Kinect Disneyland Adventures E3 2011 Hands-On PreviewBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jun 13, 2011
As a curmudgeonly misanthrope, I don’t enjoy many things, but one trip through the gates of the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, and I’m transported back to my childhood. In spite of my cynical nature, I love Disneyland, so of course I was chosen to preview Kinect Disneyland Adventures for the Xbox 360 at E3 2011.
While most people think of Walt Disney as a creator of innocent childhood magic, there’s more to it than that. Walt Disney was more deeply in touch with the internal lives of children than anyone else, ever. He understood the mysterious, subtle mixture of horror, innocence, powerlessness, and magic that define children’s psyches. Disney’s best stuff was never childhood pabulum. Think of the terrifying Cruella De Ville from 101 Dalmations, who wanted to skin the Dalmation puppies to make a fur coat, or the” bad boys” in Pinochio, who make the wrong choices and are turned into donkeys. Remember how they plaintively cried for their mothers, right before they were sent to toil forever in salt mines?
I was hoping Kinect Disneyland Adventures would "connect" (get it?) with Disney’s dark spirit like the park it’s based on does. The idea of the game is to provide a fully realized virtual Disneyland for kids to play around in, and from the portions we saw, it succeeds. If you’ve ever been to the Anaheim park, you’ll know instantly where everything is. Take a left from Fantasy Land to get to Tomorrow land, etc.
The layout is realistic, but Kinect Disneyland Adventures presents a cartoonish version of the Happiest Place on Earth ™, a Disneyland without the tongs of fat Mid-Westerners and the miasma of diaper-smell that are the unannounced attractions of the real park. Instead, you walk by scrubbed, smiling virtual people, encounter Disney characters like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, and the rodent ruler of Disneyland himself, Mickey Mouse. Unlike the real Disneyland, though, you can’t punch anyone.
Using your Kinect, you can interact with the park’s characters, giving hugs to Mickey, or taking the Mad Hatter’s picture. It’s charming, in a sense, but again, the game doesn't provide that weird sense of unreality children get in the real Disneyland, where some part of them sees that “Mickey” is clearly a guy in a costume while another part of their mind wants desperately to believe he is the real thing.
When you get bored of not-punching people and hugging Mickey, you can also ride the rides. Just stop in at Peter Pan’s Flight, and you’re treated to a mini-game where you, Peter, and a pal (if you’re playing co-op) fly through Neverland by flapping your arms, and face off against Captain Hook. It’s an on-rails flight experience, and the sight-seeing is broken up by collecting coin-equivalents, or flying through rings. There’s nothing at stake, but it’s enjoyable enough. The controls work, but it’s definitely for kids, though.
I also tried out Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which recreates the famous croquet scene by placing your avatar in a hamster wheel you can roll through the game’s maze, jumping over playing card enemies and collecting coins. Again, it’s amusing enough. It would be pretty fun to play with a little kid. The finished product will have many of Disneyland’s famous attractions, although the Disney reps on hand are waiting to announce a full ride list, so I can neither confirm nor deny The Haunted Mansion or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the additions of which would be huge selling points for me...I mean, kids out there...
I hope by the time this game is released, a bit more surreality is added, and the scrubbed clean vision Disneyland Adventures currently projects is made a bit dark, stranger, and more in keeping with the emotional resonance of the real Disneyland. It’s what Uncle Walt would have wanted.