Shhhhh! Do you hear that? Its Disney Magic, and its on the 3DS! Now, with that line alone, I either made you frown, smile, or cringe (probably the latter), but that is the kind of product we are dealing with in the case of Disney Magical World, which is prepared to go after the younger audience who love their simulation. Along with the cast of familiar faces, players can customize a character, go fishing, explore a world, collect items, and solve the brainless citizens problems in what can be thought of as a huge attempt to create something along the same lines of Animal Crossing. Well, there is more to it than that, but is this little title worth your buck or charming enough to appeal outside its target market? Let’s find out.
I could do a “Story” category for this review, but it isn’t really necessary for Disney Magical World. Sure, the simulation genre doesn’t make the game’s narrative stand in the forefront – which is to be expected – but this title still attempts to thread together a cohesive structure at least by lining up tasks in your new home of Castleton. Before I get into the aspects of the game, lets take a moment to say what this title is not. Despite its appearance and promotion, Magical World is not Animal Crossing. This isn’t about paying off a home, and while there are moments of interactivity – the residents are much more two dimensional here, meaning a lot of the flat “Mii-like” personas are just filler, compiling a long and somewhat cute roster of faces to put you to work. Yes, its not Animal Crossing – but instead a game with a light battle system, a good deal of objectives and fetch quests, and enough items to collect so your pockets never remain empty.
Think Rune Factory, add in some Harvest Moon and a pinch of The Sims. While we are at it, how about a sprinkle of nearly every title that appeared on the 3DS with the life sim gimmick in one form or another. Whether it be problem solving, going on quests, dressing up, gardening, fishing, or managing your very own cafe, there is always something to do in Castleton, and that is what makes Magical World so fulfilling. The main goal of the game is to gather “happy stickers” by completing objectives. Say character A needs a piece to make a blouse. You then need to run out, find the materials, and bring her back her demands in a timely fashion. Its all about exploration, and memorization of the environments. The controls, unlike the game itself are a lot like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, where the player has the ability to move and free roam the entire kingdom before them. As the game progresses and more tasks are completed, more doors open up taking the player into locations such as The Hundred Acre Woods and Wonderland, which offer a new set of unique tasks and specific items that you can only obtain within that said area.
Speaking of the cafe I mentioned earlier, that is actually one of the big hooks that one will find (or the centerpiece of the experience), as it is your source of income – which is needed to buy items that either prepare you for or utilized to complete quests – and that isn’t even counting all the money you will be spending on customization, where you can change the look of your character in a quick and painless fashion with the lovable and barely tolerable Daisy. All you need to do is unlock recipes by simply playing the game and gathering stickers and ingredients, and then pick a dish and a drink to sell. The more it sells, the more you make. Its a simple, effective, and rather addictive way of making cash, and easy enough for anyone to pick up on. Fishing is fun, and rather relaxing at that. Improving your cafe and look in general is also a time consuming chore that brings great reward, as even your own Mii can get in on the action, where they will proudly wear costumes and accessories from the Disney universe. Those who want a bit more meat can head online and check out other cafes as well, which is a nice distraction and a good way to come up with new looks for your own eatery.
Magical World also has its own time system to track quests. Its not particularly as in depth as other titles in the genre, but it is well crafted and fully realized enough to allow players to take advantage of different tasks at different times, broadening the list of objectives one can participate in while keeping the game fresh for a hefty amount of hours. The dungeon crawling portions control a bit like a button masher, where the player uses a small arsenal of powers and weaponry to fight off random enemies. A rhythm action game also appears quite often as well, and adds yet another layer to the experience, yet again flipping the game’s stylings to stir the pot and keep the player invested. This constant switching is admirable, but it only works for so long as after a while, each start to feel the same and its as if you are just hitting repeat with a new backdrop.
I haven’t made a huge deal about the whole “Disney” theme of the game, as its just that. A theme. There was love put into the final product, but this title could have been Scooby Doo, Marvel, or any other IP period and it still would have worked, as the game doesn’t rely on the Disney characters to deliver the content within. That is the brilliance at work here really, as if we would have seen Disney become the main focus, it would have taken away the impact of special encounters that do occur with Lilo, Pooh, Mickey, Minnie, and so on. Sure, there are a lot of characters and their appearances are frequent, leaving a rich atmosphere with those mouse ears at work, but the player does not have to be a fan as the kind but shallow dialogue leaves enough room for anyone to pick up the game and play. Did I love doing missions for Chip and Dale? Of course! These little characters make the game interesting – and once new doors open and other worlds can be explored, the potential for further time investment soars upward. However, without a true narrative, these all star toons fade into the background often – acting more as decoration than anything with true substance.
Disney Magical World brings it to the graphics department with your character model, as the changes look fantastic while trying on those themed threads, even with a giant Mii head. The Disney cast all look great as well, and the themed environments all seem to be cut right out of the source material. That being said, there is a lot of filler left over. The random residents are very generic looking. Sure, your name is Judy, but what makes you different? What I am saying is there could have been a little more done to give the flat looking models more personality, as even though they are visiting this magical world, they seem to be content on taking the tourist route for the entire trip. A lot of the dungeons also come off as uninspired, with plain textures and low color, making a lot of trips out feel like a bore compared to the much more appealing roads of Castleton.
There isn’t a ton to say about the soundtrack that you shouldn’t already be expecting. There are some great Disney songs mixed in the game, and some fantastic original scores that give a warm feeling to the player as they make their way around town. The voice acting is spot on, bring each encounter with a main Disney character to life, and while I do wish everything was voiced, that would probably be impossible due to the heavy amount of dialogue (meaningful or not) that appears in the game. Either way, you have a lot of charm to look forward to (aside from Daisy who is queen of the terrible) within these brightly colored walls.
Disney Magical World is not for everybody, but leaves the welcome mat down for all visitors regardless. Sure, it seems perfect for kids, but this title has enough depth for an adult to go in and get over 100 hours or more out of it due to the heavy amount of content blending with some solid gameplay to boot. Is there “Disney Magic”? Not entirely, but there is a lot of rich and addictive qualities compiled within this little simulation gem, making it one that is worth at least a look to those who are willing to take a risk. While this market is starting to get flooded, Magical World is one experience that stands out with its own unique style, giving us yet another way to escape to the happiest place on Earth.
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