Both are gently challenging 3D obstacle courses of gaps to leap, things to collect, puzzles to solve and baddies to bash with each character's unique weapon. The camera copes ably with four players on-screen it transitions between static angles rather than attempting to track you.
The Alice scenario is more co-operative in nature, filled with simple but satisfying multiplayer puzzles. You can tell that it's Tim Burton's Alice the distorted landscapes and surreal colour palette are instantly recognisable from the film, though it's disappointing to see identikit black-smoke enemies populating them. It's early days, so this may yet change, but generic baddies could muffle the distinctive aesthetic voice of each setting.
Monsters, Inc. is a much more competitive arena, with narrow platforms, plenty of fighting, lots of dangerous ledges to push each other over and streams of fast-moving doors rattling past to sweep you from a platform. There are myriad things to distract you from the obvious path through the levels side-puzzles that reward you with weapon power-ups to fight over, or injured rag dolls that can be grabbed and dragged back through the level to a nurse station. You can grab onto pretty much anything, including each other, which seems to form the basis of most of the game's puzzling.
There are myriad influences at work here, the Lego franchise most obvious among them. It's a game designed to be playable by everybody, and one that allows stronger players to put themselves in the driving seat whilst weaker ones frolic about smashing scenery for coins. But it's got a competitive edge, too you can grab other characters and fling them off the scenery, and there's always a mad rush for new coins.
The rhythm of play flows naturally between co-operation and competition one minute you're dragging a giant top hat across a bridge so that your friend can solve a puzzle on the other side whilst you keep a switch held down, the next you're trampling all over each other for an item upgrade or stash of coins. It's a double-edged multiplayer gameplay style that Nintendo, Media Molecule and Traveller's Tales have all exploited before, and it's no less entertaining here.
The game rewards or punishes competitive and co-operative behaviour with end-of-level rankings. It scores you on different things helpfulness, coins collected, enemies defeated, speed so that one player can't possibly dominate the scoreboard. Interestingly, it also scales itself to the skill of the player, spitting out more enemies to challenge more proficient groups though it's not clear yet exactly how that works.
It's a funny game, Disney Universe, and naturally rather lovable. There are power-ups like giant boxing gloves, or items that turn you temporarily into a chicken. The idea of a Disney themed Lego/LittleBigPlanet mashup is a pretty appealing one, and the two levels on display showcased enough variety between them to give us hope that this isn't a one-note effort.