This story was originally written for our Disney blog, and I’m reposting because I bet some Gadgetress readers are interested in such mobile apps. Reporter Ian Hamilton reviews a game app for Disneyland and videographer Mark Eades shows how it works.
Whether you frequent Disneyland or just plan the occasional vacation, it’s time to outfit yourself with an iPhone for your next visit.
If you don’t own one, then borrow one for the day or make sure someone in your group has one so you can use the Wishing Stars iPhone app.
Yes, this app is that much fun.
Wishing Stars – Disneyland (link opens in iTunes) is an absolute perfect companion for any Disneyland journey and a must-have app if you’re visiting the park any time soon. I’m not a huge Disney fanatic, like many people I know, but I’d be willing to go to Disneyland if I played this as part of the experience. (Disclosure: my wife works at Disneyland and is a bit of a fanatic.)
In a nutshell, Wishing Stars consists of a series of quests you can embark on to find particular stuff within the Disneyland park.
The quests vary by difficulty and can entertain a kid, an adult or an adult who thinks like a kid. The app uses your physical GPS location to identify whether you’ve found the answer to a clue. In other words, it’s a treasure hunt within Disneyland.
One note, though, you have to have an iPhone 3G or an iPhone 3GS to use this app. The original iPhone doesn’t have the necessary GPS accuracy to pull off what Wishing Stars requires.
There are easy, medium, hard and, eventually, there will also be ultimate quests in Wishing Stars. For me, the hard level is hard enough. App designer Greg Maletic said the ultimate quests are still a few months away from being added.
The app used to be $4.99, but it is currently free in anticipation of the 2.0 release. For those of you unfamiliar, Apple reviews and approves all the apps it offers in the App Store. Right now the major 2.0 release of Wishing Stars is being reviewed by Apple and could be approved (or denied) any day now.
|Other Disney apps|
|There are quite a few phone apps that people can use while in Disneyland, but it’s a treacherous journey to find just the right one.
► Mobile Magic, Disney’s official app — Only available on Verizon phones because of an exclusive “multi-year” agreement. The official app uses your GPS location to help identify where you are in the park and delivers the official wait times for rides in both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, as reported by Disney. It also includes schedules for character appearances. The app also has click to call buttons for Disneyland restaurants to make reservations. Overall, it’s a decent app and a solid solution, if relatively expensive: It’s $9.99 for six months.
► MouseWait (Free): The vast majority of people will probably be satisfied by the free MouseWait app. It has Facebook and Twitter integration, as well as some other features. But the real star of MouseWait is the wait times for both Disneyland and California Adventure. There are other apps for wait times, but this one is free and seemed like the most straight-forward and fully-featured. If you have a different app that you prefer, let us know in the comments.
► Walkee Disneyland iGuide ($4.99): A very well-designed app. It feels like a proper replacement for a physical map at first, but it has a lot of nice features buried under the hood that put it somewhere closer to a Disneyland journal. The app includes wait times and the ability to check off attractions that you’ve been on. You can even attach photos you’ve taken to individual rides and add notes to better remember the experience.
► Disneyland CA Planner ($3.99): Similar to Walkee, this is also solid app. It has some tools that will help you handle all the things you might need to do when planning a longer trip to Disneyland — a to-visit list, the ability to chat with others in the park and much more.
► If nothing else, you can visit m.disneyland.com using a Web browser on your phone for a mobile-optimized view of information you need while visiting the park.
In the meantime, the app is being offered for free so that it can more easily transition to the new revenue model launching with version 2.0 of Wishing Stars. In version 2.0, you’ll get a few easy and medium difficulty quests for free so that you can try out the app, then you can purchase additional quest packs at your leisure.
It’s a much smarter model for Wishing Stars because $4.99 is far too high a price to convince people to purchase the app without first being able to try it out.
If you’re reading this before version 2.0 debuts you might very well get lucky and snag the full app for free. All that free content should carry over when version 2.0 finally does hit the App Store.
Maletic made several trips from his home up in San Francisco to Disneyland to develop and test the app to ensure everything worked correctly. For example, the accuracy of GPS can decrease if you’re indoors or surrounded by tall buildings. For this reason, one of the quests doesn’t use your GPS location. In New Orleans Square, with buildings blocking a clear view of the sky, you’re given a photo of a sign and asked to identify the street number attached to it.
Below I’ve included a couple first-hand experiences and a couple sample clues from my time with the app.
Easy Quest: A photo of the sword in the stone is shown and you’re asked to figure out where it is. In an informal test, I told the app I thought I had found it when I was probably a couple hundred feet away at the entrance to the castle. The app correctly told me I wasn’t there yet. Then I tried the app five feet from the sword in the stone and….bingo! “You found a piece of a Wishing Star.”
If you know your way around Disneyland history or enjoy more of a challenge, there are much harder quests.
Hard Quest: “You saw the Disneyland dedication speech at the flagpole. But there’s one other place at Disneyland where you can find it…”
I hadn’t a clue where to find this, but Mark Eades, a videojournalist and former Disney Imagineer (attraction creator) was with me and he knew exactly where it was. He marched us halfway across the park and put us right in front of the second location in Disneyland where Walt’s dedication speech can be found.
I’ll not spoil the clue by telling you the answer here, but if you’re dying to know I bet someone will share the answer in the comments.
Though Wishing Stars debuted last year, I would be surprised if the app didn’t see rapid adoption now among people who visit Disneyland often now that it’s free.
Maletic said he has a wealth of material for many more quests and he’s currently developing a different app for Walt Disney World.
It’s very unlikely we’ll be seeing anything similar to Wishing Stars coming officially from Disney in the near future, especially on the iPhone.
Disney has an exclusive “multi-year” partnership with Verizon for Disneyland apps and currently the only app they offer is for Verizon feature phones. More on that tomorrow when I round up the various app offerings for checking ride wait times and planning your Disneyland trip. ~ Ian Hamilton, OC Register.
Here’s another video about how handy a smartphone can be at Disneyland (video by Mark Eades):
Recent Disney phone app news: