App Review: Spy Queue: Disneylandby Lani Teshima, staff writer
Have you ever found yourself standing in line to ride an attraction at Disneyland and been bored to tears because the queue is so long? Do you get tired from waiting for people in your group to finish all their shopping in the park? Or maybe you're a veteran annual passholder who wants to find a new activity while at Disneyland?
If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS version 5.0 or later, there is an app you take with you to Disneyland that can help keep you occupied. Spy Queue: Disneyland was developed by park enthusiast Brett Rounsaville, and as he describes it, is "one part treasure hunt and one part fact-filled guide book."
How the App WorksUnlike a lot of other apps about the Disney theme parks, this app focuses just on Disneyland (in fact, this app does not include Disney California Adventure park) in Anaheim. Not only does this app not work for Florida's Magic Kingdom (which has many similarities to Disneyland), but you probably won't even find a need to use this app unless you're actually in the park.
The interface for Spy Queue: Disneyland is simple and relatively straightforward. There are three icons on the bottom, labeled "SpyQ," "Map," and "Park Wide." The main screen defaults to the SpyQ selection. Here, you see different icons that represent the major lands within Disneyland (Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Tomorrowland, Toontown, Adventureland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, and Frontierland). Just swipe the icons in either direction to find the land you want to focus on.
Once you select your land, you are taken to the attractions list. Tap an attraction name, and the app takes you directly to Eye Spy photos for the attraction (both on the ride itself, as well as the queue area). The app displays one large photo on the main screen area, and you see a row of thumbnail photos across the bottom of your screen. Tap these thumbnails to view an enlarged version on the center of your screen.
Tap your Eye Spy photo, and two buttons appear on the bottom: A green "found it" button, and a red "hint" button. Tapping the hint button displays a pop-up with a textual hint. Many of these hints incorporate puns or other wording that make it easier for you to hone in on the correct location. Once you identify the photo, you tap the "found it" button. When you do, you see a pop-up that rewards you with a piece of trivia related to the photo. At the same time, the thumbnail version of the photo now gets a little green checkmark on the right corner; this is how you can tell which photos you've solved.
When you tap the Map icon, it takes you to a bing photo map of Disneyland. Because this is just a bing.com map, this is not customized for the app. While you can expand your view, you are not shown additional labels for the various attractions or lands. If you do not know where some attractions are, you will need to check your official Disneyland Today fold-out map.
Just as with the Eye Spy photos, there is a green "found it" button under each wheel. Unlike the photos, however, the items do not get checkmarks when you find them, so you can keep playing this slot machine repeatedly.
Finally, Spy Queue is an iOS GameCenter game. If you tap on the top right icon at any screen (the icon typically associated with the "forward" or "share" button), this takes you to the GameCenter leaderboard for this app. Here, you can see how you fare against your friends and others who played this app.
This app has the potential to be a lot of fun, and the way the developer designed the format, it will be easy for him to update it as he adds more content. That's a good thing, because the app, at version 1.0.2, looks like there are still some lands that are sorely missing some content. Take a look at what's available in the current version:
- Main Street: 9 land items
- New Orleans Square: Haunted Mansion (9 items), Pirates of the Caribbean (3 items)
- Tomorrowland: Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters (9 items), Space Mountain (2 items), Star Tours (9 items)
- Toontown: 9 land items, Mickey's House (9 items), Minnie's House (6 items), Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin (9 items)
- Adventureland: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (8 items), Jungle Cruise (9 items)
- Critter Country: Winnie the Pooh (0 items) – this appears to be a software bug in this version.
- Fantasyland: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (5 items)
- Frontierland: Big Thunder Mountain (9 items), Tom Sawyer Island (9 items)
Main Street and Toontown are currently the only lands with Eye Spy photos for the lands themselves. All other lands require that you go on the attraction (or its queue), something that might be difficult to do on very crowded days. For people trying to find distractions when the park is crowded and the lines too long, photos from the lands themselves may be easier to find.
Other lands, like Fantasyland, could easily have several attractions on the list, but it currently only includes Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. One particular problem is Critter Country. While it does list the Winnie the Pooh attraction, the attraction itself has zero things to find. Tapping on the attraction does not do anything. Perhaps this is a software bug that will be fixed in the future.
