The walk-around activity, which places guests in the role of World-savers, is in testing mode and is planned to be available to the public in late February.
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"It's a combination between role-playing games — like Dungeons and Dragons or videogame-role playing games — along with trading-card games," he says. "[We are] mixing the two together, adding in location-based entertainment and turning it into something that nobody's ever tried before."
Folks can try one of eight missions that center on Disney villains in cahoots with Hades. The guests — now officially sorcerer's apprentices — are dispatched by Merlin to defeat the baddies using their issued "spell cards."
At designated spots, participants activate "mystical portals," which are incorporated into the everyday landscape of the theme park. For example, a stone wall turns into a video presentation, a message appears in a curtain, a fireplace lights up and reveals a clue.
"We wanted to choose locations that weren't obvious because a good portion of the game is the treasure-hunt aspect of it," Ackley says. "We wanted to put things out of the way, places people don't usually go."
At the portal, players present a spell card, which causes a chain reaction, the exact manner of which depending on the card and the situation. The cards portray spells inspired by Disney characters, such as Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blaster, Quasimodo's Bell, the Queen of Hearts' Card Army and the Sugar Plum Fairies' Dewdrop Spiderweb. We watched Frozone's Ice Blast spell card cool off (yet not defeat) Maleficent.
It's a simple game loaded with complications. Different spells work better on different villains. Presenting a combination of cards can yield greater results. The previous player might encounter a different villain than you will. The longer you play, the stronger your spells become. Show the spell card too late and it fizzles. There are 70 spell cards to collect, although players are issued five for a mission, along with a map of the portals, which are scattered over Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Main Street U.S.A.
"It's probably the most complicated project I've worked on," Ackley says. He wouldn't share more about the technology of the portals, playing the usual "It's magic" card, keeping the Disney trade secrets confidential.
Likewise, Disney doesn't share what it has spent on the project. Although no structures were built for the Sorcerers game, there were modifications to buildings and a lot of brainpower used. The cards feature new art of the characters, all in "action" poses, and there are smaller touches, like a two-line verse on each card. The Queen of Hearts card says "Go on, give the cards a shuffle / That will cause a fine kerfuffle."
More than 90 minutes of content was created using known Disney characters.
"They're new stories, but the stories are appropriate to the character," Ackley says. "Obviously, Cruella really just wants puppies, so that's what she's after, but in an entirely different context."
Guests can stop after one mission, which should take 30 minutes or less, but if they complete eight missions, there will be a ninth one available that features Hades.
Right now, the game is set on "easy" for its testing. But players can be elevated to a "medium" level, which features additional complications.
"We will probably be testing medium, but the harder the game is, the longer it takes people to finish," Ackley says. Disney is still trying to determine the perfect duration, he says.
And the advanced level?
"Let's just say it's very, very hard," he says. "You have to choose your spells particularly careful on the hard level, and it's likely the villains will beat you many times. So that one's not for the faint of heart."
DBevil@Tribune.com or 407-420-5477