I’ve been trying to work on a new post for a while now, sitting at my computer in an attempt to bring you the semi-coherent Disney-related ramblings that I’m known for. However, just about everything is distracting me today and quite frankly I’d rather be over on the couch playing Xbox. But I’m forcing myself to focus and write. Because I care.
If there’s one thing I enjoy almost as much as being at Walt Disney World, though, it’s playing video games. So it’s an extra cool thing for me when I can be doing both AT THE SAME TIME! Over the past few years Disney has been implementing new interactive games into the parks, giving guests the chance to battle villains with magic spells or even learn about nature. These games encourage people to walk all around and explore areas they may not be as familiar with, and they bring the parks to life in a whole new way.
With that in mind (and since I’m here at my desk focusing and not on my couch slacking off) I thought I would talk about the various interactive games available at Walt Disney World.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (Magic Kingdom)
Hades, lord of the Underworld and villain in Hercules, is trying to obtain a set of crystals that will give him control over the Magic Kingdom. To this end, he’s recruited a handful of villains from other Disney movies. Fortunately, Merlin (from Sword in the Stone) is fighting back and wants guests to help defend the realm.
At the Main Street USA Fire Station, you’ll be given a set of five random spell cards, a map, and a key card (the key can be tied directly to your MagicBand, though the last time I was there the cast member still issued us a card as she said the bands can be flaky). Follow the map, use the key to reveal hidden magic mirrors, then use the cards to cast spells against Disney villains. Each land is its own part of the story, though once you finish one you’re given a location in another should you choose to continue.
I love Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. In addition to video games, I play collectible card games like Magic the Gathering and Pokémon, so being able to be at Disney AND play a collectible card game (that’s also kind of like a video game) is pretty much my idea of a perfect situation to be in. There’s also a robust trading community both on and off property, special limited edition cards–generally available at events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party–and even increased difficulty levels as you progress.
From a tech standpoint, the game is a great example of Disney magic. The magic mirrors are often well hidden: seemingly opaque brick walls, Frontierland wanted posters, even shop window displays can all reveal portals.
It’s like the Imagineers just reached into my brain and created something from the stuff they found there.
Generally when my wife and I are at Magic Kingdom we’ll play through one land–there are rides to ride and shows to see, after all–and maybe we’ll continue a bit more throughout the day. I have not yet spent an entire day just going from portal to portal playing, though it’s actually something I sort of want to do. My understanding is that it can take hours, and that a battle with Hades himself is what you’re working towards. So my interest in just going around and spending time at Magic Kingdom is often at odds with my pretty much constant desire to beat the boss and win the game.
A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas (Magic Kingdom)
Jack Sparrow, main character of the Pirate’s of the Caribbean movies, is trying to find treasure around Adventureland. Other pirates from the films are trying to stop him, and it’s up to players to help the captain get there first.
At a small cabin between Adventureland and Frontierland you’ll get a treasure map with scrawled notes and arrows pointing to various locations. Find the locations, activate a symbol with your MagicBand, and Adventureland comes to life. Pirate skulls on posts start to sing. The eyes of a tiki totem will glow. Cannons fire, cauldrons smoke, and seemingly ordinary props become a part of the game. Once you complete a map you can be done (each one has about six locations in Adventureland, and each is basically a self-contained adventure) or you can head back and get another which will have new locations to find.
As much as I love Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, I actually like the ‘scenarios’ in Pirate’s Adventure a bit better. Ultimately, as cool as Sorcerers is you’re watching the story play out on a screen (though the reveal of the portals is often really neat), but when you trigger a symbol in Pirate’s Adventure something actually seems to come alive. There’s less interaction, true, since once you activate a pirate symbol you’re just watching things play out, but I really enjoy seeing which props around me become a part of the scene. I mean, Pirate’s Adventure has a moment where ships in bottles engage in an epic sea battle! It’s tough to beat something like that.
