A Weird NES Game About Disney World: A Review
The other night we were scrolling through an emulator looking at all kinds of unusual NES games. Designers had to get creative to work within the technical limitations of the hardware, so there are some real outside-the-box ideas to be found. One title that gave us pause was Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, in part because we’d recently visited the Magic Kingdom and we had also discovered and enjoyed SNES title Mickey no Tokyo Disneyland Daibōken, a fun platformer set in the Tokyo Disneyland park. It had some unique mechanics and varied levels. Upon confirming that we had indeed found a second Disney Park retro game, we were quick to fire it up and see what kind of game it was.
It turns out…every kind of game is the answer. There’s a whole mess of ideas here and none of them are well executed. There’s something endearing about it’s wild attempt to provide a range of experiences with a thin veneer of Legend of Zelda over the top. The parade can’t happen, you see, because Cinderella’s Castle is locked up (and a staging area for parade floats?). Mickey, Donald and Goofy discuss the six silver keys needed to open the castle, and turn to you for help. You…some kid in a wide brimmed hat, I think…maybe a cast member? You traverse a small and empty overworld map and visit different rides in your quest to find six keys. Let’s examine the experience.
You begin at the front gate to the park and can traverse up Main Street, USA. The rooftops are littered with interesting items and foods…I couldn’t immediately find a way up. It turns out there is no way up, or items to collect. Th map is largely non-interactive outside of the ‘dungeons’ found in rides. Upon reaching the park hub we spotted a person. We approached, and they immediately challenged us with Disney trivia to prove we’re a friend of Mickey. This is how every character (mercifully few, as we’ll soon find out) will greet you, and you cannot get complacent with these questions. If you think you’re cosy with your knowledge of lesser known characters and subscribing to DFB, you’re going to fail.
What is Donald Duck’s middle name?
Identify a character who WASN’T in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
How many Mickey Mouse cartoons have been released?
You get it wrong, the conversation is over. Yes, it’s multiple choice but when you reopen the conversation you’re going to get a different question. We don’t know how many there are but we didn’t get many repeats.
Anyway, this person tells us to look for a clue near Space Mountain. Being a nerd, I know my way around a Disney Park so it was off to Tomorrowland. After being challenged with another trivia question (was this a copyright thing with the answers in the manual?), they told us to talk to someone outside the castle. We went there. Trivia question, go to it’s a small world. Trivia, go back to the FRONT GATE.
First attempt at playing through, this is where we quit.
Front gate to Tom Sawyers island to Autopia. By this time we’re chasing Pluto, and the final person has two trivia questions. That done, we have the key and no other people appear in the park. Ever. They only appeared for this one task. Kinda wished we’d picked it up bit by bit instead of running around like a lunatic. I guess it’s time for the rides?
The first part of any ride is working out the controls and deciphering the character’s gibberish instructions. There’s some mild RPG elements in upping some stats, but this is mostly used to gain extra hits for the unreasonable difficult rides. Big Thunder Mountain was first, chucking us in an out-of-control mine cart. You zip down the tracks making snap decisions as to take a fork in the track or not. Did the path you took have a rock in the middle of the track? If so, you’re done. No escaping it. You chose poorly. To get the key, you need to finish on the track leading to Station 1 (of 3). It goes so fast your only chance is pure luck or memorising about 20 quick turns to get to the right spot. Each time you fail…and you will, often…the demented Mickey appears.
We should mention this ghastly image. Each failure brings you the dire face of Mickey telling you that you made a terrible mistake and have to start over. There’s something unpleasantly earnest about the art style…I think they tried to make his more detailed. The limitation of an 8bit system means that any character is going to be an assemblage of small squares, and you mostly want to get across the idea of your character instead of a visually accurate recreation. What we get is a visage that wouldn’t be out of place in a creepypasta.
Autopia is the next ride for us to dominate. It keeps things simple with a top down racer, no gimmicks. While it presents a group of racers competing with you they can be ignored – you succeed by crossing the finish line. Once you’ve worked out the controls and which car you control, it’s a simple matter of learning the changes in the course to prevent yourself slipping off the track.
As simple as Autopia is, Space Mountain is needlessly complicated. You’re flying through space with the screen dominated by a marvellous starscape that zooms past. You have to ignore this grand sight though, and focus on the small little box at the bottom of the screen that feeds you button prompts. Yes, it’s an extended quick-time event where they occasionally mess up the prompts and fail you. The instruction is to get to ‘Planet F’. This was confusing until we noticed that we were starting at Planet A and moved on to Planet B. We also noticed that the distanced between the plants is different for each leg of the journey, so it’s meaningless.
That leaves us with two platforming missions, and since we were wondering an eerie, empty them park we went to the Haunted Mansion. This segment most resembles the platforming style of this era of games, with you collecting candles to fling at the spooks. You work your way through recognisable parts of the ride and had to keep the stock of ammo up. We got the hang of it quickly. Jumping over to Pirates of the Caribbean and we expected more of the same. That’s our own fault of thinking this game made sense, as we couldn’t fight back in this one, just jump pirates until we find the 6 hostages. But then we did find a candle and we could throw it, but now it is unlimited ammo and if we don’t happen to find it you’re not allowed finish the level.
At this point we don’t know who we’re playing as, we’re wondering around a dark and deserted theme park, nothing is interactive…but we have all six keys. We can watch the parade! This is what we’re been building up to all this time!
Fuck us, I guess, because all we get is another creepy image of Mickey, Donald and Goofy congratulating the main character. Somehow this disappointing experience ended in disappointment.
Who even is this character?