It's nice to know people listen to you. When we first reviewed Kinect Disneyland Adventures on the Xbox 360, we saw was a game with potential, which had been utterly crippled by its reliance on Microsoft's poor attempt at smuggling itself into Wii owners' houses, the Kinect sensor. With Kinect itself perhaps most kindly being described as "not all that well suited" to a game that saw you running around a theme park, performing quests for various characters, and taking part in the odd motion based minigame, it was a game that - like the vast majority of Kinect games - was hampered by the poor excuse for a motion controller it had found itself unfortunately tethered to.
Happily, though, it seems someone at Microsoft is a secret admirer, as in a move that we're sure hasn't at all come about because of the company's almost complete lack of any family friendly titles heading into this Christmas, they've decided to give Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Xbox One remake - only this time, Kinect is optional. But has the move from a silly controller to a much more sensible one fixed Disneyland Adventure's problems? Well, not entirely.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures is a game that's probably best described as a mini-game collection, with an added fetch quest simulator tagged on the front. What you get here is the sort of thing we've dreamt about for years - an accurate, virtual recreation of the original, Californian Disneyland Park for you to explore to your heart's content (yes, our dreams really are that sad), with all the bells, whistles and rides present and correct. If you've ever been to the park (or visited its very similar French cousin), you'll doubtlessly feel at home here - and it's really weird being able to find your way around in a game, because you recognise it all from real life. Even better, rather than having to stand with your arm perpetually outstretched in front of you, as though you're operating a giant imaginary joystick (as was the case with Kinect), now you can explore the park in seated comfort, using just a standard Xbox One controller (although the Kinect options are all still there for all you masochists).
If you're a huge Disney fan, the ability to explore this virtual recreation of Disneyland may be worth the (budget) entry price alone. While there are a few minor differences - Star Tours is conspicuous by its absence, for example, with a familiarly shaped sign, yet blank, sign being the only suggestion of where the ride should go - the game's recreation of the park is still something to behold, packed with attractions you can ride (usually in the form of a mini-game), bands you can conduct, and characters you can meet and greet - just like in real life.
Unlike in real life, many of these characters are lazy devils, and almost all have something they'd like you to do - like finding some of Zurg's evil surveillance drones, and blasting them on behalf of Buzz Lightyear; collecting the ingredients for some gumbo for The Princes and the Frog's Princess Tiana; or gathering up some Dinglehoppers for Ariel. While most of these quests will see you simply having to wander around the park, soaking up the atmosphere until you find what they're after, others see you having to buy specific items from shops - like a Space Ranger uniform - or collect things from rides.
The rides are arguably where most of the "traditional" gameplay comes in - although not every ride has a mini-game associated, and not every ride can be interacted with. Only 18 of Disneyland's 54 attractions have been given the mini-game treatment, with several of the bigger names, like Captain EO, and the spectacular Indiana Jones Adventure being visible in game, but sadly not interactable with in any way. Some smaller rides, like the tea cups, Dumbo, and the Astro Orbiter (or Orbitron to those more familiar with the Parisian version) can actually be ridden in game as you would in real life, giving you a first person view of the ride - which may sound like a bit of a throwaway, but is actually a really nice touch. If anything, we wish more rides had this feature too - we'd love to ride Big Thunder Mountain without leaving our home, while something like Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters/Laser Blast, which is already a lightgun game in real life, would have lent itself perfectly to the game without having to be changed in any way.
Instead, the big ticket rides have their own mini-games attached, where you'll get to take part in small selection of familiar mini-game types, which are often only very loosely connected to the original ride. What you need to remember here is that this was originally a Kinect game, and as such, the mini-games aren't anywhere near as accomplished as you'd expect - by virtue of the shoddiness of the controller, they had to be kept simple. So Winnie the Pooh has been turned into an on the rails mini-game, where you simply move your character left and right to collect things; Big Thunder Mountain is an on the rails mini-game, where you move left and right to collect things (and hold your hand out to activate points to change the track your pump handle trolley will ride down); and... well, to be honest, there's a lot of on the rails mini-games where you only real input is to move left and right to collect things, or avoid obstacles. In fact, bar It's a Small World, and the Princess Faire, which have become "press the button in time with the music/prompts" rhythm action games as Ariel sings you the song of her people, almost everything here is an on the rails type mini-game, each themed around the ride in question.