Another issue with the app is that there is currently no way to reset found photos. This means that once you find all the items, you cannot use this app again—one thing I didn't try was to uninstall it, and reinstall it; this may reset the found photos. It would be a great improvement for this app to have a reset button. On a multi-day trip to the park, each person could try their hand to see how they might do on a different day, for example.
Finally, the big mystery for me was how you earn your points in the leaderboard. It might involve a lot of work to redesign the interface to show when you earn some points, but even a note in the instructions (which you can access by tapping the "i" icon on the top left corner of the app) would help. How much is each solved photo worth? Do you get point deductions if you look at the hint? Do I get points for finding matches from the slot machine? I have no clue.
Overall, this is a neat idea for an app, and I see a lot of potential in future editions. I'm not quite sure it's worth $1.99 yet, but I think it's an app that can continue to gain value as long as the developer continues to add (and revise) the content. Eventually, the developer could even branch out to offer a Disney California Adventure version, or editions for the parks in Walt Disney World.
App Tester Observations
We asked our panel of volunteer app testers what they thought about Spy Queue: Disneyland:
Leo M. agreed that this was a great concept. "This app makes waiting in line just as fun as the ride. My 8 year old, 2 year old, and I had tons on fun using both the ride searches and the park wide searches. They need to add more rides, as not all of the rides are represented."
Karen S. also had a chance to test this app at Disneyland, and overall, thought it was an entertaining app that anyone could enjoy using. "There are one or two suggestions my husband and I had. Since there is a way to join the Spy Queue community on their website, it might be fun to include the message boards in the app. Also, I'm not sure the app warrants a $1.99 charge. Maybe $.99 for now, until more content (photos) can be added? All in all though, it was fun looking for all the different items and keeping my niece and nephew occupied in the long lines. We also discovered that on extremely hot days, like today, it's nice to just sit in a shaded area and play the Slot Machine O' Lookin' For Stuff as people walk by."
Tiffany E. offered some particularly detailed observations. She tested out the app on an iPhone 4, but was disappointed that it was not compatible with the second-generation iPod Touch because of the iOS 5 requirement.
Tiffany noted, "When I first downloaded it, I liked the look, ease of use, and it was easy to figure out what to do. When I started looking at the items to spy, both my daughter and I, being avid Disneyland-goers, felt we knew where most of the items were already." In fact, her 11-year-old daughter thought the app was "too easy," but they still took the app to the park to verify whether her assessment was accurate. Being Disney fans gave them an advantage, but Tiffany suspects that casual visitors may find the photos in the app pretty challenging.
Tiffany did run into a problem. "I wanted to use a hint and hit found by mistake. Once you hit found, you cannot click (it off), so I was unable to get the clue!" Once she realized this problem, Tiffany made it a point to tap on the hint even if she was standing in front of the item in the photo just so she could read the clue. She noted that some clues were easy enough, while others where harder if you weren't a big Disneyland fan.
Tiffany thought her favorite part was getting to read all the pieces of trivia she was rewarded with when she found a photo. She did not understand why the app included the map, however, as it did not seem to add any value.
Tiffany thought this was a fun, OK app, but felt she would like to see some more improvements, including:
- On the main page when you have finished a land, there should be star or something—that way you can spin through and know if you forgot something in a land.
- A new symbol on each land letting you know what lands have been updated when the app is updated
- Ability to uncheck: "I might like to try again."
- Tiffany's daughter suggested that the Main Street photos be in order: "We were doing a lot of walking back and forth."
- Offer varying levels of difficulty for both hardcore parkgoers as well as the casual (or out-of-state/first-time) visitor.
Overall, Tiffany thought this was a decent app with room to grow, although she thought 99 cents would be a more appropriate price for what you got.
To Tiffany's list, I'm going to add a few more:
- More attractions in each land
- Eye Spy photos for the land, and not just attractions – this will let you meander rather than feeling like you must find things in the time you have while you are in an attraction queue
- Real items to find in Critter Country
App at a Glance
- App name: Spy Queue: Disneyland (available from iTunes)
- Developed by: Brett Rounsaville
- Platforms: iOS 5.0-compatible iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch models (does not require an Internet connection to play)
- Cost: $1.99
- Version reviewed: 1.0.2
- Size: 11.8MB
- Pros: Great idea for an app, offers practical fun things to do in the park for people of all ages.
- Cons: Skimpy on content—hoping that future editions will add more; expensive app for what you get.
- Lani's rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 for this edition.