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Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (NES) artwork

Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (NES) review

"The end package, then, is a collection of half-arsed experiences that add up to a moderate flop. I say moderate because this is Capcom, a company that seldom if ever has produced pure garbage. But with such a high standard set in their other Disney efforts, a potential consumer has a right to expect a lot more than what this package delivers."

Beneath the red square bearing the name Capcom, below the logo, there's a simple picture of the Magic Castle at Disneyland. Fireworks burst in the air against a night sky while along the base of the building, the magical glow of white lights brushes the border and the company's then-standard purple background. The game is Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, the system the Nintendo Entertainment System. Already, I can sense those of you who have enjoyed other NES offerings from Capcom such as DuckTales practically trembling with excitement. But hold on. Is this game as good as its companions on the system? Is this another in the long string of Capcom Disney masterpieces that saw release on the NES?


To put it simply, Adventures in the Magic Kingdom feels like a mixture of ideas the programmers had but couldn't fit anywhere else. Sure, they're based on the rides at Disneyland, a clever idea. But none of the ideas here would be enough to sustain a game, not without a great deal more effort. The end package, then, is a collection of half-arsed experiences that add up to a moderate flop. I say moderate because this is Capcom, a company that seldom if ever has produced pure garbage. But with such a high standard set in their other Disney efforts, a potential consumer has a right to expect a lot more than what this package delivers.

Essentially, there are five games in one, spliced together by a tiny 'overworld' that I imagine is a fair representation of Disneyland. Before you get to that, though, there's the title screen and you enter your name. I'm not sure why they bother having you enter your name. There's really no point in doing it, as the game only references you for trivia questions (more on that in a minute). Anyway, you enter your name and then the story unfolds: the parade is about to start, the key they Mickey, Donald, and Goofy need has been locked in the castle, and the only way inside is to collect six keys. Five are hidden in various attractions, while the sixth is just...somewhere.

This isn't so bad. It's a good way to excuse running around Disneyland, except you're not controlling any Disney characters. You're playing Bamboo 7 (the default name if you don't enter one). And you're a very boring character who can jump and throw candles...and drive vehicles. Yee-haw. The lack of a controllable mascot really hurts, but not as much as the mini-games themselves.

First, there's the trivia. You run around the overworld, talking to people and answering trivia questions. You'll dash to around 8 spots before getting the key, and along the way answer a bunch of trivia mostly by guess. If you are wrong, just try again. And again. And again. This is rather frustrating, but it's a good way to start.

From there, it's time to choose your first game. A clever plan is to pick one of the easier ones--the car racing one or the train one--so that you can collect stars. The purpose of stars is so that while in gameplay in one of the side-scrolling stages, you can refill your life after taking a hit. Or so you can buy an extra life or so you can be invincible or freeze on-screen action. These are cool benefits, but collecting enough stars to purchase things can grow quite tedious. Unless you're a really good player, however, or have the levels memorized--not something that's hard to do considering this game's lack of longevity--you're going to need plenty of stars.

There are, as I have said above, five basic games: Space Mountain, a car race, the ghost house, Pirates, and the train area.

Space Mountain is a frustrating stage at first, until you figure out what you're doing. And just what is that? You are looking at the bottom of the screen, hardly daring to blink because if you do an asteroid might hit you. As commands appear, you must press the corresponding button on the control pad. I made the mistake of playing this late at night when my eyes were tired. Never do that. This stage wouldn't be so bad--visuals are quite good, actually--except you won't be able to watch said visuals. Instead, you will burn your eyes out waiting for the next command and hoping you react in time. Not fun.

The car race fares much better, and is actually probably the most fun on the cartridge. The view is from overhead and you get going by holding the 'a' button, then pressing 'up' a few times to shift into high gear. As you race upward, avoiding cones and pits and knocking other cars about, you can brake by pressing 'b'. Hit a wall and it's really no big deal. Just don't do it too often. Getting to the end is rather difficult until you figure out when to stop for moving platforms. Then it's all a breeze, the easiest way to collect those much-needed stars.

Another good level for collecting them is the train level, though it's not so much fun. You're operating the train as it races downward toward the fourth station. You have the option of multiple paths as the tracks criss-cross, but mostly you just want to keep to the right. Slow down so gates have time to open for you. Avoid boulders. It's pretty simple. The only reason they put all those paths is so you can collect more stars and so that, most likely, you'll barely manage to get to the end of the stage after several tries, then find you didn't take the proper route. Frustrating.

That's a word that comes up a lot, frustrating, most especially in the two stages I've saved for last. The first of these, the ghost house, isn't terrible, I wouldn't. But when you consider that it's the only real action stage, it suddenly doesn't seem so hot. You can throw candles at foes here as you work your way through the mansion. Jump over pits, ride chandaliers, and so forth. It's all accompanied by eerie, appropriate music. If there's one good thing to be said about this game, it's that the music is quite good and so are the graphics. But they don't make up for the flaws. Not really. The main flaw in the ghost house is that the whole thing is quite challenging a first time through. You make it a ways, die, then restart the level if you so choose. Lose enough lives because of this and all your stars vanish, meaning you have to collect more to stand a shot against the ghost at the end of the area.

Yet as frustrating as the ghost house is, none of the game can compare to the pirate area. At a glance, this would seem the most exciting area. It's the only other side-scrolling piece, and the game's graphics never get better than they do here. You go to the right, avoiding coconuts pirates throw, trying to avoid rolling barrels, and so forth. A lot of the time, I found myself falling into a pit because I misjudged the jump, something that's easy to do. It's also easy to sustain a great deal of damage, so coming here with lots of stars is a must. Despite its graphical splendor, this challenging stage flat out sucks.

As perhaps you can tell, I don't think too highly of this game. It must have sounded good to Capcom on paper, and perhaps it could have been. But since the team never really flushed out any one of the areas, it feels like several extremely short and inadequate games slapped together in one package. What this means for you as a gamer looking at a potential purchase is that unless you can find this for under $4, you probably don't need it for your collection (unless, of course, you're collecting all Capcom's Disney games, in which case you haven't much choice).

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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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