Nobody was more surprised than I was when the Kinect game Disneyland Adventures became one of the standout titles of E3 2011. So it was with great curiosity that I awaited its release to see if it would be as much fun as it seemed to stroll around a virtual recreation of Disneyland and play a series of fetch quests and mini-games.
The full review is after the jump, but SPOILER ALERT: It is!
The basic concept of the game is that they've recreated the entire Disneyland theme park in a virtual world that you are free to explore. Now, having never been to Disneyland, I don't know exactly how accurate they are, but I feel like I could probably navigate my way around the real thing without a map now. (The thing that seems wrong to me is that there aren't lines for any of the rides, and clearly there would have to be large areas set aside for the massive lines) As you stroll around the park, you can interact with the various Disney characters scattered throughout, and enjoy the attractions. While a small handful of them are actually virtual rides (where you just stand there and watch a first-person view of the ride spinning and looping or whatever it's about as thrilling as it sounds, but amusing enough as a distraction), the majority of the attractions are mini-games with multiple levels. You're free to wander the park at your leisure and choose whether or not you want to pursue the fetch quests given to you by characters or play the attraction mini-games. There's no story at all, but the game does track your progress so you'll eventually know when you've reached 100% completion.
The graphics are really nice. The park looks great, and the characters are well-animated. Obviously, being the actual characters, they look like the cartoon and not a guy in a suit. This leads to some weird size discrepancies, like Pooh and Piglet being knee-high, but Chip and Dale being larger than you are. You don't use your Xbox Avatar, but a Disneyfied kid of your own creation that you design at the start of the game. There's not a whole lot of variety, though, so you won't really be able to create anyone that really resembles you. During your travels, you do unlock new outfits that you can buy in the stores and dress up in, so that helps keep things interesting. The music is a collection of Disney tunes that you will either love or hate, depending on the song. (After two minutes in Frontierland, I had to leave without doing anything at all because I couldn't stand to hear the Davy Crockett theme anymore!) Voices are pretty good, with only a few of the sound-alikes being noticeably off. The only really irritating thing is that your park guide is a magical golden ticket that comes to life and gives you hints and advice as you go. Sometimes he can be helpful, but other times he won't tell you things you want to know, and most times just pesters you by suggesting you go visit a certain character over and over again until you do it. Sorry, but I'm busy helping Minnie Mouse! I'll go visit Stinky Pete in a little while! Get off my back!
Controls, as with many Kinect games, are kind of hit-or-miss. You hold your hand out in front of you and aim left or right to steer yourself around the park. During my E3 demo, I was told that the idea was that you were pointing like a little kid at where you wanted to go and you would go there, but you honestly only have to hold your hand out in front of you a tiny bit to have it register. You also receive various props during the course of the game that you can use to interact with the world around you, like waving a magic wand at things to bring them to live, or using a camera to take photos of the characters and attractions. I will say that voice controls are rather well implemented here. On most of the menus, there are little microphone icons next to the names, and just saying them activates them without having to gesture. It can speed things up nicely.
The mini-games are where the controls got really hinky... for me, at least! There are some that have you posing or dancing, but most of them have you dodging left and right and up and down to avoid obstacles while collecting coins and secrets. And for whatever reason, I just can't seem to get the hang of the dodging. I'm just not very good at it. Although the mini-games are clearly designed to be played multiple times. You'll never be able to get all the coins and all the secrets and take all the paths in just one run through. Also, the Kinect will take photos of you during the most embarrassing positions so you can either be mortified or upload them to Kinect Share if you have no shame.
Honestly, my favorite part of the game is just wandering around the park and interacting with the characters. You can take pictures with them, collect their autographs, and even high five them or give them hugs. And I'm not ashamed to admit that when I was giving Eeyore a hug, I got a little emotional and regressed into being a little kid. Also, there are a multitude of items like the magic wand or the camera or the laser gun that you can use in each of the separate parks in Disneyland, so there is a LOT to do. So much that I'm still only at 23% completion. (If I waited until I got 100%, this review might never actually happen!) At one point, I made it my mission to find every one of the 25 garbage cans in New Orleans Square to zap with my magic wand, but most times I just get distracted by the next shiny thing and forget about what I was doing in the first place. This game is really not good for my videogame OCD. I keep getting distracted! There's just so much to do and see and collect!
Yes, there is a part of me that acknowledges that Disneyland Adventures is kind of a massive advertisement for Disney especially when you go into one of the shops and see all the merchandise to buy with the coins you've collected, and chat up the park guides to receive historical information about the park but that little kid in me can't help but eat it up with a spoon. It's a very unique game that has a lot more content than you'd expect out of what is essentially a seriously spruced-up mini-game collection. And being that I'm not likely to visit the real Disneyland anytime soon, I'm more than happy with this virtual recreation!