And while there's nothing phenomenally terrible about these mini-games, they're not really very much to write home about either - they just about do. And in a game like this, they could really have been so much better. If anything, it's the little things that count - like why do so many of the mini-games not use the soundtrack from the rides they're based on (surely one of the most important things when it comes to setting the scene?) And secondly, why is it so hard to figure out how you get each ride's hidden secrets? Each and every mini-game you play will have several secrets you can collect - but it's never all that clear how you actually get them. While some objects you interact with mid mini-game will show up as 1 of 4, etc, other secrets simply seem to spring themselves on you almost at random, whilst others still will be visible in the backgrounds of levels, only in an area you never visit - which is odd, when the level's on the rails, and you have next to no choice over where you go. We have to admit, though, we are still miffed that Captain EO didn't get its own rhythm action mini-game, because it would have worked so very well. It might even have encouraged us to plug our Kinect back in.
When you're not playing the mini-games, Disneyland Adventures is absolutely packed full of things to do to keep you busy - although, again, thanks to its Kinect origins, nothing here is quite as good as it really should be. Along with around a hundred quests to complete, each area has hundreds of things you can interact with using your magic wands - although 99% of those things are parasols, dustbins and manhole covers which will flip over and give you a few coins, while interacting with them is as rewarding as simply running around hammering the right trigger as much as you can. More involving are the hidden mickeys that are scattered around the park - based on the hidden mickeys that the park designers actually slotted into the park in real life, these aren't quite as hard to spot, and are instead much more obvious mickey faces, hidden on walls, in fences, or other areas you might not think to look.
But despite having ditched Kinect, one of the biggest problems with Disneyland Adventures is that it's still not as easy to control as it should be. Taking a photo - something you'll have to do a lot in game - is an effort in itself, as you try to get your character to stand perfectly in one of the preallocated photo taking spots, face exactly the right way, and then squeeze the left trigger until the game eventually twigs you want to take a picture. Why you can't take a photo anywhere is beyond us, but it's a frustrating mechanism nonetheless - especially as it makes you waste so much time. Much of the interface is similarly awkward, and a lot is hugely counter intuitive - moving through t-shirt options by highlighting the t-shirt icon, and then having to press LB/RB (with only a tiny prompt at the bottom of the screen to tell you to do so) is such a weird control scheme, you have to wonder whether Kinect wasn't removed from this in someone's lunch break rather than having any thought go into it.
There's also a co-op mode tacked on here, although calling it a co-op mode is being far too generous. Instead, a second player can get dragged along behind you through the park, with the ability to wang their wand around being the extent of their controls. They can't independently move, or really do anything bar hammer the right trigger. In mini-games, of course, they can play along a lot more easily, as you team up to hunt down the collectables and collect the coins - but it'd be nice if there were a bit more for them to do while going around the park. Equally disappointing is that this is a port of an Xbox 360 game that still has pretty substantial slowdown and juddering as you wander around the park. And as a final complaint, with the real life Frontierland having such a great soundtrack, why does the in-game one just play the Davey Crockett song, all day, every day, on a never ending repeat?
In all, then, Disneyland Adventures is undoubtedly better than its Xbox 360 Kinect incarnation, but removing Kinect functionality, and haphazardly slapping some controller support in in its place hasn't quite unlocked the game's potential as much as we'd hoped. Had a little bit more time and effort been spent on this - perhaps turning it into more of a Disneyland Adventures 1.5 rather than just a slapdash port to fill a hole in the market, it still could have been something special. Instead, it's a game that you can undoubtedly have fun with - and that fans of the parks will particularly appreciate - just don't expect it to keep you coming back for any substantial length of time.
Format Reviewed: Xbox One