Review: Kinect: Disneyland Adventures

DisneylandAdventures

This past Summer my family and I went to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. It was my wife and daughter’s first visit to the park and they had a wonderful time, especially so for my daughter as she just turned four and is kind of in that whole “Disney Princess” phase right now. That’s why when my wife and I found out that a game based on the Disneyland theme park was coming out that would utilize Microsoft’s Kinect, we thought it would be a great opportunity for our daughter (and the two of us too in a way) to relive some of our recent vacation.

Before giving it to our daughter as a holiday present though, I wanted to try it out myself first. Upon starting the game and making my character (a young boy or girl were my only options) I started at the entrance to the park being introduced to the controls by my guide: a talking golden ticket. When I walked around the entrance (and the rest of the park throughout the game), it became apparent that the strongest selling point of Disneyland Adventures is its accuracy to the real thing. I’ve never been to the actual Disneyland theme park, however cross-referencing what pictures I could find online the similarity is pretty uncanny. Curiously, it must always be “fit and attractive person” day in virtual Disneyland where babies and the elderly are not allowed as the park is sparsely populated with younger mothers and fathers in their 20s or 30s, the children are all between 8 to 10, and there isn’t a single overweight person in sight.

The game is split between navigating the theme park to interact with the numerous Disney characters and the attraction mini-games. Let’s cover the park first. If you’re familiar with World of Warcraft (or any massively multiplayer game for that matter), then you’ve probably done your fair share of messenger quests (go talk to character X) or collection quests. Well, hopefully you’re ready to do more of them because that is what the majority of the character quests entail. The collection quests aren’t even that challenging either, as your golden ticket guide will create a path on the ground that you can follow to find whatever it is for which you’re looking.

For example in my case, upon visiting Winnie the Pooh he requested that I ask Piglet (who was standing about 10 feet away) if he had any honey. Piglet then sent me back to Pooh to tell him no, and upon return Pooh then sent me on a collection quest to find some pots of honey located around his general vicinity.

This exposed the game’s first major flaw: navigating the park. To walk you must hold either arm straight out in front of your body. To walk left or right you simply move your arm in that direction while continuing to hold it in front of you. Remember how I previously stated that the game is accurate to the real Disneyland? Well be prepared to hold that arm aloft for extended periods of time while you go from one end of the park to another. You can use the park map to go directly to the entrance of a park section (e.g. Tomorrow Land or Fantasy Land), or instantly play a mini-game, however if you need to do anything within that section of the park, like visit a character or gift shop, you’ll still need to direct your character there. I guess what I’m saying is don’t be surprised if you have some added muscle tone to your arms when you’re finished with this game.

Another issue I noticed while exploring the park was the game’s difficulty at loading graphics. For example, going from the main entrance all the way back to the Haunted Mansion I noticed repeated instances of screen tearing, low draw distances, and just a general chugging sensation to the game whenever it needed to load more of an area.

Very occasionally when accepting a quest from one of the Disney characters s/he will ask you to retrieve something from within one of the 20 attractions such as Space Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean. What Disneyland Adventures has done however is turned these attractions into mini-games that are stylized in the theme of the attraction, most of which involve one, some, or all of the following:

  1. Lean left/right or jump/duck to avoid/retrieve objects.
  2. Throw things at stuff.
  3. Mimic the poses and/or movements of onscreen characters.

So in the case of the Matterhorn I bobsledded down a mountain, battled with angry yetis, then skied down a hill to avoid an avalanche. That included doing activities 1, 2, and 1 mentioned above respectively. It’s worth mentioning that sometimes I did get to do activities outside of these main three, like using a jet of water during the Jungle Cruise Ride to shoot at barrels, pots, and hippos, but the majority of the mini-games fall into these aforementioned buckets.

At the very least the environments in which these mini-games take place are interesting. Each one is very unique from the other, and you’ll occasionally even get to interact with famous Disney characters along the way, like Goofy during the Matterhorn attraction.

I knew this going into the game and tried the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as soon as I could in hopes of battling pirates with Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately, there was no mention of Jack Sparrow at all, and while at one point you do get into an altercation with a pirated named Blackbeard, I don’t really think it was him. He didn’t look anything like Ian McShane (the actor from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), nor did he even have a beard.

