Disney Magical World is a Life Sim game that puts you into some famous Disney worlds to roam or play at will. Think of it as Animal Crossing meets Disney. It’s not the kind of game that’s usually on anyone’s radar: but I’m going to tell you why it should be.
Life sim games are interesting to review because, by and large, there’s no overarching story to tell. Any story you find is purely yours. So the review is based almost entirely on how well the game mechanics help you find your own stories in the world. This is partly the case with Magical World (as I’ll explain in a moment), but there ARE stories here in the game as well.
Like many life sims, you start by either creating a character avatar, or importing a Mii from your 3DS Mii Plaza. You’re then introduced to the region of Castleton and the concept of the game’s various currencies. The first one, stickers, unlocks content. They also serve as achievements of a sort, and give you somewhere to aim your gameplay. The second one, coins, is your standard monetary affair, and you use it to buy the obvious goodies such as clothes, furniture, and so forth. The next currency is cards, and is used to unlock greetings and gestures for your avatar. The last one is “Nice!” points, which allow you to buy, amongst other things, good luck charms. For completionists, there’s a LOT to collect!
Aside from the Castleton area, there are four Disney-themed worlds to visit. These areas, while not large in themselves, contain adventures to go on–at least, three of them do. This means combat of a sort, and you get to go up against a variety of foes, and each area has its unique enemies to fight. Combat is fairly simple, and it’s mostly a case of “point the wand and shoot”. You have a main spell that you use that you can power up by holding the attack button, and a special attack that consumes stars. It’s all fairly mindless and fun until later levels when you actually need to dodge attacks and plan your approach. It has a heavy feeling of Kingdom Hearts about it, without the crazy story or RPG elements. I mentioned that only three of the worlds provide adventures: the last one is a garden where you start literally farming for ingredients. All in the name of creating stuff.
Disney Magical World is, at essence, a game aimed very squarely at girls, and the activities, poses, and numbers and types of outfits support this theory. In fact, a quick survey of players I found online also confirmed this: not a single male player amongst the lot I found. The game doesn’t exactly discriminate against male players, or even cross-dressing players, though. As a male character, you can happily wear any dress or ballroom gown you want and traipse around Castleton to your heart’s contentment without a word from the game. That was a nice touch, I felt.
And despite the overwhelmingly girlish amount of content, I was thoroughly addicted to the game. It has the same sort of quality that Animal Crossing has of making you stay in the game for hours on end, just ambling around and doing stuff. On paper, it sounds like utter tedium, and yet when you get into the game, you delight in going to the 1000 Acre Woods, reaping some crops and planting new ones, then ambling over to the cafe to cook up a new dish for customers, and then realizing that your wallpaper in the cafe doesn’t match the carpet, so you head off to the workshop to have a matching set of carpets made, except that you don’t have quite the right ingredients necessary for the carpet, necessitating a jaunt into one of the adventure sections to battle ghosts and farm them for stuff, and then of course, you realize that you’re a step closer to a new sticker and the new goods that entails, so you head off and….you get the idea, right? It sucks you in and you’ll have a hard time leaving Castleton. Trust me. I’ve clocked in more hours of this game than I’m willing to admit to–it’s an utterly embarrassing number of hours for an adult male to be spending in a Disney-themed game. It’s just that good.
The game features a very minimal online mode: you can visit other people’s cafes and they can visit yours, but the online engagement is limited to just that. I understand that local wireless is more interactive, and allows two players to muck about in the same area, but I was unable to play test this feature.
Naturally, there are going to be some problems. No game is without them, and as brilliantly fun as Magical World is, there are some niggles. My biggest one is that some rarer items come into your hands once every now and again, which I have no problem with. That’s the very definition of “rare”. While in your possession, your inventory will happily tell you where the item came from, too. This is good, because if you need more, you’re going to need to go back there and get it, usually by force. What makes no sense to me, then, is that when the item is used, it leaves no trace that it was ever in your inventory, leaving you no way to remember exactly where it was you picked it up. And there are, quite literally, hundreds of necessary items and ingredients, and if you’re good at remembering the difference between where the stubby maple log came from and where the dancing log came from, then you’ll be right at home in this game.
One interesting thing to think about is the way the game considers clothing. You’re free to dress up any way you want in any combination of clothing you like, but there’s no incentive to let your creativity free. Instead, you’re rewarded for matching ensembles and outfits. In fact, this is even automated for you: if you want to wear the arabian outfit from Aladdin’s world, then select the cap, and you can simply choose to wear the entire outfit that goes with the cap. And each item of clothing belongs to precisely one set, so there’s not even a chance of mixing it up if you want those “Nice!” points.
My final issue is this: the game only features four Disney worlds, although there are ways of summoning many of the Disney princesses and characters into Castleton to visit. It feels small, sadly, and I’d love to be able to explore more worlds. I understand that a Pirates of the Caribbean world is coming as DLC in December, and I’m excited about it. Hey, I enjoy Disney stuff. I can’t say I ever really grew up. There’s something still enchanting about the many worlds and characters of the Disney films, and even though the game is aimed at largely young girls, there’s a lot here for many people. The upcoming DLC in particular, sounds like it’s the kind of thing to bring more male players into the fold.
Final thoughts? If you still have a deep fondness for Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy, Goofy, Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, and all the others, you’re going to be absolutely enchanted and in love with Magical World. And like me, you’re going to wish it were much bigger.
Final Score: 8 Mouse-Eared Prawns out of 10
Developer: H.a.n.d./Namco Bandai
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
RRP: R399 (eShop)
Age Rating: 3+