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Is a shiny new future in store for DLP’s Discoveryland?

JHM guest writer Peter Bell returns with a brand new column that shines a spotlight on what may be in store for this side of Disneyland Paris. Which is good news for all you Buzz Lightyear fans, but bad news for you “Timekeeper” fans.

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In my last article I called Discoveryland a “distinctly European take on the Tomorrowland concept.” Perhaps I should apologise, as that statement is not strictly true; Discoveryland has surprisingly little in common with its American and Japanese predecessors, and is unique in its theme and concept. It was never designed as a vision of the future, or even the “future that never was” but rather as a sort of World’s Fair, celebrating scientific and literary vision through the ages. (Particularly Europe’s contribution to these fields.)

Admittedly, the Imagineers did borrow elements from the other parks, and the land does have its own futurist “quartier” consisting of Star Tours and Honey I Shrunk The Audience, but this is to be found at the very rear of the land in a self-contained section. Even here though, George Lucas is held up as a visionary – imagining worlds and technologies on a par with his European forerunners, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. (I assume they’re not taking Episode 1 into account.)

However, “Disco”, as the land is known to Parisian Cast Members, is set to undergo a subtle but significant shift in theme, bringing it more in line with its US counterparts. Earlier this year, Le Visionarium (exported as Timekeeper to the sister resorts) closed its doors for the last time after it was found that not enough guests were visiting the attraction to merit its operational costs. This in itself is not big news, but you have to remember that this attraction was a very important part of Discoveryland. One of the park’s opening attractions, it was the first of the resort’s rides to be exported to the sister parks. More than this, it was a quintessentially European attraction, filmed in French and reinforcing the overall theme of its land.

So who can we expect to replace the venerable Timekeeper? Well the ride building’s interior has already been gutted and plans for “Project X” are already underway. It’s not a particularly well-kept secret though, and I received word this week that construction permits for Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters have just been awarded. It’s a decision that makes sense – after all, Tokyo Disneyland installed Buzz in their old Timekeeper building, so plans for the conversion already exist. This may explain why work on the Paris project has been advancing so quickly. Plans for the exterior refurbishment of the building have apparently been finalised, and feature a change of colour scheme and a large statue of Buzz marking the entrance, as well as an extension of the building’s roof to cover sections of the new, extended queue.

European fans have been quite divided in their reactions to this news. While most of them welcome the introduction of the new ride, many feel that its position at the entrance to Discoveryland harms the overall atmosphere of this section of the park. I personally agree – Astro Blasters would be much better off in the futurist section of the park, next to Honey I Shrunk The Audience. In fact a replica of the Pizza Planet restaurant from the Toy Story films already exists on the site, so a Buzz Lightyear ride would complement the area nicely. Furthermore, the new colour scheme of vivid purple and pea-green is unlikely to sit well amidst the burnished golds and browns of the surrounding attractions.

Let’s turn from that to perhaps the biggest thorn in the park’s side – Autopia. Rumours that the attraction is to get the chop have been circulating for years now, and with good reason – it is hugely impractical to run. It takes up a vast amount of space (almost as much as the whole of the rest of Discoveryland), has a poor hourly rider capacity and causes more work related accidents than any other ride in the resort. Furthermore, due to the French climate, it remains closed for up to nine months of every year, during which time Disney still have to pay maintenance and upkeep costs. Lastly, there is the question of just what role the ride plays in Discoveryland as a whole. While the loading station and queue lines share the pseudo-Victorian themeing of the surrounding environment, there is nothing particularly visionary or futuristic about the sound of internal combustion engines.

Needless to say, many people behind the scenes feel that Autopia’s days should be numbered, resulting in a number of tantalising rumours concerning possible successors. These include Tokyo DisneySea’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, which would be reached via a bridge across a new extension to the small dock that houses the “Mysteries of the Nautilus” walk-through. This would effectively create a new sub-section (no pun intended) of Discoveryland, with two attractions sharing a common theme.

Another possibility is the appearance of a hands-on science and discovery centre based on elements taken from the defunct DisneyQuest centres in the US, but with an exciting new Renaissance period theme, making it look a little like Leonardo Da Vinci’s lab.