Plus, I really like pirates and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series (yes, even the bad ones in the middle there) so getting a treasure map and going on a swashbuckling adventure is pretty high up on my personal awesome-o-meter.
Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure (EPCOT)
Agent P, the platypus secret agent from Phineas and Ferb, is trying to stop the evil Doofenshmirtz from unleashing his dastardly plans upon EPCOT’s World Showcase, and it’s up to guests to help. By which I mean you’re helping Agent P. As far as I know there’s no option to actually assist in unleashing the dastardly plans.
At any game station around the World Showcase, players are given a cellphone handset and a basic tutorial, then given the choice of where you want to start (as long as you choose either UK or Norway). From there the phone is your link to the game, with animated onscreen scenes giving you story elements and instructing you on what you need to do. Once you’ve stopped Doofenshmirtz you can opt to continue, choosing the next country from the available options on the phone, or stop playing and drop the handset off at the nearest return station.
In Sorcerers, you’re watching a screen and interacting with it by using cards. In Pirate’s, you’re watching props and displays come to life but not necessarily interacting with them. Agent P sort of bridges the gap between those, since you’re interacting with the phone which is often making props around you activate and do something.
One highlight the last time we played was being directed to go into the UK pavilion’s tea shop and give a secret code phrase to the cashier. We waited patiently in line, got up to the counter, and said what we were instructed to say. The cashier was great, leaning in and whispering (I was wearing my Agents of SHIELD shirt, and he asked my wife if she was sure I wasn’t secretly Hydra) before giving us a Twinings Chai teabag. We then had to leave the shop and press a button on the phone to indicate what he had given us. It’s a level of interactivity that goes beyond screens and props and includes the cast members themselves, which blew our minds. That was the only time something like that happened (admittedly we only played through two countries) but hopefully this does happen more throughout the game.
What’s also cool about the Agent P game is how it incorporates lots of different aspects of the country pavilions and uses the handset to activate hidden secrets. In the UK a small butterfly in a garden display opened its wings, revealing a code which we then had to enter on the phone. A stone covered in runes in Norway crackled with electricity and showed a clue. There are even much cooler things that happen (which I’m not going to reveal because, you know, spoilers), and it’s great that you’re encouraged to really explore the countries. I’ve passed through Norway a hundred times, but found details I had never seen before simply because they were a part of the game.
Wilderness Explorers (Animal Kingdom)
The most educational of all the Walt Disney World games, Wilderness Explorers is loosely based upon Up (it’s the scouts-like organization that Russell belonged to), although the actual experience has nothing to do with the movie.
Though technically you can start at any of the stations throughout the park, there is a ‘starting point’ not far past the main gate where you’ll take the Wilderness Explorer pledge. You’ll also be given the Wilderness Explorer handbook, a workbook of sorts that has information about lots of different subjects. Throughout the park you’ll find Wilderness Explorer stations (which you can do in no particular order) staffed by cast members who will tell you all about a particular subject and engage you in some interactive games. So, for example, in the dinosaur station you’ll learn about fossils and then try to fit jawbones to the right skulls. There’s info in the handbook to follow along with and activities to complete (like filling in information that you’d learn on the Kilimanjaro Safari) and as you finish these pages and go to the stations you’ll get “badge” stickers to put into your book.
We did a few stations on our most recent trip, mostly the ones that were in our path while we were wandering around the park, and it’s a fun way to learn more about animals and nature. It’s less a ‘game’ in a sense, you’re not trying to complete a quest like the others (well, unless that quest is knowledge), but the stations were surprisingly engaging and offered a fun way to learn. Plus, you get stickers.
All in all, while Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is probably my personal fave because I love collecting and trading the cards (there’s a Headless Horseman card, and it’s a scientific fact that adding the Headless Horseman makes anything 900% cooler), each Walt Disney World game is really neat in its own way. They offer different experiences than the rides and shows, encourage exploration and interaction, and they’re something that I definitely make a point to do when I’m at the parks.
(All right! I won the ‘write a new blog post’ game! Now… to the couch!)