I missed posting my blog post last week. How come? What was I doing that was so important?
I was defeating Pete and building my own theme park, of course.
Ok, this game is for children and I haven't been a child for almost thirty years. (*Ok, almost forty years.) I admit it, I'm a bit childish sometimes. Everyone else is doing game reviews, and I consider Monsters Love Candy a high speed thrill ride with excellent graphics. It just so happens, that my copy of Monsters Love Candy stopped playing. I tried starting and restarting the computer. I tried turning it off and back on again. So in a last ditch effort to play my beloved sweet toothed game, I tried unloading and reloading it -- at which point it decided to never work again. Heartbroken and bored and way too lazy to dig through thousands of suggestions online to make it work, I picked a new game from the suggested list of free games at some site my son pointed me to. And thus, I found Disney Magic Kingdoms, by Gameloft. I am informed this is a game suitable for preschoolers.
Given that it is intended for children too young to play Pokemon, I was fully prepared to find this game boring and unchallenging. And it is. Yet here I am, eight days later, trying to earn enough magic to finally earn Bo Peep. What has happened here? Well, this game is adorable, for one. It is also addictive. It's not particularly fun. It doesn't challenge either skill or intellect. It takes forever. Yet...
So here's the good and bad of it.
The drawings are bright and true to character. They aren't photorealistic by a longshot. But when your characters are giant anthropomorphic mice, photorealistic might not be the best way to go. This art style is half ABC Saturday Morning Cartoon Mickey, and half Rollercoaster Tycoon. Actually, DMK is similar in gameplay to RCT in lots of ways, and that might well explain my attraction to it. Cinderella is beautiful. Mickey and Goofy's colors are spot on. Jack Skellington and Zero are as beautifully animated as any modern computer generated movie would produce them. It's a bit blocky. Originally a smartphone game, I didn't expect desktop video quality animation, so that's fine.
It's sometimes funny.
When Hamm shows up, he spins in on his side, tipped over as the clumsy piggy bank he is. Goofy can be sent to literally "run around in a panic". Mickey quips that Goofy's suggestions all revolve around his love of sandwiches. It's the right sort of cutesy funny for kids and their parents. No adult double entendres here. You might not consider that a "good", but remember, it's for preschoolers. And I like it.
The Disney Characters
It's just fun to unlock your favorite Disney animated characters and set them into motion. It's fun to unlock a new set of characters. It starts with the core gang, of course. Mickey and Goofy are the first two characters I unlocked, and Goofy has to be leveled up in order to defeat the evil Pete, open up the rest of the lands, and get still more characters. If you complete all the quests and level up your characters, you unlock Donald, Daisy, and Minnie Mouse, and make a whole lot of other characters appear. You get the Toy Story characters next, if you play as I did, Woody and Jessie. You don't get Emperor Zurg until you defeat Emperor Zurg, of course! Then there's Prince Charming, Sarge, Cinderella, Bo Peep, Hamm, and Buzz Lightyear. If those aren't enough to sate your Disney character hunger, don't worry. There are the Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and Pirates of the Caribbean characters to open with further play.
FREE characters and attractions just for logging in every single day.
Ok, this is an enticement to get you to keep logging in after the first couple days of slogging along and getting not very far, but Tinkerbell on day five is reward enough to make up for the six days of game play it took me to unlock Bo Peep. She's one very helpful character too! She finds things, and reliably brings a lot more rewards than most of the other characters. Also, because she's alone in her characters set, you get a reward of extra gems just for getting her, even though you do nothing to get her. Sweet! The One Stop Apprentice Concession comes for free too, around day eight, but I'd already bought one by then.
It's easy enough for kids to actually play.
Most of what is required is just tapping on the little bubbles that appear above buildings and characters or swiping the screen to open treasure chests. You don't have to build anything, just select it and drop it into place. Most of the real game play is placing the rides and concessions on the board. You can turn them, place them, or delete them with simple visual cues and touch screen control. If you're playing on the computer, you only need the left mouse button and mouse. You type nothing in and don't have to have much manual dexterity or eye-hand coordination. Point and click. The most challenging thing you'll do is to try to touch the screen to turn the ravens that periodically show up into wooden pumpkin coins. The wooden pumpkins aren't as useful as I'd like, but there's one really good use for them.
The game occasionally offers special events. For Halloween, of course they have a whole Nightmare Before Christmas themed event. You can unlock and earn Jack, Sally, and Oogie Boogie, and buy Zero. There are mini contests within the game too. I won one by collecting lots of Raven/wooden pumpkins. My prize? More wooden pumpkins. But the highest prize winners got gems and even concessions.
As part of the Halloween theme, you can purchase Halloween costumes for the major characters. Fans of the theme parks will recognize the Boo To You costumes of Donald, Mickey, and Goofy.
It takes farging forever!
Remember when I said I missed my last blog post because of this game? Well, my plan had been to play for a day or two, and write the review. I foolishly believed that in one or two days I would be able to accomplish enough in the game to write a very basic review. Little did I know that the game is designed to force the player to play for days before even getting the basic characters. Now, to be totally fair, I wasted my initial free gems at the outset because I have an allergy to reading all the rules before playing. I didn't realize that using them to hurry the play along would leave me with no gems with which to buy necessary items.
You absolutely have to have gems, and you don't get many. In fact, at most, I got four gems on any given day. You get more at a time as you get into the later levels, but in the first few days, nothing gets you more than a couple at any time. So, if you're considering playing this game, learn from my mistake, don't spend gems to make Mickey level up faster. Save them to buy stuff that will help you level up faster, earn magic potion, or otherwise move along through the game faster than a snail's pace. Since I didn't listen to anyone's advice prior to playing, I wasted them. So, to get my characters leveled up, buy a few things, and defeat Pete took two weeks. Yikes. Thus I didn't have enough material to write a review in a couple days, and hadn't prepared anything as a backup. Sorry. I promise not to do that again.
