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iPhone  header logo

My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

But is it?

Product: My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Film/ TV tie- in, Party/ mini- games, Simulation | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.0
 
My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

You know, before the My Little Pony series I used to wonder what friendship could be. But that was before you all shared its magic with me.

Big adventure, tons of fun, a beautiful heart, faithful, and strong. Sharing kindness, well it's an easy feat, and magic (of course) makes it all complete.

Now brush your teeth.

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What of the latest iOS release from Gameloft? Does that share the franchise's sense of overly twee, yet gloriously sweet fun, or is it more of a big stroppy drag - you know, like Nightmare Moon? Let's find out.

First Impressions

Contrary to what the introductory paragraph may have led you to believe, I'm not much of a Brony - that's the term for men who like the My Little Pony franchise. However, I'm a sucker for the cuter than cute, and My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic delivers that in big pink spades.

Everything is bright, everything is beautiful, and there are no hard lines. Each of the ponies from the current TV series is drawn with the softest of edges, and while the colour spectrum Gameloft draws on is varied it's never, ever dark.

Except for Nightmare Moon, that is, and it's with this brooding entity that the story kicks off. In the series she played a minor role in a few episodes, but the game's central premise is that she's scared away all the "good" ponies from the land, and it's your task to bring them back.

To do so you'll need to, you guessed it, create a bunch of buildings, set your ponies to work in them, make money, expand, and play a few mini-games. Yes, it's another freemium world builder.

That's being quite dismissive, of course, but it's not immediately clear what Friendship is Magic will do to distinguish itself from the pack. You're given a plot of land, you build a bakery, you assign a pony, and you make money after waiting a set period of time - it's all well-implemented, but it's not immediately inspiring.

Day 3: My little progress

Progress is slow - I don't feel like I've accomplished much in my three days of play. Whereas in something like Skylanders Lost Islands I'd already have unlocked huge swathes of land by this point, here things are starting to get cramped.

The issue is quite simply that the game's infinite currency of Bits isn't particularly forthcoming, and nor is guidance on how to get hold of more.

To make Bits you not only need a building that can earn the currency, but you also need to assign a pony to work in it, and this isn't crystal clear. Neither is the fact that putting another pony to work in the same building allows you to make more money via a second tier of work, or that you have to specifically tap a menu option to begin this process.

After a bit of experimentation - and a day or two wasted - I'm beginning to get into the groove of its grind. You need to spend a lot of time in the game, and ensure you're completing lots of challenges, so that you're earning more experience points and hitting new levels. Each new level gives you an injection of cash and access to more buildings and ponies.

Happily, experience can come very quickly if you're dedicated: that means collecting from buildings often, finishing the objectives you're set, and playing the mini-games to level-up your individual ponies so that they can do higher tier jobs.

These mini-games come in multiple flavours, but they're repeated too often. There's a game in which you bounce a ball back and forth, swiping at the screen to return it to your pony. Another has you catching apples as they fall from a tree, avoiding the rotten ones.

Do well and do them enough times and your pony will be sent out to soar through the air, collecting as many Bits as possible within a short time limit, avoiding storm clouds.

These are, again, fairly well-made, but they're not very difficult and mostly serve as diversions while you wait for the timers on buildings to count down so that you can collect Bits again.

Day 7: Less gallop, more canter

It's amazing how important visual design is to a freemium game's lasting appeal, because it's the only factor that's encouraged me to keep returning to My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic. It certainly isn't the raw mechanics that are making me come back.

The voice acting continues to be a lovely touch that gives a lot of personality to an already endearing game, and even as a non-fan of the series I'm being drawn more and more into the innocent, playful world of My Little Pony.

However, you're not rewarded enough while you're in that world. The game puts up constant barriers to progress - much more so than the usual freemium world-builder. Just clearing space on land you already own is too expensive, and buying more areas is prohibitively dear. Once you acquire a new piece of land you generally don't have any money left for buildings.

It drags the pace of play down, leaving you little to do but take part in the - now very repetitive - mini-games, which also cost Bits to enter. It's this ever-increasing bill to restore Ponyland that will discourage you most from returning. The game isn't fundamentally boring, but it gets tiresome having to work so hard for so little.

There are two feelings you'll experience while playing My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic. The first is one of sugary-sweet joy at the heart-warming tone of the title, which successfully mirrors that of the show.

The other is one of being stuck in a quagmire of high expense, and your ability to overcome this will significantly affect the amount of time you're prepared to give it.

So that what WE thought, but what about you? Let us know by slapping a lovely comment in the box below.
 
My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 4 December 2012
A delightfully jovial game, let down by miserly levels of reward. If you're a fan of the cartoon, then definitely take a look
 
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