As promised in my Disney Prep post, and for our first check off the Disney Firsts list, we played Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. N has been to Disney a few times more than I have. So most times, he is showing me new things. This time, I was determined to have a few new things for N up my sleeve. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom was one of these new things.
On Monday the first thing we did after entering the Magic Kingdom was head over to the firehouse. I had never noticed it before. It is tucked back a little all the way on the left after entering the park. It is the last building in the main entrance square before Main Street narrows.
The signs for the game are all over the park. I never noticed them before, but once you see them, they are everywhere and hard to miss. They have a distinctive look which follows the “messages from Merlin,” theme really well.
Upon entry to the firehouse, there is a short queue. We went on two different days and both days had to wait around 15-20 minutes. There are two cast members who assist players and teach them how to play if needed. There is a small demo area so that players can be shown where to stand, how to open portals and how to use the cards.
Some players need a bit more help so these training sessions can go a little long. The second day we went, we only wanted new cards so we were a little annoyed to wait so long. We wished there was a quick queue for those just picking up cards.
While you wait online, a screen shows a short video, which explains the back story for the game. Really quickly, Hades (the villain from Hercules) is trying to take over the Magic Kingdom, so he sent his henchman, Pain and Panic to steal a magic crystal from Merlin. The crystal (crystal ball) is basically the magical alarm system for the Magic Kingdom. Pain and Panic did not succeed in stealing the crystal but they broke it. So Hades enlists the Disney Villains to steal the pieces for him. The video is a portal message from Merlin to the player, who is now the new hero and needs to help Merlin and the Disney characters to get the pieces before the villains.
One big weakness with this intro is that it is only shown on the line. It is also at the head of the line, so only the people right in front of it can really see. This means that you can catch glimpses and sound bites while waiting but can’t see until you are next and by then, you don’t have time to see it all.
Both times we were there, it was in the middle and we didn’t get to see the whole thing through. I had watched it previously online, so I explained the missing gaps to N. As with some of the backstories for amusement park rides (not Disney ones thankfully) if you miss the intro, which often plays while you wait online, you can still ride, but you will not understand some of the story. I personally hate that. I think it is a big weakness with these rides and sadly I felt it was the same with Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. If the screen were in a different place, so it could be seen from anywhere on the line, this issue would mostly go away.
There are 3 levels of the game. The first level is fairly easy, but the game gets a lot harder the higher the level. First time players are advised to start on level 1. So N and I took the short training course where they explained the rules and how to defeat the villains.
Merlin has placed portals all over the Magic Kingdom and marked them with symbols on a map. No rides are identified on the map so sometimes a bit of searching is needed. Each portal is clearly identified with a big padlock.
Only one person in your party can be the “keyholder,” for us it was N. They warned us not to lose our key, a card printed with a key and identifier, or a Magicband, for those with a Magicband like us, as it is the only way to open the portal. They said that the Magicband used to start the game needed to be used on all future visits if we wanted to keep playing or we would lose our progress. This is because the status of the game is saved so that players can come back and pick up where they left off.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is in essence a card collecting game as Merlin created a bunch of spells that players use to defeat the villains. The spells are contained by the cards. There are several different types of spells and information listed on the card. On harder levels villains can be immune to certain types of spells.
Cards can be and often are collected in large binders. A themed Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom binder is for sale at the firehouse. Cards can also be traded as we saw with the cast member who stands outside the firehouse with an open binder. There are also specialty cards that come out at certain times of the year or for special events.
Each day a player visits the Magic Kingdom, they can collect a pack of cards from the firehouse for free. Even though N is the keyholder, I still got my own pack each time. If a player wins the game, they can collect an additional pack for that day. Winning any level of the game works for this.
Playing the Game
To play the game, you start off at the training center and watch a snippet where Merlin welcomes you as a new hero and tells you what portal you need to go to. You then find the portal on the map, go there, and unlock the portal. At that point, Merlin will instruct you further.
Basically, playing the games consists of going from portal to portal to complete the story which plays out with short snippets of video played on a flat surface. This can be a window or a wall. Each has the padlock to identify it and to unlock it. If you go to the wrong portal, the video will show telling you what the symbol is for the portal you need to go to.
The portals used for each individual part of the game are in a localized section. N and I went back and forth between the 3 portals in Fantasyland for our first quest. This was really helpful as we had to go back and forth several times and it would have been super annoying if the portals used were all over the park.
Casting a Spell
The player shows the card to the camera while standing on the specially marked circle to cast a spell. The camera reads it, then performs the spell. One of the portals we needed was broken but the game doesn’t know that. Instead of casting the spell, since the camera couldn’t read our cards. It sent us to a different portal. This one was not broken, so the spells worked. This was a little annoying.
It was our first time playing and we weren’t sure we were doing it right since it didn’t work. Another player told us that we were holding the spell too high as the game was designed for children so the camera was aimed low. But we still couldn’t get it to work. We finally discovered that the portal we had been using was broken. So when it finally sent us (after 5 minutes per time trying and failing, several times, to use a spell at the first portal) to the next portal, the spell worked right away and it was such a difference!
After defeating the villain (Maleficent for us) the video shows a bell so that the user knows they have beaten the villain. As part of our quest we also saved the fairies from Sleeping Beauty and they in turn helped us by taking the rescued piece of the crystal back to Merlin.
At this point, the game directed us back to Main Street to discover the next quest location. But it had taken a long time due to the broken portal and we wanted to ride a few rides. So we stopped playing after just one quest and felt we had enough for this visit.
Later in the day we saw a young man playing much further than we had gotten with his trusty binder over his shoulder. It looked like he was enjoying.
N and I thought it was very cute. And if it hadn’t been broken, we might have enjoyed it. But as it was, it was quite annoying to be standing there waving our spells around and having nothing happen and not knowing why. We had no idea that the portal was broken for a long time and thought we were doing something wrong.
This also ruined one of the best parts of the game. Different cards (spells), have different effects and therefore different clips play with each spell. So when casting “The Headless Horseman’s Exploding Jack-o-lantern,” at Maleficent, a pumpkin exploded all over her. But we were so surprised that it worked, that we only used that card again and again, because it was the only one that had worked and therefore the only one that we knew what was supposed to happen. It would have been so cool to use some of our other spells but we didn’t know what they were supposed to do so we didn’t know if it was the card that wasn’t working.
We saw many people playing in our area. Most of us helped each other out, trying to assist with getting the spells to work. It appeared that all of us were trying the game for the first time. We ended up leaving feeling dissatisfied due to the broken portal. We were not the only ones either, there were several others in fantasyland wandering around trying to get the portals to work and looking rather unhappy when they didn’t.
This makes me think we were not alone with our feelings about the game. We only saw two types of players. Those who are serious players with full binders, or those who were first timers and really didn’t know what to do. The serious players knew exactly what each card was supposed to do so they knew if it wasn’t working. The first timers were like us standing there, waving the card up and down, pulling it back or forward, and being super confused when nothing happened no matter what.
It was nice to get the cards for free and it was fun to try. If they fix the game and ensure that the portals work well, than I might enjoy trying the game again. But overall, we didn’t feel it was worth it. Maybe we will try again next time we go and see if it is better. We just have to remember to bring N’s magicband from this visit so that we don’t lose our progress.