When Kinect Disneyland Adventures was unveiled at E3 earlier this year, the demo brought a smile to my face given that I have spent a lot of time at “The Magic Kingdom” in Anaheim, California with my wife and kids. Heck, my kids, who are aged five and seven years respectively, have spent more time there at their young age then I did prior to meeting my wife 15 years ago. So needless to say, even being an adult, I love Disneyland and was really looking forward to seeing what Disneyland Adventures could offer in regards to bringing the Disneyland experience into my own home.
Disneyland Adventures is best described as a hybrid experience. On the one hand you have the ability to explore the park at your leisure, while on the other hand you get to play it as a game at various points in your adventure. Let me explain.
One of the main features of Disneyland Adventures is that it utilizes the Kinect sensor to allow you to explore the park in virtual form. What makes this aspect even more enticing is that the game actually places your Xbox LIVE avatar into the game letting you freely explore the virtual recreation of this majestic world that was first opened in 1955. For those wondering how you indeed get around, it is quite simple actually, as you only need to point your outstretched arm and finger at the Kinect sensor which will move your avatar. While standing in front of the Kinect sensor you can look around by twisting your body and you move your shoulders in the direction you actually want to look in. You may find this awkward at first, but you’ll adjust in no time and you’ll be able to walk and explore the surroundings on screen with relative ease.
Walking around this virtual Disneyland is a pretty cool experience, and given how accurate this recreation is, I found getting around easy as I knew where I was going as I have been there enough to know how to find my way around. Something I was kind of apprehensive about was that walking around this virtual recreation would be boring, but that is far from the truth. There are a ton of Disney characters for you to meet, and again, all this is enhanced by the Kinect sensor. You can run up to each character and interact with them. This includes trying to high five them, hug them, dance with them, or even take a picture with them. I was somewhat amazed by how this whole concept played out. The Kinect sensor was able to recognize what you wanted to do, and amazingly my kids picked up the movements they had to do for the Kinect to recognize what to make the game to do. For example, in order to try to high five the characters, it was as simple as raising a hand with an open palm. If my kids or me wanted to try to dance with one of the characters, it was as simple as a spin, and the dancing commenced.
The included Disney characters are not only there to interact with, but they also send you on quests where you go and fetch specific items or solve simple tasks too. All in all I think that you’ll find it easy to interact with the characters you find in the park. That being said, you will still find those frustrating times when the Kinect sensor may have some trouble recognizing specific movements and not be as accurate as you hoped, but it is not a full time problem, just something that seems to pop up every now and then as it does with ALL Kinect titles.
Should you have enough of hanging out with the likes of Snow White, Mickey Mouse, or any other recognizable character (there are up to 40 or so of them) you can then wander the park and interact with many items found throughout. You carry a magic wand that you can pull out at any time and cast some magic spells on objects like statutes or water fountains, and they will come to life. Some of these objects will reward you with collectible coins that you can spend in an in-game virtual gift shop to buy such things as special items or costumes for your avatar. My kids loved this aspect as they felt like they were indeed using some type of magic in the game to bring items to life. Adding to their enjoyment was being able to dress up their avatars all Disney like, as they truly love anything Disney.
In the real world the biggest thing about Disneyland is the rides and attractions, and here in Disneyland Adventures these are recreated in a way that makes them fresh and fun. The main thing to note here is that you are not taking a ride on a virtually recreated attraction, so you will not find yourself riding a computerized version of the Matterhorn or Space Mountain, and you will not be experiencing a virtual Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion to explore. What you will be getting however are mini-games that are themed after each ride and attraction at the park, and this is where Disneyland Adventures shows off the true gaming side of this title.
Each game is different, so you are not just playing different looking games based on what attraction or ride they are based on. They are rail-based affairs, so you don’t have the open world feel when playing them as each game guides you down a set path. Regardless of this, I found it pretty neat how the development team interpreted each ride/attraction in a specific type of game. For example, when heading over to Big Thunder Mountain you’ll find yourself on one of those railway carts that you have to hand pump a lever to move. You must pump your arms up and down in order to simulate pumping the lever, and once you gain enough speed you hold your arms out to collect coins. Some of the more storied rides actually have the mini-games telling the story that the ride is based upon. For example, when heading over to Peter Pan you’ll find yourself playing a flying game where you fly through the sky with Tinkerbell as you head on over to Neverland and you collect coins while doing so. Once there, you will eventually find yourself jousting with Captain Hook himself as you wave your arms in the air just as if you were truly holding a sword. My kids really got a kick out of stuff like this, as they just didn’t have to stand there and watch a ride or attraction unfold in front of them on the screen.
For those looking to share the experience of Disneyland Adventures with a friend or famliy, the game allows of up to 2-players to play at the same time, so if you have a child who wishes to play with a sibling or school chum, they can feel free to do so as this game is not just a single player experience.
Given that this game is really aimed at the young ones, there is some leeway in the game’s difficulty, particularly in regards of infinite lives as well as respawns which are instantaneous. This is great for the real young ones. My five year old was able to play Disneyland Adventures without fear of dying, as whe he did he immediately respawned and continued playing. He had fun because of this.
I should also warn those who venture to play Disneyland Adventures that the game is not meant to be played for long periods of time, as you will get through most everything in a very short time this way. That being said, kids who love anything Disney will most likely overlook this fact as being able to explore the park and play the mini-games that represent famous rides and/or attractions while at home will be something they will want to do again and again, especially with a friend.
Disneyland Adventures is pretty good looking game. The park and all the characters inside are well recreated. Having visited Disneyland more than a few times, I have to say that I was somewhat impressed here. From my first virtual steps walking down Main Street, USA, to walking though the castle into Fantasyland, all is very accurately rendered, quite nice to look at, and has a feeling of familiarity. Amazingly enough, the park is not an empty either, as it is populated with random people walking around. This gives the park a more realistic feeling as you go through and others are in there with you. A nice touch indeed. As for the mini-games themselves, they are solid and move pretty well. Although they by no means tax the Xbox 360 hardware, there is still enough going on here to give the kids that play them that “holy moly, I am playing a game in the world of Disneyland” feeling as they stare at all that is happening in front of them. I did notice some choppy framerate issues now and then, but I can’t explain why, I just did. In the end the developers put some effort into the visuals and did not just try to past in some Disney pictures of static backgrounds into the game.
The sound in Disneyland Adventures is all here too. From the sounds of the people walking around to the sounds of the all too familiar attraction and ride music, nothing is missing. As you play the mini-games they come to life with cute sound effects and music that once again fits the Disney theme. I was even impressed to hear the odd environmental effect such as when I was flying through the air with Tinkerbell on my way to Neverland and wind surrounded my character. All in all the sound gets the job done here, just don’t expect anything astounding or monumental.
At the end of the day is Kinect Disney Adventures the perfect game? Of course it’s not, but it is a great interactive Kinect title that all the family can play. Being able to see Disneyland from the comfort of one’s own home is pretty neat indeed, while interacting with virtual Disney characters and playing the mini-games that are based on Disneyland’s rides and attractions isn’t too shabby at all. Although this game is not a must buy, Kinect Disneyland Adventures should easily find a place under many families Christmas trees this holiday season and children everywhere will have fun with it.