But there have also been rumours that Autopia will be staying firmly put, albeit in a slightly altered form. The details of this supposed re-themeing vary wildly, from a military overlay that would see guests driving miniature tanks around a futuristic battleground (highly unlikely, needless to say), to the construction of a large show building that would put guests under cover whilst allowing greater use of lighting and visual effects. Nothing is certain, but all the supposition indicates that any new version of Autopia would be more action-packed, more visually appealing and would follow some sort of central storyline. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you read Jim Hill’s recent article on the proposed “Cars” overlay for the attraction. It’s looking increasingly likely to happen.

So what is to become of Discoveryland? The introduction of new attractions can only be welcomed, but it seems inevitable that the land will lose some of its distinctive character as the influences of Verne and Wells are phased out Then again, given the resort’s recent track record, perhaps an increase in visitor numbers would be justification enough. Let’s hope it works.

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“Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion” game coming this summer

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Adventure Time Pirates of the Enchiridion

“C’mon on, grab your friends … ” A new Adventure Time game is coming out across multiple platforms.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

In this open world game, Finn and Jake will be sailing on a raft (Named Jeff) through the flooded land of Ooo to solve the mystery of why water engulfed their home and to help others & get in hijinks along the way. With a ragtag gang of friends (From a vampire, to an Ice King, to a little robot) Finn and Jake will travel from the melting Ice Kingdom to the Fire Kingdom and fight in turn-based combat like an RPG.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

The trailer shows off some absolutely gorgeous character models and environments. I’m particularly enchanted by the gorgeous Candy Kingdom that’s briefly shown in this footage. The art design sticks close to the show, but brings with it a soft, sweet design rarely seen in adventure games. Which is a refreshing thing to bring to the table. Likewise, it’s a joy to see the characters translate to 3D so well. Outright Games has done some fantastic work here with their art design.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

Likewise, the voice cast for the show will be reprising their roles as characters in the land of Ooo. And they’ll have a lot of lines to record. Not only can you control Finn and Jake, but you’ll be able to play as BMO and Marceline as well. You can upgrade these characters to unlock unique abilities for combat and the map holds plenty of fun mysteries too. With side stories and secret locations, this seems like a game that’ll have hours & hours of fun.

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What strikes me particularly about this game is how much it resembles Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. This is no coincidence. Adventure Time have a history of being direct corollaries to Legend of Zelda games. “Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!” ‘s gameplay references “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” and “Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom” has the same top down look & combat stylings as “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” With this in mind, it’s absolutely delightful to see a Wind Waker homage with a series like this. Wind Waker was a gamechanger for the Legend of Zelda series, and it feels like “Pirates of the Enchiridion” will be a gamechanger for the Adventure Time games.

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‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ will be out July 17th for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. 

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Do you like treasure hunting and/or cooking soup? Then Pokemon Quest is the game for you

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Pokemon Quest

Immediately after the Pokemon press conference on May 29th, the mobile-switch cross platform game Pokemon Quest was available to download on the Nintendo eShop (with the mobile device version debuting later this month). Curious about the ‘Free-to-Start’ game, I snagged a download and started playing.

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Pokemon Quest is a game that feels best letting itself auto-run. You check in several times a day to see what Pokemon have appeared at your camp (The conceit behind this game is that you’re a treasure hunter & Pokemon flock to you to fight their brethren in your honor. They also sometimes just come by because you make really good soup. What can I say?). With the Pokemon at your disposal, you build a small exploration team much in the same style as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game series. And you then set them out to fight other Pokemon in open levels. From these battles, you win power stones (which allow you to upgrade your Pokemon’s health & attack power), and ingredients to lure other Pokemon to your camp.

You may’ve taken notice use of the term ‘Free-to-Start’ earlier in this article. That’s because — like many mobile services — this game offers add-ons for purchase. I don’t see any age limit on the Nintendo Switch version to take away ads for purchases (which many mobile games have chosen to add. See Disney’s own ‘Disney Crossy Road’) but the Pokemon Company may be expecting parents to set their own controls over the switch with the parental controls available on the system.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

Still, the game is typical in mobile game fare for trying to wring money out of players. Energy to play the game costs P tickets, which you can earn 50 a day … or you can just buy. The game gives you an amount to start with, shows you how to use them to speed up your game, and then takes you to the shop where you can see an advertisement to buy it — along with Pokemon furniture to help your team.