In the end I wouldn’t mind endlessly dodging things if the game had been able to accurately interpret my movements. At times it was able to recognize me just fine, making mini-games such as Pixie Hollow, where the goal is to match the poses/actions of the fairies, quite easy. Other times it simply would not react at all or be on such a delay that a jump would be translated into my character jumping almost two seconds after the fact. This would cause me to bump into objects and miss coins or secrets the majority of time, preventing me from obtaining high ratings. A few like this that stand out were the Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain attractions.

Amazingly this game does have a lot of replay value. You can take pictures with and get the autographs of every Disney character roaming around the park. You can also search for and take pictures of “hidden Mickeys,” or parts of the park that, when viewed a particular way, make the head and ears of Mickey Mouse. Also if you’re a completionist be prepared to play the attraction mini-games dozens of times to get the illusive platinum rating.

One specific item I did want to mention that stood out from the other Kinect titles I’ve played to this point is just how vast its voice command functionality is. While I always had the option to use my hand to move the cursor over menu items or portions of the Disneyland map, nearly everything accepted voice commands as an alternative. For example, raising both of my hands into the air opened the park map. From that point I could say “New Orleans Square,” then “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and finally “Chapter 3” to be involved in a sword fight mini-game against the beardless Blackbeard and his crew. About the only thing that voice commands don’t work for are the virtual gifts shops you come across in the game where you can buy new clothing options or autograph books. If there’s one thing that other Kinect game developers can take away from this title it should be that the more opportunities to use voice commands for simple menu navigation the better.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review the end goal was to give this game to our four-year-old daughter as a holiday present. She loved Once Upon a Monster and also likes to play the Kinect Adventures game, so I figured that since a lot of the content in Disneyland Adventures is taken from these two titles, plus having the whole “Disney thing” going for it, she would love it. A little over a week later I’m happy to say that she does, but not for the reasons I expected.

We always play co-op together, and since the game offers drop-in, drop-out play it’s easy for me or my wife to trade places if anything comes up. Since she’s so young she doesn’t love the game because she does well at the attraction mini-games, or because she has to hold one of her arms out in front of her like a zombie whenever she wants to go somewhere. Instead she likes it simply because she can interact with characters that she’s seen in her movies and when we went to Disneyworld over the summer.

To be honest, she does get frustrated at the mini-games about as much as I do but for different reasons. It’s almost like Frontier Developments (the developers of Disneyland Adventures) didn’t test this with those that are around 42 inches tall. The game will occasionally interpret her as ducking all of the time when standing still and will also not register the proper movements for times when she needs to dodge things or do specific poses. I suppose that it’s a benefit to her that the game doesn’t fail her out of the attraction mini-games for not performing well, allowing her to see the entire attraction story, even if she did steer her canoe into 100 rocks and was bitten by alligators along the way.

I realize this game is rated E10+, and maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on it for not registering my daughter as well as Kinect Adventures or Once Upon a Monster did, but the under ten crowd is a huge Disney market, so it’s really surprising that it has so much trouble with the vertically challenged.

Looking back, this game is really a toss up. If you don’t like anything Disney you will not like this game, for obvious reasons. Others like me going in expecting to relive my previous experiences at a Disney theme park while having fun with the numerous mini-games will probably be left disappointed and frustrated. On the other hand, small children will probably be happy enough to just hug Mickey Mouse and company over and over again that they won’t care how aggravating the attractions are because once they’re done, a Disney character will always be right around the corner ready to dance with them, give them a high five, and tell them how great it is that they stopped by to visit.

TryIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Great voice command system lets user navigate through nearly all menus
+ The virtual representation of Disneyland is remarkably accurate
+ Almost all of the core Disney characters are represented in the park

Cons:
– Attraction mini-games are too repetitious
– The responsiveness between the Kinect and the game seems to be off at times
– Small children will probably have issues with the movement recognition and completing certain tasks
– Longer than normal loading times even with the game installed
– Beardless Blackbeard

Affiliate Links:
Buy from Amazon or eStarland

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360 Kinect
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: 11/15/2011
Genre: Family
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1 – 2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

[nggallery id=1821]

About the Author

Having over 25 years of gaming experience, Zach knows a thing or two when it comes to one of his favorite entertainment activities. Additionally, he has also written many articles previewing and reviewing titles which can be found in various places around the net, including VGBlogger.com.