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Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (NES) artwork

"Disney video game." These days, those words together don't turn many heads. Once upon a time, though, that combination was practically a magical incantation. Way back, developer Capcom had secured Disney licenses and began to pump out games based their weekday afternoon programming (a block a shows called "The Disney Afternoon"). These titles became regarded as classics and cornerstones of any NES library. Thanks to games like DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, we all believed Disney and Capcom together could do no wrong.

But that's only because we scrubbed their rare miss Adventures in the Magic Kingdom from our memories...

This offering is not your average side scroller, but a thinly veiled Disneyland commercial that costs money. Basically, it's like going to a theater and paying to watch a trailer. The game features some of the theme park's most prominent destinations transformed into either mini-games or platformer stages. The main objective sees you gathering six silver keys so Mickey, Donald, and Goofy can unlock the castle and start a parade. Five of those items lie at the end of each stage, and a sixth one requires you to talk to NPCs and answer Disney trivia. Yeah, that's it. You walk around, talk to people, and hop on rides. Thrilling, right?

You can engage the stages in any order. Space Mountain makes a solid starting point, since it's pretty much an incredibly boring QTE that you'll want to get out of the way immediately. There, you and Mickey fly a spacecraft while stars (read: white dots) and empty space zoom past you. Button prompts pop up, and you either press them and move on or take damage. As expected, the segment starts insultingly slow, then picks up to not-quite-preposterous speed. There's rarely a change in presentation, except that a spaceship or a meteor sometimes pops up, and as a result you can already feel weariness setting in. This is the kind of setup you would expect from a bonus game between levels and not a required event or a complete stage. With any luck, you'll take this mission as a big enough red flag that you'll eject the cartridge and never speak of it again.

You probably won't, though. I didn't...

Shake the drowsiness off and head north to take part in Autopia, a "racing" mini-game. Although Mickey says your goal is to out-race Pete for a key, no actual race occurs. 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 a pit to suddenly crop up. After a few tries, though, you'll have this level down pat and progress to the next ride, where you'll completely forget Autopia even existed... Call me crazy, but forgettable stages don't seem like the kind of thing you'd want in a game that's essentially a disguised advertisement.

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 and occasionally shift directions, but there's no intellectual process behind advancing the level. You merely pick a random direction and decide to run with it because the stage's design offers nothing but a convoluted mess of tracks and side routes. You select a pathway and cross your fingers that it doesn't lead to a dead end and that you eventually make it to Station 2.

Pirates of the Caribbean is one of only two platformer stages on offer. It sports a rudimentary design that's somehow also irritating to navigate. This one pits you against a crew of pirates who have set a city ablaze. Meanwhile, you rush 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?

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 it's mostly a tedious affair that requires you to take it 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, 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 will keep any retro genre fan interested long enough to complete it. More than anything, you'll come away wondering why the rest of the experience didn't utilize similar design and structure. The stage also concludes with the only boss encounter in the campaign, though it's a sadly simple battle.

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: only a miserable ending lies beyond the gates. Congrats, you've survived four trifling, barely tolerable micro-games and a solid platformer stage 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 finish the campaign in under twenty minutes) and ho-hum nature weren't a big enough kick in the groin, then this ending can provide that ill-needed punt to the junk.

It's a shame because many of us fogies associate the Capcom/Disney connection with quality. However, we need to keep in mind that they all can't be winners, and sometimes even solid business partnerships result in cringe-inducing misfires that are best not discussed. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom certainly falls into this category, as it plays like a piece of licensed shovelware despite bearing Capcom's good name. So any time your veritable mummy of a coworker (someone like me) starts gushing over DuckTales or Darkwing Duck and their ilk on NES, there's a damn good reason why they don't bring this one up or even acknowledge its existence...

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (April 20, 2021)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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dagoss posted April 21, 2021:

You did a great job laying out why this game is just not fun. I wonder how this strayed so far from the mark while the other Capcom-Disney collaborations turned out great. My guess is that (since this doesn't really use an existing IP persay) that there were issues figuring out what this game was supposed to be, but that's just a guess.

What did you think of the music? I was surprised recently to see this game credited to Yoko Shimomura (Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts, Radiant Historia, and many more). It sounds very Disney-like, but except for the title screen I think all the tracks were original. I guess that's a testament to Shimomura's talent.

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