These packages can go up to $30 and include Pokemon in-game items & exclusive furniture. And while Pokemon Go offered items in bundles like this, it’s still odd to see in a Pokemon game — let alone a Pokemon game on the Nintendo Switch (albeit, this is a cross-platform game). The game itself doesn’t seem to have any sort of hard-pay line for gameplay, though. I’m up to the fifth world in my game without making any purchases. And while the game difficulty has dramatically ramped up, likely to encourage purchases, it’s still completely manageable to play without paying.

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In that sense, for a free game, it’s really cute & enjoyable. The graphics are pleasing and colorful. And if you return to camp, you’ll find all the Pokemon you’ve befriended hopping around adorable decorations. Sometimes stacking on top of each other, other times following each other around in what seems like games of tag.

The ‘cooking’ mechanic to encounter a random Pokemon makes encountering them feel less like gambling and more like strategy. By cooking certain recipes from materials you find on missions, you can draw certain types of Pokemon to your camp. Cooking in certain pots (unlocked by playing through the game) can draw higher powered Pokemon at the cost of more materials. And waiting while your energy fills up means running out of ingredients (At the point of the game I’m at, about half-way through) doesn’t seem to be a problem.

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All in all, I’d say, if you have access to this game, check it out and see if it’s for you. There doesn’t seem to be cross platform support for other Pokemon games. But as a standalone, it’s a cute, fun blip of a game. The hard ‘end’ of the levels within surprises me, especially since it seems to end with 150 Pokemon (out of the over eight hundred available). So I’m not sure what there is to get out of it when you get to the end level outside of getting every Pokemon. But it’s still a fun, very casual strategy game. Just keep an eye on purchases if your children decide to play. 

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” & “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” to come to the Nintendo Switch this year

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Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu

During a conference in Japan earlier this week, the Pokemon Company revealed three new games : A mobile and Nintendo Switch cross platform game, “Pokemon Quest,” with graphics similar to Crossy Road and some absolutely adorable furniture in a “free to start” format; and for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !”

Taking inspiration from gameplay styles from the popular “Pokemon Go” for mobile devices, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !’ adopts the thrown Pokeball system. By using one controller with the Switch system, you can make a tossing motion to throw a Pokeball and capture a cute critter for your team.

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Additionally, you can buy the “Pokeball Plus” accessory to act as an additional “Joy-con” controller for your Switch to capture Pokemon. Then load a Pokemon into your pokeball, and take it out on the go.

From there, with the accessory, you’ll be able to interact with the Pokemon you have inside. Although current information doesn’t offer whether we’ll have more options than putting Eevee or Pikachu in the Pokeball Plus, the footage seen in the linked trailer is absolutely adorable.

The game itself seems to be a remake of Pokemon Yellow, a game released twenty years ago for the Game Boy Color. You explore the Kanto Pokemon region, and seem to be limited to the 150 Pokemon available when that game was out (Well, 151, if you were lucky, or good at exploiting glitches). But these games ditch the random encounters of mainline Pokemon games and adopt the overworld encounters of Pokemon Go. What Pokemon you see on the overworld is what you get.

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Additionally, Pokemon can follow you around and you can ride some of them. In footage, we see a trainer riding a giant Onyx (i.e., a giant snake made out of rocks. Who wouldn’t be comfortable riding on that?) and followed by a starting Pokemon, Bulbasaur. Although in these two games, you start instead with the series mascot Pikachu, and the evolution Pokemon Eevee, which can evolve into several different pokemon. You can also put little outfits on them. Which is – frankly — incredible.

Likewise, this seems to have local multiplayer. Hand the left Joy-con to a friend and let them enter your game. Or if you’re feeling really lonely, put the left Joy-con in your hand and pretend you have a friend while controlling the new trainer that arrives. What a fun time!

You and your friend can then team up to capture Pokemon together, or go exploring together- And you can have Pokemon you capture in Pokemon Go (of the original 151 Pokemon) arrive in your game. You can also send “Presents” back to your Pokemon Go game, including a possible new form of Pokemon as the trailer discusses.

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” will be arriving on the Nintendo Switch this November. Likewise, a new Pokemon game will be released in the second Half of 2019. With a Mario movie in development and theme park additions on the way, it’s sure to be a busy year for Nintendo. 

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