Review: My Little Pony
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||E - Everyone|
|My Rating:||Ages 6 and up|
|Genre:||City Building Simulator|
|License:||Free to Play|
|Review Published On:||December 12th, 2017|
For a game aimed at children, this game is very reliant on its premium currency. In other words, it expects you to either earn gems through gameplay or in-game purchases.
Just like the TV show, the stories focus on the adventures of a purple unicorn named Twilight Sparkle and her young dragon companion, Spike. However, this game doesn't quite follow the show when it retells the events; probably because things like a battle with a fierce manticore or re-attaching a sea serpent's mustache aren't exactly going to mix into the game's gameplay mechanics all that well.
Still, the primary concern is bringing an end to Nightmare Moon's eternal night. To do this, the player will need to rebuild Ponyville to bring everypony back and locate the Elements of Harmony. These magical artifacts are found in two places: the six Harmony Stones scattered around the map, and in the hearts of six special ponies. To defeat Nightmare Moon, you must activate the Harmony Stones with the appropriate number of Element Shards, and have all six of the element bearers back in Ponyville. Getting the Element Shards is actually the easy part, as they are produced by the businesses in your town and you can also earn them through various minigames.
Later on, your adventure will continue into Canterlot, which is dealing with an infestation of bug-like changelings. Defeating them will require a lot of element shards, and eventually you'll need to defeat the evil Queen Chrysalis in a like manner. Technically, you can rescue Canterlot before you defeat Nightmare Moon, but the quests for it begin after you've already made progress in Ponyville. In the end, there is no actual win condition in this game; once you've completed every quest, you're free to continue expanding, building, and decorating both Ponyville and Canterlot to your heart's content.
Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with this game beyond the emphasis on magic and pretty pony princesses. The big one is that it's frighteningly dependent on in-game purchases. Thankfully, you can earn the premium currency it uses via gameplay, so with a little determination and some grinding, you can still save Equestria without spending a dime.
As for whether or not someone will enjoy this title, the question really just boils down to whether or not they are fans of the current "gen 4" My Little Pony series. If you're not already sold on the show, the simple gameplay and large amount of grinding is likely to turn you away after a while.
Points of Interest
Several of the ponies also have their own voice acting and special, unique animations. For example, Rainbow Dash occasionally clears away a spare cloud, while Applejack may toss an apple into the air and eat it. All of the six main characters respond to being clicked on by saying something in addition to their usual animations. Beyond this, a handful of other characters (usually those that share a voice actor with a main character) will also have a line or two to say when you select them.
Other minigames include a rhythm game where you help the girls from Canterlot High dance to the various songs from the Equestria Girls movie, and the Crystal Mines minigame, where you race a pony of your choice through the mine's tunnels. Both of these minigames award prizes based on your overall progress. The dancing game unlocks ponies you can't acquire through normal means, while the minecart game is going to be your primary source of gems (and thus a major source of income) later in the game.
With the exception of the minecart minigame, you can improve the results of a minigame by buying multipliers with bits or gems. This comes in handy towards the end of the story arcs, as the late-game ponies take a lot of experience to level up.
Another example of a fan-favorite character is Derpy Hooves (aka Muffins aka Ditzy Doo). She is present as a bonus character; instead of being able to have her move into town, she'll hide somewhere on the map, usually under a cardboard box. This is a nod to how she appeared in the show's second season -- she was hidden in the background of episodes like a "Where's Waldo" easter egg. Here, if you find her, click on her to earn a small bonus.
Earlier on, you'll be relying on parasprites to earn those wheels. Each swarm of parasprites has five of the pests, and each one you clear has a chance to drop a wheel. This works out to roughly one chance at the minecart minigame for every two swarms you clear. Parasprite swarms are a bit rare though, so this won't be much of a quick fix. Changelings on the other hand, take five hits before they flee, and since each wheel they drop is actually worth four wheels, that's a possible five trips to the mine per changeling. Once the invasion starts, a handful of these monsters will appear in Canterlot every day, so you'll have a lot of opportunities once they start coming around.
On the plus side, there aren't many serious bugs. The three that stick out to me the most are a small graphical error when you're playing the Equestria Girls minigame as Twilight Sparkle, the multiplier on the minecart minigame failing to work, and the fact that the minecart minigame is unable to give you gems or the ponies you have earned as milestone rewards. This makes three ponies completely impossible to earn. Fortunately, the gems and coins earned in the minigame itself are added to your total, like you'd expect.
Likewise, training ponies requires playing the same minigames over and over. Again, a fair amount of time needs to pass before a pony is ready to be played with again, further adding to the difficulty of leveling them up. In both cases, you can spend gems to reduce the time required, but you'll be spending a lot of time in the minecart minigame to earn what gems you need already!
Concerns and Issues
Here's the big problem with this: many quests require you to spend gems on items or ponies you might not want, and many of the ponies in the game can only be bought using gems. I totaled it up as I played, and in the end, you'll need 1,549 gems to complete every quest. If you bought the gems using real money, this would cost you between $107 and $156, depending on which gem bundles you purchased.
Note that this doesn't get you all the ponies; it just covers the cost of completing the quests. Getting every pony available in the shop would run you an additional 2,156 gems (~$216), and there's a number of ponies that can only be won in Flim and Flam's Balloon Pop minigame -- the one that costs 10 gems (~$1) per attempt.
On a side note, there does appear to be some method to this madness. Things seem to be priced based on where they appear in the storylines. For example, Rainbow Dash is the last of the Mane 6 that you guide into Ponyville, and she's also the most expensive, at 65 gems (~$6.50). Apparently the idea is that you can use gems to skip ahead of the story in order to play with your favorite ponies immediately.
Another, possibly more risky, use of gems is to speed up things in progress. It takes time for buildings to be built and products to be made, but by paying a few gems they can be done instantly. The risk here is that you can get a little too comfortable spending those extra gems on instant gratification. Ultimately, I don't believe it's worth spending them to remove time limits; often, by the time you've earned enough gems to pay the fee, whatever you're waiting for will already be finished.
In Gameloft's defense, there are two big warnings about the use of microtransactions when you first start the game. They are hard to miss, so it's not like this aspect of the game was hidden from anybody.
What prizes you can win depend on which booth you use. The free booth can be played once every day, and usually gives out a small amount of coins or element shards. The booth that requires gems, however, can award decorations that normally cost gems to buy or rarely, some exclusive ponies for your town. This is the only way to get some of the fan-favorite characters, like Doctor Hooves or the Great and Powerful Trixie. Mind you, the odds of winning a pony aren't that high, and you'll end up having spent a lot of gems before you have them all. If you paid real money for those gems, then you literally gambled for your prizes.
An amusing side note here is that the creators of this game used Flim & Flam, the two biggest scam artists in the My Little Pony franchise, as the hosts of this in-game gambling attraction.
During the minecart minigame, you might end up landing on a Diamond Dog or other enemy after a jump. This just knocks them off the track, and they don't appear to care about getting knocked aside by you doing this. However, this is generally not the best idea as there is no reward for doing it and a slight mistake could easily result in your pony coming down too soon, finding themselves falling off the track instead.
On a related note, one of the ponies you can have move into your town is the Great and Powerful Trixie, a unicorn mare that specializes in stage magic. She wears a stereotypical magician's hat and cape, somewhat reminiscent of the outfit worn by Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice.