The new interactive game “A Pirate’s Adventure–Treasures of the Seven Seas” has begun testing at the Magic Kingdom. This game is closer to Kim Possible/Agent P than Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, since the latter relies on screens and the former uses physical effects heavily. The new Adventureland game is also rife with physical effects, and in some ways it’s very heartening to see that approach in the Magic Kingdom. I was worried that the Epcot version of interactive games was a dying breed, a single experiment in an environment sliding inexorably toward screens and digital effects, but happily, that turns out not to be the case.

There are five missions to choose from, which adds to the repeatability of the game. Each game takes about as long as a game of Agent P takes to complete in Epcot — about 10 minutes if there is no line.

Pirate’s Adventure RFID playing card.

You start at the former Crow’s Nest gift kiosk near Pecos Bill. It has been converted for this game, and there you are given your paper map and your RFID playing card, which is in the shape of a hexagon. One station in front of Tortuga Tavern serves as a kind of automated kiosk for playing additional quests.

The gameplay is essentially identical to the Agent P game in Epcot, except that you use a paper card rather than a loaned cell phone to trigger the event. That is to say, you show up at the appointed spots, wave your card to trigger the event, and watch as a physical effect unfolds in front of you. Having physical effects makes the game more cool to some users. My six-year-old declares Pirate’s Adventure to be better than Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

I would say it’s essentially the same thing as Agent P, but there is one critical difference. In Epcot you can sometimes hear the communicators beeping and loudly telling their stories. Since the game card and map are paper-based on Pirate’s Adventure, the only noise to come from the game is localized to the physical effects, and those tend to be both less obtrusive and somehow more interesting when you are nearby and an effect is triggered. We drew lots of interest from onlookers when we made our effects occur.

Effects might be as simple as a talking robotic parrot or a skeleton being raised out of the water. Our favorite was probably the cannon shot, which first blows a spout of water into the air but when you do it again shoots open a treasure chest. There is a coolness factor to many of these effects that was simply missing in the Epcot game.

Well my younger child prefers Pirate’s Adventure, I’m less certain the game has repeatability for older children or for adults. With the middle and hard levels of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, there is repeatability because the game is difficult and it requires strategy. With Pirate’s Adventure, there is no way to lose again, and so I think it could be said that this game will skew younger than Sorcerers.

It does learn some lessons from Sorcerers. Each interaction takes only a few seconds, and there’s not a long storyline the way we saw in sorcerers. I often found myself wishing for a fast-forward button with Sorcerers, but that seems unnecessary with this new game.

The game stations are highly integrated in Adventureland, and they look good. Few of them stick out at all and will not disturb the casual or infrequent visitor. Adventureland had a number of out-of-the-way places, so this game was a reasonable fit for that land. I suppose they could do something like it for Tomorrowland — which would also explain why that land is not part of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom — but that would probably be all that is possible for the Magic Kingdom.

Some visitors lament the introduction of games to the Disney theme parks. So far, Disney is still ahead of the competition on this score, and these games are one of the things that make the Disney parks unique. They aren’t really amazing attractions that will draw a crowd in and of themselves, but as interesting diversions and part of a larger comprehensive package of attractions, they do add value.

Some question whether such games even have a role to play in the theme parks at all. Why not just spend money building good attractions to ride, they ask. It’s a good question, and one without an obvious answer. Disney is changing its use of the parks mostly because it recognizes that the audience has changed. Just watch the crowd in an average standby line, and you’ll see plenty of people on smart phones and ignoring the themed story unfolding around them in the queue. So Disney now builds interactive cues to better meet the attention demands of today’s audience. People not standing in line are sitting on benches or in restaurants… are looking at their smart phones.

Surely Disney’s logic must look something like this: if a visitor leaves the theme park and feels like they could have done the same thing all day in their own house, then they will sense they did not get their money’s worth and are less likely to return. Disney must assume it is their job to provide experiences they cannot get at home, and in a way that means combating the smart phone addiction. The official Disney parks app is meant to be a part of this answer, but its usability is so low and its scope so restricted that it presently fall short.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments what you think Disney should do about smart phones and the changing tastes of the audience. Are games like Agent P, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, and A Pirate’s Adventure the answer?

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations: