Disney’s Kingdom Hearts: Perilous Pursuits
Square and Disney released Kingdom Hearts on the PlayStation 2 twenty years ago and blew fans away with its mashup of iconic Disney characters and deeply strategic JRPG elements. Somehow, they expertly combined two completely different cultural phenomenons into an incredible video game that spawned an entire series.
In Disney’s Kingdom Hearts: Perilous Pursuit, we see another such mashup, The Op has combined the Kingdom Hearts brand with their Perilous Pursuits system, originally conceived as the 2016 game Rollers and iterated on over the years.
Join Sora, Donald, and the rest of the gang in this cooperative game for 2-5 players age 8+. A game should last around 45 minutes.
Each player takes their character board and associated Ready/Set tokens. Clip the health tracker to the board and take five shields to use later. Everyone takes one item card.
Randomly select one level one, two level two, and three level three World Cards and stack them in that order, in the center of the table. Put the Heartless marker on the start space for the chosen player count.
On each player’s turn they have three rolls of the dice. Each player’s goal is to create sets of dice to “Ready” and “Set” their actions. Every player has the same actions (though the Ability action is different) but they’re arranged differently on each player board. Because of this, it’s easier for some players to Ready different abilities.
Players may set aside dice with faces they want to keep as they continue with their second and third rolls. If a player rolls the Heartless symbol, that roll is wasted and they must reroll those dice again unless they are out of rerolls.
When a player has finished rolling and allocating their dice, they Ready anything they’ve allocated their dice to with the Ready token, then Set anything they’ve allocated a single die to that is already Ready. Finally, players can execute any actions that are Set if they allocate another die to them.
Players can also assign a die to another player’s board to use that action as well if both players have that action Set. This method of teamwork allows for more powerful turns, especially later in the game when players don’t need to use dice to “Ready” attacks as much.
- Collect – Draw a card
- Protect – Take a shield. Shields protect against Heartless attacks.
- Attack – Move the Heartless token one space on the World Card
- Distract – Reduce the Heartless roll by one die
- Ability – Different for each character, usually a combination of attacking and healing
After performing all abilities, the player rolls the World dice. The World Card shows which dice the player must roll. The effects of each die face are different for each World Card.
Die faces on the world cards can damage players, move the Heartless token, or even remove Set or Ready tokens from player boards.
After rolling for the World Card, play proceeds to the next player. Ready and Set tokens remain on players’ boards.
The goal of the players is to save each world by attacking enough to push the Heartless token to the World Saved icon at one end of the World Capture Track.
If the players are successful they save that world. They then roll the black die and remove the corresponding Ready and Set tokens from their player board. If they roll the Heartless symbol, they remove all tokens from their board.
If the Heartless push the token to the World Lost space, discard the World Card. Remove all Set tokens for all players. Each player rolls a black AND blue die and removes the corresponding Ready and Set tokens.
Add a previously unused world to the bottom of the stack.
Players must save six worlds to win, but lose if they fail to save two.
I was the perfect age for Kingdom Hearts. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I grew up with single-player video games and, of course, a lot of Disney content. Twenty-year-old me had the time, patience, and obstinance to grind through a JRPG. Parts of Kingdom Hearts were genuinely difficult, but it still managed to be approachable for all ages.
Unfortunately, despite numerous tries, we were unable to reach that same level of universal appeal with Perilous Pursuits. There were a few missteps along the way that made it difficult for the family to enjoy.
Numerous times, when we played, we lost the first world almost immediately. One or two unlucky rolls while the party is getting going, and you’re half way to defeat. This is a brutal way to start an 8+ game.
There were slip ups with the graphic design, too. Each card’s character or world art was great, but the item cards were unexplainably difficult to read. The font size and color just didn’t provide enough contrast.
The primary mechanic of the game is assigning dice to execute actions. Despite the double-thick player boards providing spots for the “Ready” and “Set” tokens, there’s no spot to put the action die – and for the bottom action, there isn’t even room to put it on the board.
Finally, the shield tokens are oversized for their cutouts on the player board and don’t fit. I would have rather not had the slots at all.
We could have overlooked each of these small mistakes on their own, but we also struggled with the core gameplay loop.
For a property that is supposed to be targeted to a younger demographic, the game is just too hard. We tried a number of times to get our kids involved, but they weren’t excited by moving a token back and forth on a track. There’s just too much chance and not enough different things going on to keep the interest of an 8-10 year-old player.
That isn’t to say the game is bad – Players who like the grind of a difficult cooperative game can find joy in mixing different characters to strategically defeat the Heartless. But that’s a FromSoftware concept, not a Disney one. This level of difficulty likely played better in the immediate predecessor, Fantastic Beasts: Perilous Pursuits, which targets slightly older players.
If you’re prepared for difficult, chance-filled combat and some minor miscues won’t dissuade you (and especially if you love Disney), Kingdom Hearts: Perilous Pursuits might be right up your alley. You can find it directly from The Op, on Amazon, or at your friendly local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Kingdom Hearts Perilous Pursuits from The Op for this review.
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Kingdom Hearts: Perilous Pursuits
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 2-5
Playtime: 45 minutes