Game: Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Developer: Frontier Developments Ltd
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Available on: Kinect for Xbox 360 only
When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim California in 1955, he would have never imagined the success it would become. Since then, the park has been delighting fans of all ages, from all around the world. The attractions and theme have endured for over fifty years and their appeal is further illustrated by the fact that additional parks have opened around the world in the time since. The parks were designed to entertain both parents and children alike – just as their cartoons always have been and by having a mixture of timeless classic attractions and technologically innovative new ones, the parks continue to evolve and grow. Microsoft and Disney have seen the potential of that great appeal and Kinect Disneyland Adventures was born – a game where fans of the park can come to reminisce, but those who have never experienced it first hand, can now visit the magic too.
That is what Kinect Disneyland Adventures salutes; the enduring popularity and excitement of a visit to Disneyland. I myself am a self-confessed Disney fanatic, and the parks are fantastic at taking you away to another world – one where you can meet your favourite characters and behave like a child again. But for some, going to one of the parks is just out of reach, so a title like Kinect Disneyland Adventures seems like a great way to bring the parks home. So let me take you on a tour of the virtual park.
STORY: There is no major storyline running through the game, pushing it along, other than the idea that you play as a boy or girl (your choice at the start – where you can also customise skin colour, hair and clothes for your in-game avatar), on their first visits to Disneyland. On arrival, you discover a magical golden ticket, which transforms into a talking park guide, who goes through tutorials with you and offers hints throughout the game.
As you wander around, you meet around forty well-loved Disney characters whilst in the park – such as Mickey, Donald and Stitch. It is a lot of fun stumbling across cartoon characters you grew up with, and interacting with them – making you feel like you are there with them. Many will want you to perform tasks or help them out. You can take up and complete these tasks at will, and even have several ongoing at once. You could also choose to travel with the wind and become an explorer, simply roaming the park, riding attractions and looking or secrets if you wish – the player can choose the style of play they wish to take – whether it be leisurely or serious – as you might do in the parks. Some guests like to rush from ride to ride, whilst others like to savour the atmosphere.
GRAPHICS: The visual style on display is at the same time both magical and realistic. The characters are all stylised in the recognisable Disney manner and to fit in with this, the whole theme park is also created in the same way. Rather than be portrayed as people in suits, all of the characters are drawn as if they are real creatures – and they appear in-game exactly as they would in a cartoon. This does mean that some of the princesses looking anorexic when compared to the normal mums and dads who roam the park and maybe doesn’t set the best example to young kids, but it is all done in the Disney style and you can forgive this fact. This makes it all seem as though this is how Disneyland would look, had it featured in a Disney cartoon – and how many children haven’t thoguht about being a part of their favourite cartoon? The park has been accurately re-created in the sense of including all of the different buildings and rides exactly where they should be, the layout being recognisable for those who have walked the park before.
The artists have obviously studied their source material very closely, as so many little details and hidden features are present in the virtual representation of the park. Walt always intended the park to possess the ability to constantly amaze people with things they had never noticed before and to surprise them with secret elements. This is pulled off perfectly by the graphics department and the sense of depth and character in the locations is clear. You will notice comedy names in the windows, the ride attraction posters as you enter the park, even the petrified stump of a tree that Walt gave his wife as a present – all of these little touches are there to discover. The parks are magical because of all of these little touches – and it is not the rides but the theming and the sense of otherworldlyness that makes Disneyland so alluring to fans.
SOUND: The sights aren’t the only part of the authentic park experience that are reproduced faithfully. Every little sound that you would expect to hear when walking around the park is reproduced here. The far-off clanging of the train bell, the chatter of excited children (and parents), park safety announcements and of course, atmospheric music that shifts as you move from one area to another – just like in the parks. These make you feel like you are really there, creating a rich soundscape that srrounds all of the action dynamically. There is a great variety of music packed into the game. All of it is authentic and directly lifted from what you would hear in that area of the real-life park. Because of this, each piece of music fits the area perfectly and not only creates a better atmosphere for gaming, but brings back memories associated with being in the park for those players who have visited Disney property in the past.
