Friday, 29 December 2017

App Review No. 109 Disney: Magic Kingdoms

Strong Points:
Faithful reproductions of characters and places
Has the 'essence' of a Disney Park
Lots to do
Variations to the film's stories add more depth
Pretty good writing
Good pacing
Great animations
Good use of licence
Can get premium currency without purchase with real money
Some event missions are well-incorporated...

Weak Points:
Buildings are too large to allow for proper park set-ups
Too many event-exclusive characters
Some story parts are unlocked with no hints as to how
Voice acting only for the first few characters
Events require quite large inputs of time or money
...Some are not
The characters don't interact cross-franchise enough

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: March 17th, 2016

Tap to control menus

Build-em-ups are so last year. I mean, they're just there to steal your money, offering the bare minimum of gameplay, wrapped in a festering pit of microtransactions and topped off with a dollop of charm to keep you coming back. We've had games based on The Simpsons, Family Guy, Spongebob Squarepants... What else? Really, I'm done with all of this. Oooh, Disney!...

OK, maybe build-em-ups aren't quite as bad as I made them out to be. I quite enjoy upgrading my city/town/village/kingdom for 20 mins every other day, especially if there are some recognisable characters for me to collect. There are even some build-em-ups such as Clash of Clans or the now-defunct Battle Nations which try to add to the formula with battling etc. Disney: Magic Kingdoms is more like the classic build-em-up but with the added nostalgia and magic of Disney and some surprisingly sharp writing.

The story revolves around Maleficent placing a curse on the Kindom, turning all the customers unhappy. It's your job, along with Mickey, Merlin and many more, to defeat the great villains of Disney and break the Curse! Along the way, you deal with the problems of other Disney characters ranging from rehashes of their films to more original content. The writing sticks to the conventions of the characters well - Doc from Snow White stutters, Flynn is cocky and Goofy always talks about sandwiches. We even had Maleficent reference Aurora as Briar Rose which I thought was a great nod.

The animation of the characters is well done, with all having their own upgrading and speaking animations. While most actions are cheated out a bit by having the characters go into various houses, the ones which aren't are well animated. Everything is bright and colourful like a Disney park should be and the different sections of the park (Fantasyland, Land of Tomorrow etc.) allow for plenty of variation. It's a shame that all the building are so large though. It doesn't allow too much in the way of setting up your own park like in S:TO with building your own Springfield.

Disney tunes fill the park 24/7 ranging from Toy Story to Frozen, helping to keep the park alive. Sound effects are everywhere as well, whenever you touch a ride, for example, you'll hear the chatter of people. Some characters also have (slightly off-branded) voice acting, although this is only for the starting few which is a shame.

The main way characters are added to the game now is through events. So far we've had The Incredibles, Mulan, Frozen, Snow White and many more. Besides keeping you playing the game, they also allow for even more variations on the park as it changes to fit into different themes such as Winter or Halloween. These events do have the darker side, however, of pushing you to buy Gems - game's premium currency. While I haven't felt the need to purchase Gems yet (and I probably won't), I haven't been able to collect all the characters from any of the events yet.

This is due to a mixture of time restraints (the events could be longer, or the activities shorter) and that some of the more popular characters (such as Dopey or Olaf) are kept behind Gem gates. I have been able to grab a couple of Premium Characters (such as Frozone) by saving the Gems you get from activities, it is a problem the game has, especially due to the younger audience they could be targeting. I'd also like a bit more variation in the event activities besides tap on the enemy of the day and check out the object of the day (which needs items) to unlock another item to unlock a character.

Besides some 'iffy' business tactics with the events, I've been pleasantly surprised with the pacing of the game. There's always at least one strand of the story to complete, and while that's happening, you're unlocking items for other characters and other story strands. There's also chests and Merlin's spells which help to increase the availability of items, with Merlin's spells even allowing you to gather resources with one press of a button - speeding things up a bit. One thing which is strange, however, is when you level up a random character and suddenly unlock more story, without any indication from the quest log. It's not a massive problem, but it can mean you leave a part of the story for ages, as you haven't levelled up a character as you weren't told.

Conclusion: overall, Disney: Magic Kingdoms uses the Disney licence well, incorporating bits of magic into a genre otherwise synonymous with 'profit over people' thinking. It doesn't break free completely and some design choices are questionable but overall it's a pretty good game for all the Disney fans out there.

Rating: 70%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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