Released in 1996, with an updated version out in 98, the Walt Disney World Explorer was an attempt to offer up a more immersive guide to the Walt Disney Resort that only a computer could provide. I had alluded to it in my previous posts covering WDW video games (which you can find here and here) with the hope that there would be enough interest to dedicate a blog post to just one game. While it is hard to qualify it as a video game in a traditional sense, it definitely fits in with other CD-Rom based edutainment, except with a decidedly older-skewing audience then the Putt Putt games.
Over 20 Years Old and Still the King:
The recreation of a Disney theme park in a digital space has been something only done a few times. Most recently in 4K on the Xbox One Disneyland Adventures, an updated non-arm waving version of an Xbox 360 Kinect game. While it succeeds in being a nearly 1:1 recreation of the original Disney theme park, it lacks the substance hardcore Disney fans are looking for, as it mainly centers around meeting characters and finding things. The Walt Disney World Explorer was the antithesis to this experience. While its parks were merely colorful interactive maps, it provided hours of audio and video informational content giving in-depth detail on everything the resort had to offer at that point.
Walt Disney World Explorer and The Perfect Intro
Upon launching the software, users were greeted with a tear-inducing intro that set the historical and informational tone for the rest of the game.
Information That Will Last a Lifetime (Or Until the Ride Closes)
Playing the WDW Explorer now is a stark reminder of how much the resort has changed. It really does bring to life long-gone attractions in a way text alone cannot. Never did you know or want to know about Body Wars, a ride that was practically a corpse for its last 10 years of operation. (Seriously though, here’s a video of someone’s interaction with the Cast Member operating the ride as the only one on it.)
You also get to see a lot of great snapshots that the average park-goer would not have been able to take back during a time before everyone had a Hollywood quality camera on their smartphone with them at all times.
But it Is a Game!
While the Walt Disney World Explorer may not have featured the same amount of action as other 1998 releases such as Half-Life and Starcraft, there were still some interactive features. Hidden throughout the game were Hidden Mickeys, 25 total. If you found 10 of them something special was unlocked. What was it? Well, for many years I could not find them; however with the help of an online guide and turning up the contrast on my monitor, it’s just a video of Walt talking about Mickey. Back in the day there was no way to save your game either, so you would just have to start over each time you began.
A couple mini-games were hidden as a bonus in some of the rides. The Living Seas had an interactive ocean environment where you got to see the effects of pollution on marine life. Monster Sound Show had an interactive foley studio called Monster Studio.
The most memorable interactive feature was the WDW Timeline. Dragging a Monorail cursor on the screen, you got to witness the growth of the Disney property year by year.
(Video and screenshots © Disney)
Do you have fond memories of the Walt Disney World Explorer? Leave a comment and let me know your deepest darkest secrets (involving the game of course).
To learn more about Zack and read his recent posts for WDW Radio, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name at the top of this post.