The creators of the Rock Band and Dance Centralvideo games are teaming up with Disney for a game that inserts you into the world of Fantasia.
As apprentice to sorcerer Yen Sid, Mickey Mouse experimented with magic in the 1940 animated classic. In Fantasia: Music Evolved,Yen Sid tutors the player's fledgling skills using Fantasia's magical realms.
"You are the new sorcerer's apprentice," says John Drake of the Boston game development studio Harmonix, which pioneered the music and dance game genres. Yen Sid, which is "Disney" spelled backwards (a nod to studio head Walt), thinks that "you have musical potential," he says, "and the power to become a great musical sorcerer."
The game also seeks to inject some magic into the muted music game category, which approached $2 billion in sales in 2008, when games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band were most popular. Fantasia: Music Evolved "is different," says Harmonix project lead Daniel Sussman. "We're trying to build something accessible and creative."
Players use their body movements to — like magic — transform a colorful, vivid interactive world inspired by the original film. Like theDance Central video games, Fantasia: Music Evolved makes use of the Kinect motion sensor; its camera captures the player's body and puts their silhouette on screen.Fantasia: Music Evolved is expected to be released next year for Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
By reaching out toward the screen, players direct their magical "muse" across the landscape, transforming the objects they linger on. An oceanic level has a circle of spinning seahorses that make music as you hover over them and a playable calliope made of coral. An industrial newspaper plant level requires you to command repair droids and resurrect the production process.
You unlock 25-plus songs as you progress through more than one dozen realms. As songs play, you use your arms, as if you are casting magical spells, to match rhythmic cues on screen, just as players matched beats on guitar and drum controllers inGuitar Hero and Rock Band.
Instead of tapping buttons on the plastic guitar neck or hitting drums in those games, players swipe one or two hands up or down or left to right, based on the on-screen pattern. Other times, you push toward the screen — as if you are wielding the Force — and trace curvy designs. All the while, you are amassing magical energy points, although the designers expect to make the game essentially a no-fail adventure.
At certain points during the songs, you can choose one of three different mixes. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, for instance, had an original mix, an orchestral mix and an '80s heavy-metal ballad mix.
Each decision is reflected through the entirety of the song, resulting in a new mix. Designers plan to let players save and share their mixes with others.
Magical energy is used to further transform the landscapes. In the world called The Shoal, you can unlock a set of clams that come to life as a playable jazz drum set, complete with snare, toms and cymbals. Record a series of notes and the loop plays as part of the score during the rest of the game.
"You as the magician are casting out your energy to great affect and great impact in this world," says Sussman. "The reward basically is to use tools we give you to mold (the game world) in your own image."
Once you unlock areas in the game, they will be available for arcade and party play. The game designers also plan to have a two-player mode.
Disney Interactive approached Harmonix three years ago about the project. "We wanted to create a new experience for Fantasia," says Chris Nicholls, executive producer at Disney Interactive. "Not just take the film and make it interactive so you could dance with hippos, pretend to be a crocodile or fight dinosaurs."
He and the Harmonix team went through an archive of Fantasia production notes and early storyboards searching for core principles to build the game around. The game designers connected with the scene where Mickey is on a mountaintop manipulating the heavens and weather, and with it, the orchestral backdrop.
Thus, in the game "you do reach out and grab music and change it," Sussman says."You take very familiar pieces of music and art and transform it into something very personal."
Fantasia: Music Evolved is an interactive successor to the original film, which Walt Disney described as "an adventure in color, sound and motion," Nicholls says. The game "takes you on an adventure through color, sound and motion (and) lets you experience that rush and interaction with creativity that many games don't."