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Disney's Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a fully realized 'Star Wars' toy

Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Travel News

Disneyland has long had games in its parks, from a shooting range in Frontierland to what is essentially a collection of mini video games in Disney California Adventure's Toy Story Midway Mania. But never before has a Disneyland attraction been the sort of large-scale, walk-in and user-malleable arcade game that is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.

Opening on Friday as the sole ride in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the largest-ever expansion in Disneyland themed to a single franchise, Smugglers Run puts six players in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, the ship made famous by Harrison Ford's Han Solo in the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

We see some familiar faces -- film fans will recognize the oversized furball that is Chewbacca, who appears on screen, and those versed in the animated works of "The Clone Wars" and "Rebels" will know that the ride's mesmerizingly fluid audio-animatronic is Hondo Ohnaka, a scoundrel-smuggler who sets the ride in motion.

But story details later. Here's what you need to know: Smugglers Run plays out like a more intimate and cooperative version of Star Tours. Those prone to motion sickness will be pleased to know it's not in 3-D, but the worse you and your five companions do on your mission, the more rocky and turbulent the ride will become.

Also, if you're not versed in video games, prepare for an unstable ride.

Thrill seekers, then, may want to steer the Falcon straight into asteroids, but if you bang up the ship too bad it will become clear to the video game engine driving Smugglers Run that you're not fit to control it. But you have to be really, really bad: Of my three rides on this particular afternoon, all part of the grand media unveiling of Galaxy's Edge, only once did Ohnaka chime in to say that Chewbacca was taking control of the ship remotely.

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Honestly, on that mission I was glad the system took over. While the Falcon does not utilize a video game controller -- think giant flashing buttons and levers -- it does, at least when it comes to piloting, use standard flight and video game control schemes.

That means that pushing forward -- what some may think of as up -- in actuality causes the Falcon to dive, and pulling back, which some may think of as down, causes the Falcon to blast off. No problem if you've flown a plane -- or played a flight simulator -- but not every Disneyland guest likely has.

As a longtime video gamer, I believe this is the only possible way for the ride to make sense to its target audience, and therefore I have no issues with the choice Disney made. But I was also on a fly-through with someone who simply couldn't grasp that pushing forward wasn't "up," and that did put a damper on the experience.

The good news is this so-called "hunk of junk" is fast and responsive, which, of course, "Star Wars" fans know because it completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. And if you're able to steer clear of obstacles, it appears the challenges will ramp up. On one relatively smooth flight, we ended up dodging and mostly demolishing a Star Destroyer.

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