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My Little Pony Friendship is Magic App - Game Review

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Published November 25th 2012
Gameloft's My Little Pony Review

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic is a phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm. Thus, it was inevitable that given the show's popularity that other companies would attempt to use the license to take advantage of its popularity. Gameloft, the developers of games such as Farmville, Castleville, and various other facebook integrated free-to-play games acquired the license to design a Farmville clone around the franchise. Being an avid pony fan myself, I decided to download it to my Android phone and try it for myself.



Aesthetics and Presentation:

My immediate impressions of the game's aesthetics and presentation were positive. The story isn't canon - Nightmare Moon has covered Ponyville in darkness and Twilight must rebuild ponyville and find her friends along with the elements of harmony to banish her, but the snippets of story are spoken by voice actors from the show which gives the game a nice sense of authenticity.

The visuals are gorgeous for an iphone and Android app: the buildings are highly detailed isometric objects while the ponies are cute cel-shaded 3D models although they look very similar to each other, and almost all the characters from the show are unlockable. The music in the game is produced by Daniel Ingram who also writes the show's soundtrack and although only a few tracks play on repeat they're peaceful and set the mood well.



Gameplay

Sadly this is where my positive outlook on the game faltered, while the core mechanics of the game such as player progression through completing tasks to unlock more ponies, building homes, putting ponies to work, and playing minigames with your pony residents is fine, the problem with this game lies in Gameloft's business model.

While I have no qualms about the free-to-play models of games such as League of Legends and Battlefield Heroes, Ponyville's problems lie in that every facet of the game is built for one purpose only to force the player to spend real money to unlock content in the game.

There are three types of in-game currency: Bits and Hearts are earned by tapping the environment and for getting ponies to work in bakeries and shops but Gems can only be earned in worthwhile quantities by purchasing them with real money. Gems are needed to play an insultingly simple game of popping balloons to have a very low chance of a unlocking pony or item, skip wait times (which can be up to 24 hours long otherwise), and buy ponies from the store (these ponies cannot be unlocked through other means). In fact, in order to even finish the game the player will need to unlock two of the main six characters by purchasing gems.

Of course players aren't forced to do this, but they are being given an extremely limited, unfinishable version of the game otherwise and the wait times are excruciating between simple tasks.

These gems aren't cheap either 20 of them cost $2 on the store (keep in mind that the price of ponies ranges from 10 to 950 gems), while 1500 of them costs $100. Some ponies cost the same amount as a full priced retail game and are merely just palette swaps.



Some of the characters can also only be unlocked by playing a random chance minigame which costs 25 Gems per play (the equivalent of around $2.20. Parents please make sure you have the feature to purchase things in-game turned off, or else your child might be accruing a terribly large bill at the end of the month. What's even worse is the implication that this is encouraging kids to gamble with real money for in-game items.

You might think that you could simply play the game and unlock only the free characters but the amount of bits that you need to perform even the simplest of actions and how little you are rewarded for making ponies work turns the game into nothing more than an endless grind fest. It also doesn't help that the time it takes to complete any task without paying gems to skip it is excruciatingly long (you even have to wait up to 24 hours after you buy a pony before you can use it).

There isn't even much to do with these ponies after unlocking them. You can pay Bits or Gems to play a very simplistic ball bouncing and apple catching game with them, but neither of these games is particularly fun and you have to wait up to 4 hours after playing a twenty second minigame before you can use them again, unless you pay gems.

The game is also malevolent in that it punishes the player for inactivity not playing the game for a period of time will spawn Parasprites and rocks which consume an enormous amount of resources to remove. The constant reminders of the game's monetization and its constant demand for Gems truly show just how insincere the game is.

Conclusion:

Underneath its cute exterior Gameloft's My Little Pony App is nothing more than a brightly coloured money sink. If Gameloft's business model wasn't so exploitive and if the game's milestones were easier to achieve without grinding it would be a fun product, but its malevolent design prevents me from recommending it. As an avid pony fan I really wanted to like this game, but it is nothing more than an expensive disappointment.
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Why? It's fun if you've got the cash to support the habit
When: Anytime
Where: On your iPhone, iPad, or Android
Cost: Free to download, IAP will cost you a lot
Your Comment
I find the game entertaining, but for the love of God! I takes a half a day to get 4000 bits and that gets you no where. I don't think the game was made to be fun rather to pry upon fans. Also that Celestial friend of mine must have hacked!
by Redta (score: 0|2) 2046 days ago
That's exactly what made me stop playing it, even after leaving the game for a day parasprites and rocks start forming everywhere and it takes tens of thousands of bits to remove them + element of harmony shards. But *shifty eyes* if you have an android, there is a save file editor out there and it works.
by Zooty Snowpaw (score: 0|2) 2046 days ago
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