Rex, Pluto, and Zero are worth their weight in gems...and that's the only way to get them.
When you complete character sets, you get gems as a reward. That's great because as I said in the last paragraph, you need a lot of gems to succeed in this game. The problem is, two of the earliest sets require gems to complete. Pluto is part of the Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto set. But you have to purchase Pluto. And he's not cheap. You also can't build Pluto's doghouse without Pluto. And that means some quests can't be completed and you pass up opportunities to get other important rewards. These rewards can be earned in other ways, but it just means you'll be waiting that much longer to complete important tasks like leveling up your character or lifting the curse on various lands. Rex costs gems and is part of the second Toy Story team along with Hamm, Sarge, and Bo Peep. So again, either have the gems, or you'll be taking just that much longer in this already torturously long game. Disappointingly, when the Halloween event came along, we learned Zero also costs gems. (At least Jack can be had for Pumpkins!)
Is it all just a way to get us to spend money?
Maybe this is a silly question. After all, the game developers have to make money somehow. I'd like to think they were paid by Disney and the advertisers to create the game, but I'm told that such in game purchases are a large part of how game makers make their profits. Maybe so, but this is a game primarily intended for children. Yet the gems are so scarce, and so necessary, and the game drags on so interminably if you don't purchase, that offering gems for sale, even at low price, seems a rather pressurized buying situation for kids. How many kids can really stand to take two weeks just to beat the first bad guy, obtain the basic set of characters, or build the most rudimentary theme park? And to add a bit more urgency to purchase decision, various offers and sales pop up from time to time. Get Zero and gems for only $7.00! Get a whole bunch of gems for $1.99! Hurry and buy now to get the limited time Halloween concession stand... which also gets you items you need for leveling up your characters and accomplishing quests. Some parents have complained that their kids racked up huge bills buying gems in these online games. I've no doubt having played it now a while. I, a grown adult with money shortage issues, was tempted to buy "just a few to get started". It's hard to resist. The game designers have done a few things to make it harder for kids to access their parents' accounts to buy these things, so that's a positive. But the constant hawking of gems and their major importance to the game makes it a huge temptation for the player to just keep hitting the Buy buttons.
There's not enough to actually do.
So you play by clicking on the little bubbles when they pop up... and waiting... and waiting... It's boring beyond imagination until you gather enough concessions, rides, and characters that something is popping up all the time. You can't build things without gems unless you complete a quest or pay an extraordinary sum in magic potion. Oh, and did we say you can buy magic potion with gems, but not the other way round? So you do a lot of waiting in this game unless you spend money. That's fine if you are playing it the way it was originally conceived, as a phone game. Then, you get an alert and you go to the game, click a few things, maybe read some dialogue, and go back to work or whatever you were doing. But if you are playing it as a desktop game, it's just not entertaining enough. This is not Roller Coaster Tycoon. You keep guests happy, but not by building the park and keeping many different things balanced and constantly building etc. Nope, you click those little bubbles above their heads, they go find whoever or whatever makes them happy, and you click again to make the smileys float up to your happiness counter.
You can't even pick them up and move them with the god claw like in RCT. You don't build things, just place them, and not often enough. There is little decoration to add. So, until you have a lot of money and lots of options, you aren't playing much.
Even when you have magic (money), there's not much to do with it.
Again, I'm unfairly comparing DMK to RCT. But when you are used to being able to advertise your park, build walkways, manipulate the landscape, hire employees and train them, name things, decorate, add to rides, and really move things around, this game offers almost no flexibility. One particular aspect of this is the inability to fit things in where you want them. Unlike RCT where you start with a large tract of land and a handful of rides, etc., DMK gives you tiny little oddly shaped areas to build. You aren't squeezing in more than four buildings and a light fixture.Not only is the space small, the base construction area that each item claims is oversized. Putting in a street light should take no more than four squares. It takes up nine. A bench takes up twelve. And all the placed items require square or rectangular space, but the space for putting them in is anything but square, which leaves wasted space while limiting your ability to place items. I've had to delete decorations to put in things I really need.
You can't even rotate the items 360 degrees. The little symbol makes it look as though you could, but you can't. You get two directions it can face. This is fine for the picnic benches and burger joint. But for directional large pieces with definite fronts and sides, not so much. Even the benches annoyingly can't be placed to face the direction you want them to. It's annoying for no good reason.
One more complaint about time.
First you wait for an item or character to become available. Then you gather all the items to purchase them, which can take days if you're cheap and stubborn like me and refuse to pay for anything with actual cash. So you've finally put in the time, bought the item, and placed it in the park. Ready to play, right? Wrong. Ready to wait minutes to hours for the thing to be constructed. It just sits there with a little counter on it, frustrating me with all the magic and stars it could be earning, but isn't. Some of them take twelve hours! I already earned it, give it to me.
So, all of this said, would I recommend this game? Absolutely! It's too boring, honestly, for most kids. It might be something they'd enjoy occasionally checking in on, especially while waiting in line at Disney World and borrowing mommie's phone. But the average preschooler will lose interest long before they've accomplished their first goal. The game though, is addictive for older people. The Facebook page for the game is populated by forty year old office workers grumping about the load time and features. It may have been designed to be friendly to kids, but it has found its audience with adults. If you have the tendency to leave a game open on your computer while you're writing your book or blog post, doing your taxes, or watching a video, this is a good game. You don't have to constantly tend to it. It's not hard. It can be fun to decide which character to level up, which mission or quest to send them on, and which silly item to purchase and place next. It's a good looking game, and it even has a social feature if you are in to that. And of course, there's Jack Skellington.