When you meet the characters, they are of course all fully-voiced. This increases the feeling of immersion and it makes it feel like you are really talking to them. Of course, some actors such as Tom Hanks (as Woody) don’t appear, and soundalikes are used, but they are mostly spot-on and not really noticeable anyway – definitely not so bad that it would effect your enjoyment of the title. The only sounds issue I would say particularly stood out is the fact that after boarding a ride, a screen appears telling you how to control each game and these instructions aren’t spoken, rather they are written one-by-one in quite small text, that cycles around. Players can skip this screen, missing out on finding out all of the controls and making hard to perform the task successfully.
It should also be said that the game features voice control for the majoirty of menu decisions and even for in-game interactions. For example, in the menus you can simply speak the options you wish to choose, and in-game – when you meet a Disney character – you can say “dance” or “goodbye”, to get them to perform different actions – rather than by performing the corresponding gesture yourself. But be warned that sometimes this can work against you. You might find yourself activating a voice control by accident. In one instance, I was talking to a someone in the same room whilst browsing an in-game shop, and found myself purchasing a Green fairy costume by accident. It really was an accident – but try explaining that one to your Girlfriend when she walks in! But it must be said that the voice recognition is very good – certainly better than that found in Kinect Sports: Season Two, and we found that it worked well with several different voices.
GAMEPLAY: To navigate the park, players simply lift their left arm. How high you lift it dictates the speed at which you move, and swinging it to the left or right will make you turn. This will take some getting used to, as it does take a little finesse to get around without constantly running into walls, but the method is quite simple to grasp and pick up – children will find it quite simple to perform. The hub of the game is the entire park and here you will find characters to meet and attractions to ride. On top of that, side-quests and secret items are scattered around the main park for you to find as you go around – so there is always something to find and keep you busy.
The rides themselves are all based on real Disneyland rides, but they are all fantasised somewhat in order to make them more dramatic. Rather than just reproducing Peter Pan’s Flight – where visitors board a pirate ship to travel through scenes from the film of the same name – the game gives you four stages that offer you the chance to perform actions such as literally fly through the skies of london using your arms to steer, or to have a sword-fight with Captain Hook, by swinging your arms like you are wielding a sword. Young players will marvel at actually being able to play the part of Peter Pan and fight Captain Hook – how many games could let you feel like you are really in Neverland, flying and sword-fighting?
The good thing about the multi-level attractions is the fact that all of the levels differ somewhat and aren’t simply the same gameplay but in a different location. A good example of this is the Matterhorn ride. The first stage sees you in a bob-sled (much like the real ride itself), steering left and right by leaning. The second stage sees you on foot, throwing snowballs at angry Yetis – by performing an actual throwing motion. Finally, the third stage sees you on the move again, but this time on Skis, where you must perform arm actions as if you are really skiing. The fact that an effort has been made to differentiate each section greatly from one another – on all attractions – is a great effort, meaning the player isn’t just doing the same thing over and over.
The game features many of the most popular rides from the park, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Manor and Big Thunder Mountain – but there are also two shows you can take part in – the Sensational Parade and the Night-time Fireworks Spectacular. With the fireworks, you use your left and right arms to fling fireworks into the sky in whatever direction you please, creating a fantastical display in the sky, whilst also trying to hit targets and score as many points as you can. You can earn further pin badges and gain achievements by performing impressively in these two shows and they are just as exhausting as the rides themselves. This game provides a good workout when you play the attractions, even if the hub world itself all plays at quite a relaxed pace. Due to the fact that the games are so active, the title also gives parents peace of mind in the fact their kids are being so active and they aren’t just glued to the screen.
The characters scattered around the park can be spoken to, hugged, danced with or be asked for their autographs – all through the use of simple gestures. These are all very intuitive, such as waving to say hello or goodbye, and performing a hugging action to hug the character, and small children will likely really enjoy this part of the game. On top of that, the characters will ask you to help them out from time to time, such as sending you on a mission to recover Donald’s lost hat, or taking photos of other characters for a photo album that Mickey wants to give to Minnie. Not only does this mean that players can meet their favourite characters, but they really feel involved with them, helping Stitch find a lost picture of Lilo so he isn’t sad, for example – and you will want to make him happy again, as you will want to help all of the friendly characters. These make the player feel like they are part of the story of the character.
