Adventures in the Magic Kingdom ReviewJoe Shaffer
1991, Eastern Washington State. I entered a Premier Video with a friend of mine, intent on blowing my weekly allowance on a game rental. By this point, I'd already played their best NES offerings and was reduced to checking out obscure titles and licensed games nobody touched. There was one cartridge that I had guessed would be gold but never bothered to play because something about it seemed., well, "off." Adventures in the Magic Kingdom looked like a routine Disney/Capcom team up, complete with Mega Man 2 engine, oodles of platforming, and a ridiculous difficulty rating that would likely keep me up until the wee hours.
"Dude, I still haven't played this," I said.
"Don't rent that. My brothers borrowed it from a friend. All you do is walk around, talk to people, and go to rides and stuff in Disneyland."
This was a typical response. If my friend didn't want me to rent something, he downplayed it. Most of the time I didn't bother with the games he didn't want me to rent because I wanted both of us to have fun, despite the fact that it was my money. This time, I listened and didn't bothered with Magic Kingdom.
Years later, I would give the game a fair shake so I could find out if it was "just a bunch of talking and checking out attractions." I figured it couldn't be anywhere near that stupid. Unfortunately, it was...
It's a good thing I listened back then. I probably would have had one fewer friend otherwise.
Simply put, Adventures in the Magic Kingdom feels like an interactive Disneyland commercial you have to pay for. The game features some of its most prominent destinations turned into mini-games or platformer stages. The main objective is to gather six silver keys so Mickey, Donald, and Goofy can unlock the castle and start a parade. One key lies at the end of stage, for a total of five keys to procure by completing all of the levels, and the final key requires you to talk to NPCs and answer Disney trivia. Yeah, that's it. You really do walk around, talk to people, and hop on rides.
You can engage the stages in any order. I started with Space Mountain: the world's most boring QTE. You and Mickey fly a spacecraft while stars (read: white dots) and empty space zoom past you. Occasionally, a prompt appears, you input the button, and move on. Failing to do so knocks off one of your three hit points. As expected, the segment starts insultingly slow, then picks up to not-quite-preposterous speed. There's rarely a change in presentation, except that spaceship or a meteor sometimes pops up. This is the kind of setup I would expect from a bonus game between levels and not a required event or a complete stage.
Shake the torpor off and head north to take part in Autopia, a "racing" micro-game. Although Mickey says your mission is to out-race Pete for a key, there actually is no race. The stage is your standard driving level, complete with jumps and a few hazards. There are only a couple of points where this section gets tricky, mostly because you don't expect there to suddenly be a pitfall. A few good tries at this level and you'll have it down pat.
Where the previous two areas were dull yet inoffensive, Big Thunder is downright flawed. It captures the feel of a roller coaster decently, though the stage itself is erratic to the point that you're playing a guessing game. You coast downhill, occasionally shifting directions, but there's no intellect behind your motions because the stage is a convoluted mess of tracks and side routes. You have to hope you've selected a path that won't terminate in a dead end whilst praying you end up at Station 2. As luck would have it, I managed this attraction on my first attempt, though I know it won't go that way again.
Pirates of the Caribbean is one of only two platformer stages the game has to offer. It's rudimentary in terms of design and irritating to navigate. This one pits you against a crew of pirates who have set a city ablaze. You have to rescue six townsfolk and then light a fire for a smoke signal--wait, if the city is burning, how the hell is anyone going to see the smoke signal? I digress... This portion doesn't start you with a weapon. You spend most of the segment leaping over foes to avoid bodily pain while searching the terrain for the kidnapped ladies and something with which to stoke the beacon. It's a tad frustrating thanks to the lack of offensive capabilities (you get a throwable torch later on), but mostly a tedious affair that requires you to start from the top if you lose a life.
Finally, there's the Haunted Mansion. Like Pirates, this one is a 2D plaformer. Unlike the aforementioned attraction,though, it initially provides you with a finite amount of projectiles in the form of candles and sports genre tropes that I hoped would appear. This level is actually not half bad, if somewhat face-breaking. The difficulty rating paired with recognizable platformer schemes like moving and falling platforms kept me coming back to retry again and again. The stage also concludes with the only boss encounter in the campaign, which is disappointing because he's not terribly challenging.
With all six keys in hand, the castle is open to you. If you're expecting one final stage to tie things up and hopefully pull together this mess of half-baked ideas, then brace for the last stinging jolt of disappointment one last time: all there is in the castle is the game's miserable ending. Congrats, you've survived five trifling, barely tolerable micro-games just so you can see an 8-bit rendition of your forgettable character smiling beside Disney's main trio. If the lack of content (it's possible to beat this game in under twenty minutes) and ho-hum nature of Adventures in the Magic Kingdom weren't a big enough kick in the groin, then this ending can provide that ill-needed punt to the taint. It's shocking that an early '90s Capcom would attach their name to such shovelware.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.