban, with beams of light outlining the edges of the buildings and
graffiti filling in the cracks. Players might be surprised as to how
great the game looks and plays for a browser title.
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are introduced into the world of Motorcity when starting the game. In
particular they meet Mike and his car, a highly stylized
muscle-car-meets-import monstrosity appropriately titled "the Mutt." The
Mutt is reminiscent of the Barracuda / Challenger clone featured in Ben
10, aka Kevin's car. There is even a cartoonish Ed "Big Daddy"
Roth-styled dog driving a hot rod painted on the car door. The show and
game are clearly made for and by gearheads. Boys who might be fans of
the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 series will be paying particular attention
to this title. Battle Force 5 ran on Cartoon Network and featured a
bunch of high tech cars and multi-ethnic teens. That series had a
moderately successful toy and videogame line.
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was undoubtedly Disney's answer to the Hot Wheels show but not a direct
copy. Car-based cartoon shows were nothing new to television but seem
to skip a generation. Speed Racer captured the imagination of boys in
Japan and North America in the late 1960's. The Mach 5 was a dream
machine for many young men but there really wasn't another show
featuring a high tech car in the spotlight until the 80's. Car-based
animated shows really took off in 1984 when the Transformers hit the
airwaves. The heroic robots were known as Autobots and transformed into
all sorts of vehicles. Since then there were many variations on the
theme. Turbo Teen (1984), Pole Position (1984), M.A.S.K (1985), Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines (1985), Jayce
and the Wheeled Warriors (1989) were some of the shows that
had toy tie-ins as well as decently written episodes. Some of the Jayce
shows were written by award winning author J. Michael Straczynski.
first episodes of Motorcity have yet to hit the airwaves so audiences
playing the game have a preview to the world. Hopefully the other
vehicles featured in Motorcity are as mind numbingly awesome as the
Mutt. I can almost see the toys on the shelves right next to the Pixar
Cars, both sets putting the squeeze on Mattel. I'm not too proud to
admit that I might be picking some Motorcity cars myself when and if
they do come out. Of course some adults are too proud to admit that this
show seems genuinely interesting. Those viewers might want to check out
the Japanese animé titled Redline which shows that cars and stylized
animation can be cutting edge and entertaining. But again I digress ...
game itself is an interesting combination of driving and shooting. The
play mechanics featured in Motorcity Drive have a classic arcade feel. Night
Stocker and Night Striker introduced the mechanics of driving
and shooting to arcade goers over 25 years ago. In Drive gamers can use
the mouse to steer and shoot at robot targets using the keyboard. The
setup is a little harder on mobile devices but the experience is the
same. Players do not have to worry about running off the track as they
are automatically guided around and over the futuristic world. Players
do have to actively steer out of the way of giant electronic pylons and
laser blasts from flying robots. The shooting mechanic is fairly
straightforward, simply move the crosshairs over an opponent and shoot.
Players can earn upgrades to their weapons and switch between different
types of lasers. The gameplay is reminiscent of the classic on-rails
shooter Panzer Dragoon by Sega.
don't have unlimited energy. If the Mutt takes too much damage then
it's game over. To help players out the car has a couple of limited use
weapons that can clear all opponents off the screen. Saving this weapon
until it is absolutely necessary can make all the difference between
reaching the next level and having to start all over. Drive is possibly
the best free game on the Disney site and far superior to Cars 2 World
Rally. Players can post high scores on the online leaderboard and even
unlock Achievements for each level similar to an Xbox 360 title.
Hopefully we'll be seeing more online games from Disney that has this
level of polish and presentation, at the very least expect to see this
game available for download on Xbox Live or Playstation's Network with
some more cars and features to round out the experience if Disney
Interactive does not develop a fully-realized console experience.