When I first heard about this title, I could picture the television advertisement in my head. A proud father sticks his head in the door of his children’s bedroom and proclaims, “Kids! Today the family are off to Disneyland!”. The children cheer and holler before rushing through to the lounge expecting to see bags packed. Instead Dad’s grinning with a small box in his hand in front of the television. He shoves Kinect Disneyland Adventures into the drive, says “knock yourself out b*tches” and walks out of the room to get himself a beer.
Apart from some shattered dreams, however, Kinect Disneyland Adventures is a worthy purchase. I ploughed into it expecting a managerie of gimmickry, Disney propaganda, and little actual gameplay. What I got however was a highly entertaining, well-polished hive of interactive entertainment. It beautifully encapsulates the essence of the beloved theme park and - considering New Zealand’s geographical isolation - could well be the closest a lot of Kiwi kids ever get to Mickey and his pals.
The game presents users with a virtual Disneyland, placing their Xbox Live avatars in the middle of a bustling theme park to explore. The in-game environment has been designed to mimic the real life location and those lucky enough to have been to the tourist trap in Anaheim, California will know their way around from the get-go.
Navigating the park is made fairly intuitive thanks to the Kinect technology. With your feet firmly planted in the comfort of your own living room, you can look around by twisting your body, or turning your shoulders in the direction you want to look in. Players then move forwards by pointing straight ahead, mimicking little kids going ‘mommy, I want to go to there!’ and thrusting their finger ahead. It takes some getting used to, but after some practice players of all types will be charging around Disneyland looking for things to do.
And there’s certainly no shortage of things to do. Lurking around the park are famous Disney characters for you to interact with. Just like in the actual park, you can run up to Snow White and play paddy-cake with her, except you don’t need to worry about security guards escorting you away when you get a bit carried away. Good times.
Although running around trying to get virtual hugs from lovable cartoon characters might sound a bit lame to most of us, it certainly appears to be a total blast for kids. Using the Kinect motion control technology, there are numerous different interactions to try out; like high-fives, hand-shakes, dancing and even getting their autograph. Players can even hold out an imaginary camera for a photo with your Disney pal, letting you strike a pose with your avatar and then share the photo with your friends via Kinect Share.
Appropriately, players will even wave good-bye to end their one-on-one encounter. It was an eye-opener watching how quickly children came to grasps with the Kinect hardware, thanks to the included combination of intuitive and natural gestures. For example you will raise an open palm for a high-five. Or twirl on the spot to spark a dance off.
Adding to this immersive nature is an extremely minimal screen setup, with no HUD clutter or annoying arrows popping in and out on screen. Instead the game presents you with a clean, colourful, and inviting world with nothing but your avatar in front of you and a stylish, Fable-esque sparkling fairy to help guide your way if you get lost. This comes in handy as often characters in the theme park will give you quests to partake in, which usually involve exploring the map and locating certain objects.
In between your cahoots with memorable Disney characters, the virtual theme park features tons of interactive objects and hidden secrets to discover. At any point, you can pull out a magic wand and cast spells on things like water fountains, cars and statues and watch them come to life. Most objects will spew fourth collectible coins as well, that players can then spend in the virtual gift-shop to purchase costumes and accessories for your avatar.
But the main attractions in Disneyland are obviously the rides. This game includes over twenty different mini-games, all themed around a famous ride or set from the actual Disneyland parks. They include Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Alice in Wonderland, Tomorrowland, Haunted Mansion, the Matterhorn, and more. It’s here that Kinect Disneyland Adventures can be classified as a video game, rather than just an interactive walk-through. Each of these rides offers varied, fun gameplay that holds its own against other Kinect titles admirably.
Quite often these rides are broken down into chapters, or mini-games within the same theme. For example Peter Pan starts off with a virtual flying mini-game, where users spread their arms out and soar through the night skies, following Tinkerbell on their way to Neverland. Not long after that they’ll be duelling with Captain Hook himself, waving their arm around as if welding a sword on the deck of the Jolly Roger. Although it’s not the same experience as the actual ride in Disneyland, the chapters combined tell the story of the animated film and feel like a cinematic experience with plenty of interactivity along the way.
Big Thunder Mountain places you on a hand-powered railway carriage requiring the player to pump their arms up and down to gain speed and then hold their arms out to collect coins on either side of the tracks. It’s quite a strenuous workout, but all of the rides are user-friendly and feature quick-to-grasp gameplay mechanics. Despite infinite lives and seamless respawns, they all offer a fun, engaging experience that captures the essence of their referenced franchise beautifully.
They’re not all boring kiddie games either. For example the Matterhorn has players hooning down snowy slopes on skies following their semi-retarded, but ever-friendly chum Goofy. Dodging trees and jumping obstacles, this game is insanely fast-paced and will be a challenge to master for even experienced gamers. On top of avoiding a yeti and tumbling rocks, players can also hold their arm out to grab a virtual snowball and chuck it at enemies. It’s challenging, but forgiving so parents won’t need to worry about their kids getting upset over fail screens ruining their game time.
Nearly all of these rides can be experienced with another player by your side as well, making it a brilliant party game for kids. Tomorrowland, which is unsurprisingly set in the future, lets two players blast aliens and spaceships to help Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. And a personal favourite, the Haunted Mansion, is pleasingly reminiscent of Luigi’s Mansion where players must uncover ghosts using a motion-controlled torchlight.
On top of these frenetic shenanigans, Kinect Disneyland Adventures is packed full of polished little aspects that make this game a winner. At any point in the park you can place both hands up in the air to signal you want a Fast Pass. Where as in the real Disneyland where a Fast Pass puts you to the front of the queue, here it allows you to instantly travel to a ride and partake in a mini-game without the need to wander the park in search of it.
The game also features a stunning interactive map of the entire park, letting users find their way around quickly and easily. The extra lick of polish here is the voice recognition control, where players can say ‘Go to Big Thunder Mountain’ and be teleported there within moments.
No more waiting in queues and no more $18 churros. Kinect Disneyland Adventures is a thoroughly enjoyable Kinect experience and highly recommended for the wee ones this Christmas. It’s probably not going to last more than a month and once played fully, is unlikely to be explored again. But for the reasonable price of under $70, is worth the price of admission for those households with the Kinect hardware at the ready.