When Microsoft and Disney announced they planned to recreate the Disneyland as a video game, allowing players to freely explore the iconic theme park from home, fans were ecstatic. When it was revealed that the game would utilize the Kinect gameplay system, some fans were less thrilled, with the body motion controls not exactly everyone’s mad cup of tea. But a preview of Kinect Disneyland Adventures at the recent D23 Expo convinced many fans there was great potential in this new Xbox 360 video game, offering a glimpse at the incredibly faithful virtual depicting of the Happiest Place on Earth.
(Note: Please pardon the slight blurriness of the screenshots and videos below. My Xbox 360 capture abilities currently max out at 480p, though I can assure you the actual game is far sharper and crisper when played on an HDTV at full 1080p resolution.)
Kinect Disneyland Adventures Review
Now the game has been finalized and I’ve had a chance to freely play through several hours of it, exploring Disneyland park from the comfort of my own home. The attention to detail throughout the park’s virtual streets is staggering. Having been there in real life countless times, I know the park well, and wandering through its video game counterpart feels exactly like the real thing, right down to the sore legs from standing while playing, using the Kinect system.
Unfortunately, as entertaining and enjoyable as having the ability to “walk” through Disneyland is, meeting and greeting with characters along the way, the “attractions” featured in Kinect Disneyland Adventures leave much to be desired, reduced to elaborate mini games instead of continuing the faithful recreations of the rides Disney fans know and love. The games are somewhat fun and filled with plenty of references and familiar sights to the attractions they’re inspired by, but ultimately left me unfulfilled, with little repeat value. Moreover, the games often replace Imagineers’ carefully crafted art, style, and stories of attractions with cartoon variations that barely have anything to do with the original experience. Younger players may find it enjoyable to play hide and seek with Nemo in the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage game or stumbling through the briar patch with Brer Rabbit, but I only found The Haunted Mansion game levels to fortunately have any strong resemblance to the classic ride itself.
Fortunately there is much to enjoy outside of the mini games. Characters guide gamers on quests through the park, seeking out autographs and other hidden gems. And speaking of hidden items, players are equipped with a virtual camera to snap photos of hidden Mickeys throughout the park. VIP tour guide Karen pops up, clad in plaid, throughout the park, offering surprisingly insightful tidbits about Disneyland history, with an emphasis on educating about the Imagineers who created the magic. Collecting coins scattered throughout the streets offers a chance to shop for clothing, costumes, and (of course) trading pins. Note the Haunted Mansion shirt pictured below that I virtually bought for my character. And even a handful of outdoor attractions are actually available to ride with no game involved, including the Mad Tea Party, Dumbo, Astro Orbiter, and King Arthur’s Carousel. And launching fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle by waving arms like an orchestra conductor is a treat for anyone who has enjoyed a Disneyland nighttime spectacular.
With all of these experiences to enjoy, it’s frustrating to be forced to play using the Kinect system, which is clunky at best. Though the Xbox 360 tells me my setup is perfect, I still frequently ran into control issues, particularly in playing games. I jump when it tells me to jump, but my character doesn’t respond. I flail my arms to whack an alligator with an oar in Pirates of the Caribbean or throw a snowball in the Matterhorn Bobsleds, but neither occurs reliably. Fortunately, there is no way to “lose” these games, so poor controls never leave a poor result. But I would still prefer to have the ability to sit and play with a controller, instead of stand and point for hours on end just to “walk” around the park.
Licensing issues also appear to have prevented Disney from including several key attractions within the park. The Indiana Jones Adventure and Star Tours are absent, both properties of George Lucas. Also missing is Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, a partnership with Steven Spielberg (amongst others). In their places are empty facades that vaguely look like they do in real life.
While the attraction-based games are uninspired and often exhausting to play, the rest of Kinect Disneyland Adventures is pure Disney magic, recreating the theme park experience in a way no other video game ever has. Through its faithful use of familiar sights and sounds (lots of authentic park music!), this game has enough Disneyland programmed into it to satisfy any theme park fanatic and is well worth the purchase for that alone. Disney fans without a Kinect system may find it tough to justify not only buying a $60 game but also shelling out another $150 the sensor, adding up to a $210 purchase. But in Disney dollars, will currently buy a 5-day theme park ticket. Kinect Disneyland Adventures offers unlimited virtual access to the streets of Disneyland, with no lines to wait in or parking fees to pay. It’s not entirely a fair comparison, but still one worth thinking about.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures is out now exclusively for Xbox 360. You can order it on Amazon.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures Gameplay Up Close
My opinions of the gameplay aside, Kinect Disneyland Adventures offers a beautiful recreation of most of Disneyland park. It’s such an impressive sight that I wanted to offer video walkthroughs of the themed lands featured in the game, to show off just how much detail has been included, down to the textures in the streets and variety of music in each land. I’ve also included gameplay and cutscenes from The Haunted Mansion levels, as they’re easily the most impressive. The video and images below are just a small portion of what there is to see throughout virtual Disneyland.
Main Street USA / Town Square / Sleeping Beauty Castle
A stroll down Main Street USA at the real Disneyland is always enjoyable, with small town America ideally recreated and smiling friendly faces greeting you around every corner. This experience is duplicated inside Kinect Disneyland Adventures, from the train station to Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Video: Main Street USA tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Highlights recreated in the game include the train station attraction posters, Penny Arcade, and even the popular corn dog cart.
