If you thought interactive and in-park games were only for Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, with Kim Possible’s World Showcase Adventure and the newly announced Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, well think again!  It is time for you to earn your right to be named a true Wilderness Explorer just like in the Disney-Pixar movie UP.  This latest iteration in the wave of new interactive games in Disney Parks has found its way into Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  While only in testing at the moment, you can expect a much broader roll-out of this experience in the not too distant future.  So I know you are tired of all this build up when what you really want are the details.  Well not to worry Wilderness Explorer-in-training ;) click past the break as Da Mouse walks you through the test of this experience and shares tons of photos and our first impressions.  Don’t wait another second, it is time to explore!

This is the temporary booth set up for the play-testing of this game. Of course there were tons of imagineers and cast members making sure everyone understood the game, as well as to request feedback at the end of your journey both informally by asking off-the-cuff questions and formally by asking participants to fill out a survey. (More on that below)

We have our Wilderness Explorer Guides a.k.a. folder and we are ready for an adventure!

You are given binoculars to help you in your explorer duties…

…and just in case you are wondering, they do work.

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail serves as one of the locations for this interactive game test. For those of you who have visited the Pangani Forest trail you know that it is a gem within the Animal Kingdom park but may have also noticed that most walk right past it without knowing it is even there. Attendance was clearly higher with this game in the midst of the trail and it adds a nice bonus to the experience.

These markers let us know we are in the right place to start our Hiking Badge Journey!

But first let’s take a quick peek inside our folder…

The Hiking Badge questions are simple and geared towards small children but even adult will find they will learn a thing or two.

This will come in handy later when we go bird watching!

As you can see the Badge Earning Locations are spread throughout Africa. But after speaking with an imagineer I can tell you that this is only for the purposes of keeping the testing in a smaller and controlled environment but it was hinted that we should see this experience park-wide if not just in other areas of the park! The survey we filled out at the end of our journey mentioned the possibility of 28-30 different badge opportunities although that may or may not make it into whatever comes out of this test. Still interesting & very exciting!

Here is a look at the Wilderness Explorer folder. You are also given a sticker to wear just like the one on this folder as you complete your journey.

Here is the swag & for the purposes of this test, you get to keep the everything but the folder in the end. Nothing earth shattering but it makes for a nice memento from your trip.

We start our journey in hopes of attaining our Hiking Badge and before you know it we’ve got our answer…

Answer to Question #1: Termites

Moving right along I think I’ve spotted the answer to question #2 even before we’ve reached trail marker #2. The Hiking Badge journey is extremely easy but it is was probably intended to be that way so that the little ones in your group could play right along too. The surveys also hinted at badges having different degrees of difficulties.

Trail Marker Number 2 reveals the second answer in our quest: Black & White

Our third answer and fair warning on our hiking badge adventure: Beware of Buffalo!

We just grabbed our bird field guide with bird photos and descriptions, so let the bird watching begin!  It is hard to make out in this photo but birds are everywhere in this area and it isn’t too difficult to spot them.

Though once you are looking for four different types of birds the challenge increases.  Look closely and you might just spot a bird having a quick drink of water.

Birdwatching is something many of us hear about when we are younger but never actually do when we get older and this was a unique and fun way of doing that.

And now we have our first badge in the form of a sticker. One of the more exciting revelations to come from the survey comes from a question hinting at other possible “rewards” including stamps in the place of stickers and what I think is even more exciting, an up-charge Wilderness Explorer Badge. Some combo of both options is the way to go here and I hope Disney makes it happen. (Also Note the bird guide in the background)

Gorilla having some lunch…

With all these gorilla’s near we must be close to out final answer in our quest for the Hiking Badge.

The last question can now be answered on our hiking badge journey: Gorilla Falls

Only one thing left to do. We must finish by drawing our favorite animal in that box in the top-right. My mom tried drawing a gorilla ;)

Hiking Badge Marker…

Look for the nearest Wilderness Explorer cast member after completing your Wilderness Explorer guides in order to receive your sticker “badge.” Oh and you just might want to be ready for a simple quiz at the end ;) (Don’t know if this was part of the game or if the cast member was just adding to the fun of the experience but it was neat to see how much we did learn)

Yay! We get our badge!

Overall the experience was quite fun and there is no question that this would make for an exciting addition to the Animal Kingdom theme park entertainment offerings.  These specific journeys we tested today give park goers more reason to visit the often missed animal trails and that is only a good thing.  The theming with the use of UP branding fits perfectly and the possibility of receiving real badges even if for a small up-charge would be quite fun and provide a grand keepsake to remember your adventure by.  Overall the difficulty level makes this geared towards the younger crowd but it plays well as something the family can do together.  The survey mentioned having tiered-difficulty badge challenges and that would also be a welcome addition once this is finally deployed.  Everyone at Da Mouse is excited to have played through these tests of the Wilderness Explorer games and we can’t wait to see what the finished product turns into.  There is a good chance you will find all of this exciting news too :)

Click Here for a small clip of the game in testing