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Gamer Tuesday

December 27, 2011

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Developed by: Frontier Developments

System: Xbox 360

We are at what is essentially the last Gamer Tuesday for 2011. I remember fondly when Days of the Week as a whole was just an idea briefly brainstormed by its writers, and now we have come to the end of a very successful year. You guys might remember that the very first Gamer Tuesday article I ever wrote was for 'Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour,' a game based on one of the most important aspects of Disney culture: the theme parks. As prominent as they are in popular culture, not a lot of games based on them have been made as of late. Luckily, someone was paying attention to this fact, and has created what may be one of the best Disney theme park based games of all time, and definitely one of the best Disney games of 2011: Kinect Disneyland Adventures.

But before I dive into Kinect Disneyland Adventures, let me elaborate on the peripheral the game uses for its gameplay. When the Wii became a massive success due to its innovative approach to motion controlled gaming, both Sony and Microsoft felt the need to address the demands of a brand new type of gaming audience, one that Nintendo had lovingly created with is very approachable software and hardware. They sought out to replicate the success of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck by creating their own take on the motion gaming phenomenon. Sony released the PlayStation Move, a wand controller that looked very similar to the Wii's own control setup. Meanwhile, Microsoft decided to outright re-invent the concept of motion controlled gaming with a camera that promised that the player's body would be the controller ('You are the controller,' said the many Kinect commercials). Originally known as 'Project Natal' and now known as the Kinect, the camera was designed to track a player's whole body, using basic arm and body movement to input the commands in the game.

So far, the technology has been used for mini-game compilations that many felt were too derivative of Nintendo's own efforts, like Kinect Sports. Several gems, though, have surface from Microsoft's quirky experiment as of late. Games like Dance Central and Sesame Street's Once Upon a Monster have garnered universal acclaim thanks to their inventive implementation of body control as well as great usage of their respective franchises. Microsoft knows how important it is to target the same family audience that the Wii created, so with games like Kinectimals, Once Upon a Monster, and now Kinect Disneyland Adventures, they are betting that they will propel the Kinect onto great success.

The best way to describe Kinect Disneyland Adventures is that it is essentially a high definition remake of Capcom's Adventures at the Magic Kingdom for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The big difference being that while that game was limited due to the hardware it appeared on, Disneyland Adventures offers no limitations when it comes to giving us a digital version of one of the world's most beloved theme parks, but that's something I will touch upon much later.

Much like in Adventures at the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland's most famous attractions have been turned into mini-games where players must complete the mission objectives using their bodies to control the characters on-screen. Disneyland Adventures goes all out in terms of presentation, and it is truly where the game shines the brightest.

Development house Frontier Developments took a very detailed, realistic approach when designing the game's world. Every single land at Disneyland has been recreated with very loving care and detail. Everything from Main Street to the various food stands and shops spread across the park have been re-created to give the game a very authentic Disney feel unlike any game of its kind. To go even further with its presentation, the park has been populated with thousands of park visitors that have their own walk patterns as well as unique voices to make it all look like a very busy weekend at Disneyland.

To go to the mini-games, you actually walk around the park till you reach them. So if you want to go on 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,' you have to reach Critter Country. In order to get there, you guide your on-screen avatar (which can be customized to your liking) by extending your arms left and right and guiding it to the desired location. Much like the real park experience, walking around in Disneyland Adventures may prove to be tiring and tedious, but also like the park it inspired, you get to find many things along the way that walking around becomes an adventure rather than an strenuous activity.

What do I mean by this? In addition to the mini-games, you get to interact with various Disney characters through meet and greets, just like in real life. You can meet characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Ariel, Aladdin, The Mad Hatter, Peter Pan, and many, many more. These characters have been wonderfully rendered in 3D to resemble their animated counterparts, and it adds even more Disney magic to a game that was already brimming with it. When you meet a character, you get to hug them, give them a high five and collect their autographs. In addition, they will give you missions that will yield some neat collectibles.

Speaking of collectibles, if you are a regular From Screen to Theme reader you know that one of the things you can do at the theme parks is trade Vinylmation Figures or pins, among other things. Disneyland Adventures has retained that fun aspect of the Disney theme park experience and made it part of its gameplay design. You can go into different shops and collect and trade Disney pins, many of them based on actual pins you can find at the park.

As if all if that wasn't enough, you can also just ride some of the attractions, like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Mad Tea Party. These are not mini-games, just rides that mimic the actual experience. As you can clearly see, even if there are long treks to endure in your adventure, there is a lot to do and see in Disneyland Adventures, and the authentic look of it all will help you immense yourself in its magic.

So all this talk about the side attractions, and we haven't even gotten to the actual mini-games! These mini-games are based on the real Disneyland attractions. This mean's that Peter Pan's Flight, for example, has players flying over the London skies then fighting against Captain Hook. In Mickey's Soundsational Parade, you are the parade leader and you conduct the marching band as well as dance with the Disney characters on their floats. Some of the attractions include Alice in Wonderland, It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and much more.

This being a Kinect game, you will be moving around playing these mini-games. In Peter Pan's Flight you move your body like you are really flying, in Pirates of the Caribbean you try to row your boat, avoiding the bombs in the process and you will guide a bobsled in the Matterhorn Mountain. As has been the case with many of the early Kinect releases, movement detection is kind of spotty, at times making the games slightly frustrating to play. But for the most part Disneyland Adventures plays very well, and so many of its ideas are so wonderful you will ignore these small warts in design. And it wouldn't be a visit to a Disney park without a fireworks show, and yes, you can control those too.

To sum it all up, Kinect Disneyland Adventures is a game that rivals some of the best virtual experiences at the actual park. The attention to detail into the development of this game is beyond incredible, creating a game that highly respects the 50 plus year legacy of Walt Disney's dream. Even if some small issues hinder some of its luster, if you are a Disney fan, and especially a fan of Disneyland, this is a must play for you and your family.

And that's why I feel video games are important in Disney's legacy. In 2011, Gamer Tuesday has highlighted some of the best Disney video games out there. We have gone under the sea to meet Ariel, raced around Walt Disney World, helped Mickey conquer many magical worlds, and taken our magical Disney experiences online. All of these efforts have taken a deep look at what makes Disney such an important entity in our lives, committed to the desire to innovate and tell stories that we will never forget, an idea that Walt Disney himself helped grow in our hearts.

Thank you all so much for supporting not just Gamer Tuesday, but all of From Screen to Theme's Days of the Week. It is an honor to be part of such a prestigious group of writers, and my dream for 2012 is to continue bringing everyone many more Disney video games for everyone to enjoy.



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