Completing these tasks will give the player rewards, such as pin badges (which are a big feature of the real-life parks) and money, but also will lead to magical objects being unlocked. Mickey gives you a camera that you can use to photograph the park, or take your own picture alongside your favourite Disney star. The magic wand will bring inanimate objects to life and when Buzz Lightyear gives you one of his Blasters, you unlock several new shooting gallery-type games to play. There are well over 100 quests to complete for characters and around half a dozen special objects to gain, meaning there is lots to do here. Each special object has a list of objectives attached to it as well, so you keep finding more things to photograph or use your spells on, all around the park.
The group of locations that you can visit in the game are the shops. This is where the game gets a little like a commercial. Points you earn in-game translate into coins, which can be spent in shops. Each land in the park has a shop, where costumes, additional clothes and pin badges can be purchased. Each player can buy Disney character costumes to wear and try them on in the included changing room. They also sell photo albums and autograph books, which you need to buy before you can ask certain people for their signature and before you can take photographs of certain things. If you try to photograph a character for whom you haven’t bought the corresponding photo album, your helpful ticket guide will tell you “you need to buy it from the shop”. This is when you start to think that perhaps the game is breeding a culture of consumerism – which seems a little unhealthy in a game meant for such young players!
MULTIPLAYER: Whilst there is no online multiplayer in the title at all – the entire game allows for drop-in, drop-out co-op play. A second gamer can easily just walk into the play space, be recognised and start playing straightaway. Further options will allow them to sign in to another Xbox LIVE account and to personalise their own avatar, but this isn’t necessary if you just want to jump in for a quick play. When playing in multiplayer, the first player will have control over where the characters move to around the park and only player one can use special objects. Other than that, both players can participate fully in attraction stages, both can fully interact with characters and both can buy and wear items from the shops. The pick up and play system of joining and leaving the game is so quick and simple, that a player can easily just play for a few minutes, then go away, only to return later when they feel so inclined. Kids will be able to play for a bit, then join the family gor dinner, before coming back to play through another level with their father – for example – all without having to log in and out all of the time – which makes it all more family-friendly.
LONGEVITY: For a title that appears as a casual title, there is a lot of content on offer here. To put it into context, after approximately seven hours of gameplay, I had only completed ten percent of the game and that was taking the game at a mediocre pace, taking the time to search out secret items and simply to explore. With all of the different magical objects and their associated secrets, all of the photo opportunities, autograph books and pin badge collections, there are loads of side-quests to complete and uncover, long after the main character-based objectives have been completed. In the fifteen or so different attractions, each one can be completed at different levels, from bronze to platinum, depending on how many secrets you discover and how many points you score. Trying to platinum all of the rides will take quite some time as will learning of the levels. Add to that the list of achievements linked to the title, and this is a massive title.
Another interesting thing to note was that the game supports QR code scanning. So far, the development team haven’t announced what this will entail, or what is on offer when a code has been scanned, but this could point to secret items or add-ons becoming available. This leads me to the idea that some of the Disneyland attractions that are not rideable in the game, may well be released as DLC further down the line. The actual ride structures have been placed in the park and can be seen when you walk around, so it is not beyond imagintion that they might be implemented later on – which would only further add to the lifespan of the game, and it would feel like the real parks where rides are being built and added to all of the time.
VERDICT: The game will surely polarise audiences, and some will simply never even give the title a chance – dismissing it as only a kiddy game, or as a cheap cash-in. However, if you put some time into the game, most people are likely to find that there is a lot to enjoy here. The game will especially please fans of Disney with its attention to detail and the phenomenal amount of options and activities available to the player. Despite coming across as a sales pitch or travel agent video from time to time, there is little wrong with tht title and you will generally be so wrapped up in the fun of it all that this won’t be an issue.
The concept of replicating an amusement park in your own home is quite a clever idea and it will definitely eliminate the issue of queueing for rides, or not being able to get your photograph with someone in a Mickey costume. And if you ever wanted to visit the parks but couldn’t afford it – this is a great substitute! It is a tough game to recommend to the general gaming populace, but for what it is, the game contains everything you could ask for. Kinect Disneyland Adventures really does make you feel like you are at the most magical place on Earth, so transport yourselves there with this wonder of a game.