Title: Prep & Landing (link)
Publisher: Walt Disney
Released: November 19, 2009
iTouch?: Yes (WiFi/Internet required for some)
Pros: A couple of entertaining games/features
Cons: Long, frustrating gameplay with little payoff, promoted items missing
Review: On December 1, ABC will air its first ever original holiday special produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. That’s the good news. The bad news is they want to charge you for downloading the promotional app and it falls way short on expectations and even promises.
After watching a surprisingly brief promo for the special, you are presented with two menu options. Kringle Academy is where you’ll find 3 mini-games and P&L Specialized Equipment is where you’ll find the ‘extras,’ which are often more entertaining than the games themselves, unfortunately.
As a general rule with the game, sound effects are nil (Christmas carols are your only source of audio candy) and gameplay is exceptionally long with repetitive movements. There’s also no scoring system so you’re really only competing for ‘distance’ and colored rewards such as gold, silver and red (and other, ‘lesser’ colors) which seem to offer no benefit other than a virtual pat on the iBack.
The first game is Deployment. In Deployment, you must use your finger and/or the accelerometer to navigate yourself left and right as you parachute down through the skies in the hopes to reach the rooftops below. Fortunately one thing this app does do correctly and effectively is visual demonstrate the rules: avoid planes, kites and other objects while candy canes (and other items attached to balloons) are okay to hit. Each time you run into a no-no object, your hit counter is lowered by 1 (you start off at 9). End up at 0 and you’ll end up in a tree. Otherwise, you’ll eventually progress through levels, each becoming increasingly more difficult and progressively faster.
Sparkle Ball Practice is actually the twinkling star of the app. The premise is to throw ‘Sparkle Balls’ at wandering kids and pets to put them to sleep while avoiding other elves that pop up from time to time. Actual gameplay is easy enough, you simply touch your intended target to put them to sleep. The field has depth and while the kids are stationary, the pets do walk, so there’s a little challenge to the game, particularly as you progress to the higher levels. If any of the games has genuine replay value, it’s this one. Again, you have a counter that begins at 9 and anytime you miss a target or hit an elf, it goes down by one.
In Ski Jump, you press the navigation buttons (left, right, up) to cross-country ski and jump along rooftops and hills, avoiding chimneys and other objects while collecting candies that give you bonus time. In the absence of a counter, here you compete against the clock. The unfortunate news is that it’s REALLY easy to beat this game because of the abundance of time bonuses. You may also encounter some frustration as you get used to the controls and will find yourself asking ‘I missed that?!’ but even when you miss, the game starts you right back where you missed and the only thing you lose is time (but there’ll undoubtedly be a time bonus along the way). With no scoring system in place, it doesn’t matter if you finish with 2 minutes on the clock or 2 seconds.
Then come the extras in the P&L Specialized Equipment section. The game’s description and screenshot promise three items, but the game has only two of them: Naughty or Nice and The World Scanner. Santa’s Compass, whatever it is, does not appear to be part of the app, even after trying to set the device’s date to December 1 and December 24.
The two extras are linked in that Naughty or Nice uses a GBM Scanner (that’s Gingerbread Man) to determine if the person the device is pointed at is Naughty or Nice. Truth is, the result is random and if you don’t like the answer, you can immediately press the rescan button, which should prove to be entertaining messing with friends and frenemies alike. Once you have an acceptable answer, you are offered the option to send your newly recorded data to the North Pole. With The World Scanner, you can visually see a world map and visually see where the naughty and nice people are around the world.
What’s most surprising about the app, especially in light of other Disney releases, is how light it is on promotional content. It would have been nice to have either a trailer or some exclusive content/wallpaper to make the application a bit more inviting.