Unless you are a resident of Southern California, chances are you don’t get to visit the Magic Kingdom often, but now the happiest place on earth is accessible through the wonders of Kinect. The motion-control game Disneyland Adventures offers an open-world, Disney-inspired, minigame bonanza that does well with the entire Disneyland presentation, characters, and tone, but fails to deliver in terms of gameplay and fun.
Players create avatars at the start then are immediately thrown into a nearly identical digital re-creation of the Disneyland amusement park. Everything is faithfully re-created, from the famous theme park rides (except Lucas-owned Star Tours and Indiana Jones) right down to the Churro carts. Spread throughout the park are familiar Disney characters with the classics like Mickey, Donald and Goofy, and more recent characters like Stitch, Buzz Lightyear, and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. Waving at characters allows you to interact with them – they’ll give out quests, encourage you to explore the rides, and unlock new challenges.
Exploring the park is the best part of the game and traversing it is simple using the Kinect gestures. Holding out either hand and moving it side-to-side to steer works very well for the third-person perspective. Players can take pictures of landmarks and characters to put in photo albums, fill autograph books, and collect pins. There are also Disneyland Park Guides who fill you in on the park’s history and other did-you-know tidbits. There is significant texture pop-in and notable framerate drops here and there, but everything feels authentically Disney – from the character animations and voiceovers to hearing the same whimsical music from the real-life park sections like Critter Country and Tomorrowland. However, the game doesn’t always take you to the happiest of places.
Minigames are present in the 15 or so theme park rides, which play out as short adventures in the world the ride is based on. Each entry point is in the real life location in the park and contains up to four minigames. Sneaking past pirates with a barrel over your head, tailing Tinkerbell flying through the streets of London, and navigating the briar patch with Brer Rabbit are just a few examples of the events you’ll encounter. Though it’s fun to revisit the worlds of the famous Disney characters like Peter Pan and experience classic rides like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, the gameplay doesn’t stray much farther than simple shooting galleries and on-rails object-dodging segments. The variety is such that players are either leaning side-to-side to dodge asteroids or leaning side-to-side to steer a sled.
The minigames are far too simplistic, lack any challenge, and drag on and on – even for the age group the game is meant for. Swashbuckling with pirates may sound like fun, but with the only combat options being high attack, low attack and dodge, the excitement wanes fast. If we were required to duel three to five pirates and then do something else, it would have been fine, but we were forced to trudge through fifteen long fights before we could move on. This is the typical experience for the majority of minigames – they are interesting for about a minute and then last for another fifteen.
For those who absolutely love Disney’s characters and theme parks, Disneyland Adventures might be worth a rental. The characters are charming and the actual theme park captures the essence of being in Disneyland, but the lackluster effort put into the minigame portion of the game diminishes the experience. While there is plenty to do around the park meeting characters and finding collectibles, the minigame experience is not enough to keep players, even young ones, coming back.