Embarrassing but true: On my day trip to Disneyland this week, I was more excited about using the Touring Plans Lines app on my Droid than riding the Matterhorn.
Here’s the thing: I’d only used Lines once since they’d added the gaming mechanics, and since I’d come down with a bacterial bronchial infection during that August trip to Walt Disney World, I spent far more time sweating out fevers and watching Phineas and Ferb than touring the parks. So, while I’d opened up the app a few times on that trip, I hadn’t really taken it for a spin.So, I was thrilled to receive a review copy of the new Disneyland version of the Lines app shortly before my planned day-trip to the happiest place on earth, in the middle of a business trip to Southern California. I knew that the advice on wait times that the app provides would be less crucial on a chilly Wednesday in January than on peak times in the park, so was mostly stoked about leveling up a time or two, and earning a few badges on the way.
How it works: Within the Lines app, you can view current estimated wait times for all attractions in the park, and post wait times based on your own experience. The wait time estimates in the app are developed through 10 years of historical data gathered by the Touring Plans team, plus user-reported times gathered through the app. And it’s these user-reported wait times that bring the gaming mechanisms into play: As you report wait times, you can level up by reporting increasing numbers of wait times, and earn badges by reporting times for specific attractions, combinations of attractions, or times of day.
(My son had warned me that achievement-based gaming systems can lead to long boring stretches of nothing but grinding on menial tasks in order to earn badges. But if grinding can mean walking around Disneyland, count me in.)
A message board is built into the app, with separate sections for Disneyland Chat and Walt Disney World Chat. There seems to be a fairly healthy community of Lines fans hanging out in the chat most of the time, which came in handy when I had questions about the best place to charge a cell phone (Golden Horseshoe balcony, where you can charge up while catching a show), or whether there are any coast-to-coast badges that we bi-coastal park fans can earn (nope, but there are multi-park-in-one-day). You can also look at each users’s stats, and when you submit wait times, you’re told who the current “top submitter” is for that attraction. And as with most popular message board systems, there’s a lot of trip advice and social chat as well.
The user interface is quite good, with the occasional irritating glitch. For some reason, it seems to re-set to its home page whenever I slide out my Droid 2 Global keyboard, but that was easy to deal with once I realized I only needed the keyboard when using the Chat (and then simply opened it before drilling down into the Chat section. Everything also got easier once I realized that, if I just left the app on the list of attractions for the park, I could just click on the “+ Time” button in the upper right to be brought to a page from which I could select any attraction and report a wait time.
In addition to the gaming mechanics, another feature had been added since last I’d used Lines: You can now submit wait times not just from the posted time on the attraction, but also by timing your own wait using the app. This wasn’t just cool, it also allowed me to post wait times for attractions that didn’t have a posted time, or where I was sure the posted time wouldn’t match the actual wait (for example, a 10 minute posted time for Pinnochio was a walk-on instead).
I haven’t tried any of the Disney-sponsored phone apps, as (to the best of my knowledge) they’re not available on the Droid. But I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy them as much as the Lines app, since Disney wouldn’t be likely to allow as much un-moderated interaction among users as the Lines app supports (I do believe the Lines folks would clean up anything seriously wrong posted to the Chat, but they don’t seem to sanitize things as a general rule).
So, how did my day at Disneyland turn out? Well, I was right – a chilly Wednesday in January means very short wait times for most attractions, so I didn’t rely much on the app to guide my steps. In fact, I’d entered the park with the One-Day Touring Plan for Adults, but abandoned it after the first few attractions, since both experience and the Lines app were telling me wait times were short enough that the criss-crossing of the park which this plan includes wasn’t actually necessary under the circumstances. I rode every attraction I wanted to, sometimes two or three times, and even lost track of how many times I went on that wild ride with Mr. Toad.And my new Lines stats? I’m now an Unofficial Scholar, having submitted a total of 65 wait times so far. I’m hoping to level up again next week; if I can submit another 10 wait times before this weekend’s trip to my BFF’s WeddingFest at WDW is over, I can get promoted to Crowd Specialist. Plus, I earned a few new badges, my favorites being Shrunken Ned (Wait times for every attraction in Adventureland) and Nowhere in Particular (5 wait times for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride).
Plus yes, I did ride the Matterhorn, and I have to admit it was more thrilling than leveling up. The fact that it’s got a working Yeti (unlike Expedition Everest) is a darn impressive selling point. But it’s a good thing I don’t have to choose between Lines and the Yeti, because it would be a close call.