Archives » June 1st, 2005

June 1, 2005

Virtual Magic Kingdom

The last couple of days I’ve been looking around Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. This is a new online “game” where you build a character and get to set him loose, wandering around Disneyland. I put “game” in air quotes there because there’s not much to do beyond wandering around. It’s a multi-player game, so everywhere you go you see other characters that are being controlled by other people. And you can chat with any of them, or chat with the whole room, or invite someone to be your friend. You can also get money to buy new clothes and new furniture to decorate your own personal room. But mostly the game is all about walking from room to room, looking at all the richly detailed backgrounds, and listening to the atmospheric background music.

Just hanging out at the hub.

There are a couple of mini-games to keep you occupied. Inside the Pirates of the Carribean building there is an ocean warfare game, where you shoot cannonballs at your opponents and try to sink them, while avoiding being sunk yourself. And you can ride the Jungle Cruise, trying to take pictures of as many animals as possible before you run out of gas. They’re fun little games on their own, but they can get repetitive after a while, even if you do get a little bit of money every time you win.

Sink those pirates!!

There are other little side quests to go on too. In one, you have to buy a camera (figuring out how to do that is the hardest part) and then scour the online world looking for Hidden Mickeys in the backgrounds. They’re pretty well hidden, usually just appearing as a slight discoloration in the rocks or something like that. When you find one you can take a picture of it, and then the game keeps a running total of how many you’ve found. Can you find the Hidden Mickey in the first picture? It’s on the left turret of the castle.


Starting in a couple of months, you’ll be able to print out a quest from the computer, travel to the real Disneyland, and follow the instructions you printed out to find a secret code that you then go back to the game and enter in to get free stuff. Pretty complicated, and a cool way to tie the real world in with the virtual one.

Better hurry…the monorail’s going to leave without you!

This online experience is mostly aimed at kids, hence the social aspects and the fact that all the characters look like they’re 12 years old. The website even says it’s built for “10 to 14 year olds.” But Disney freaks come in all ages, and there’s enough here to keep anyone occupied for an hour or two. But I do think its ability to hold your attention is inversely proportional to your age. And the game obviously isn’t finished yet. Not only does the website announce that it’s still in beta, but Tomorrowland and Frontierland are basically nothing more than big “Coming Soon” billboards.

Blackheart the punny pirate.

And there are a lot of places where it feels like the game should be interactive, but it isn’t. Look at the monorail car below. There are a couple of turntables at the bottom, and some arcade games along the wall, and a big TV in the nose. But all of those are decorative items. You can’t actually use them for anything, so a ride in the Monorail (which can only be gotten to through the hidden stations) turns out to be less exciting than you think it will be. I would have liked to see more little gags built in, where you could actually fire the cannons in the pirate treehouse, for example, or make the coffee boil over in the Monorail station. But, I guess that’s asking too much, and discounting all the work the designers have already done to make this as fun as it is.

Travelling in style on the monorail.

So go check it out. It’s free, and all you need is your e-mail address and a password. And a bunch of free time!