The Scotsman Games review: Disney Fantasia - Music Evolved

Harmonix emulate the playfulness and novelty of Disney's 1940 film. Picture: Contributed
Harmonix emulate the playfulness and novelty of Disney's 1940 film. Picture: Contributed
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A fun and inspired technical showpiece for the Kinect let down by a restrictive single player mode.

Disney Fantasia - Music Evolved

Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Xbox 360

Score: 7/10

WHEN Walt Disney’s Fantasia exploded onto cinema screens in 1940, the celebrated US critic, Otis Ferguson, offered a sharp take on its innovative blend of animation and classical music. “Dull as it is towards the end, ridiculous as it is in the bend of the knee before Art, and taking one thing with another, it is one of the strange and beautiful things that have happened in the world,” he wrote in the New Republic. Over seven decades on, it is an appraisal that, in part at least, rings true about its interactive pseudo sequel.

For all the troubles that Microsoft has endured in trying to convince the public that Kinect is an essential component of the Xbox One, Disney Fantasia is a resounding endorsement of its technical prowess. The sensor’s capabilities are exploited to the full by this most beguiling of rhythm games from Harmonix. It is an entirely different proposition to Guitar Hero and Rock Band titles that constituted the developer’s halcyon years and a much more interesting prospect than those seminal series combined.

The player’s limbs become an instrument flailing in time to the music

There are no plastic instruments, drumsticks or snaking wires to contend with; the only peripherals required are the player’s limbs. Whether tracing arcing movements, punching towards the screen or gripping a sustained note, the body becomes a flailing instrument, moving in unison to a diverse repertoire of songs, which takes in everything from Liszt and David Bowie to Vivaldi and the Flaming Lips. It poses a good challenge, although it would have been nice to see more songs which require greater independent movements of each arm.

Fantasia’s greatest coup is the way it allows players to change and compose the music, not just follow it. Every so often, you are given the option of creating a mash-up of a track, emphasising a certain instrument or altering its mood and tone entirely; to give just one example, Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody can be transformed in a majestic symphonic number. It is a wonderfully poetic experience and makes you consider anew each song’s constituent parts.

Great mechanics are hampered by debilitating progression barriers

The novelty of these mechanics should mean the game is anything but a slog, but unfortunately, they are hamstrung by some curiously debilitating progression barriers. In order to fully exploit these abilities, you must play through a song not once, or twice, but three times. Harmonix try to mix things up with cutscenes and a twee story, but it is not enough to prevent a playthrough of the campaign mode becoming a slog after the first hour.

There are other ways to play the game, notably a party option which unlocks all the songs and capabilities, but given Disney’s proud legacy of strong, engaging stories, the inability to house the motion controlled gameplay in a sparky single player mode feels like a lost opportunity. Even so, Fantasia is still the best example of a Kinect game and those Xbox One owners contemplating an off-the-wall social game for the Christmas holidays need look no further.

TIPS AND TRICKS:

1) Following the switches in songs is essential to building up multipliers, the only way to amass an impressive score.

2) Although the game is unforgiving at times, its motion controls generally allow you to preempt movements on screen by a half second or so; try to keep anticipate the music’s flow.

3) Competitive co-op adds an entertaining multiplayer element to the game, but be sure you are both standing as near to the centre of the Kinect as possible for a fair match up.