But since Disneyland is always changing, Kinect Disneyland Adventures is already out of date, even though it hasn’t hit store shelves yet. The Plaza Pavilion is depicted in the game as the annual passport center, but is currently being made into the Jolly Holiday Bakery in real life. Likewise, outside the front gate, the old entrance of Disney California Adventure is still shown, with the giant CALIFORNIA letters, Golden Gate bridge, and postcard-inspired decor.
It seems Kinect Disneyland Adventures brings fans the world of Disneyland as it existed 6-12 months ago and so far neither Microsoft nor Disney have hinted at any updates in the future.
A land filled with a variety of attractions, Fantasyland tells the stories of some of Disney’s classic and most popular films. And in Kinect Disneyland Adventures, the many details that help tell those stories shine through, from the moment players step through Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Video: Fantasyland tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Inside, Dumbo and the Mad Tea Party are available for virtual rides (not mini games) and other iconic sights are recreated such as the ride vehicle outside Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the elaborate It’s a Small World facade, and Snow White’s Grotto.
Toontown is packed with gags and most are included within Kinect Disneyland Adventures. The land is filled with anything but 90-degree angles and every curve is represented in the game.
Video: Mickey’s Toontown tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
As noted above, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is missing from the game, likely due to licensing issues. But surprisingly, Gadget’s Go Coaster is able to be ridden, the only roller coaster that wasn’t turned into a mini game within Kinect Disneyland Adventures.
While one of Disneyland’s smallest lands, Adventureland is packed with entertainment. It’s a short virtual walk to pass through, but there are many detailed sights to stop at along the way.
Video: Adventureland tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
In Kinect Disneyland Adventures, the Enchanted Tiki Room’s birds are in front of the attraction rather than inside. And just outside, the Dole Whip stand advertises generic pineapple drinks – another brand/licensing issue. Likewise, the Indiana Jones Adventure is replaced by a rather basic entrance to an attraction listed as “testing.”
New Orleans Square
My personal favorite land in Disneyland, New Orleans Square, is represented beautifully in Kinect Disneyland Adventures, with every elaborately-decorated building and alley shown off. From the Blue Bayou to Club 33, it’s all there – at least on the outside.
Video: New Orleans Square tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Two bands play impromptu sets in the streets of New Orleans Square, just like in real life.
The Pirates of the Caribbean game doesn’t feature Jack Sparrow and its characters don’t look anything like the brilliant Marc Davis designs that are in the real attraction.
Fortunately, The Haunted Mansion (my favorite attraction) games are extremely well made, with some of the best cutscenes in all of Kinect Disneyland Adventures featuring notable Mansion residents.
The Haunted Mansion – Full level gameplay and cutscenes
Included are the Hitchhiking Ghosts, Madame Leota, organist, and even the knight from the graveyard, among others. Scenes featured from the ride include the ballroom, conservatory, endless hallway, corridor of doors, and the stretching room. Voice acting is superb, with a brilliant Paul Frees double for the Ghost Host and a soundalike for Eleanor Audley voicing Madame Leota. Though oddly enough, the Black Widow Bride seems to have been recast for the game, as it doesn’t sound like Kat Cressida who voiced the role when she was added to the ride a few years ago. While the actual gameplay is clunky, the visuals and particularly sounds are some of the best in the whole game.
Video: The Haunted Mansion full gameplay levels in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Video: The Haunted Mansion cutscenes in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
In an oddly-positioned easter egg, the Singing Busts are placed outside the Haunted Mansion.
Frontierland offers just one major attraction, but all of its smaller sights are included in Kinect Disneyland Adventures as well.
Video: Frontierland tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
There’s a lot of dead space in Frontierland in real life, and all that empty space is recreated in the video game, for better or worse. My favorite part of the land, the shooting gallery, is present but also a missed opportunity for a mini game. It just sits there.
The critters of Critter Country are out in the streets to meet and greet with players wandering through the meandering land in Kinect Disneyland Adventures.
Video: Critter Country tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
As in real life, it’s enjoyable to virtually stand outside Splash Mountain and watch the logs splash down.
The wide variety of attractions in Tomorrowland are turned into mini games for Kinect Disneyland Adventures, but it’s walking through the land that has me most entertained.
Video: Tomorrowland tour in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Like Dumbo, the Astro Orbiter can be ridden, offering a dizzying view of the park. Captain EO is there next to Space Mountain, with familiar EO T-shirts in nearby store windows. Star Tours is missing from the land, again likely due to licensing issues, but the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage bright yellow submarines traverse the lagoon, even if there is no good vantage point from which to see them.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures at Night
Walking around Kinect Disneyland Adventures always takes place during the daytime hours, so players can’t see the park sparkling at night – with one exception. The video game features a mini game for fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle, in which players wave their hands to launch and direct colored bursts in the sky. It’s a fun and unexpected bonus.
Video: Fireworks game in Kinect Disneyland Adventures
There are many, many more features, questions, interactions, and characters not scene in the videos and screenshots above. We can’t spoil it all for you! This is just a taste of the massive amount of care and detail that was put into the creation of this game. Even after playing everything described above, I have only completed 3% of the game, leaving many hours of Kinect Disneyland Aaventures excitement to come. Even with the clunky Kinect controls, I anticipate spending a lot of time in virtual Disneyland.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures is now in stores everywhere for Xbox 360. You can order it on Amazon.