My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a new iOS game from Gameloft and Hasbro Gaming. An Android version is set to be released soon, but the iOS version is available now as a free download. The game is a free-to-play title with additional in-app purchases of virtual currency and other items.
The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic game is an adaptation of the popular children’s TV show’s first two episodes, albeit with some hefty artistic license taken with the established story in order to fit the gameplay. The evil Nightmare Moon has spread eternal darkness across the land, and it is up to series heroine Twilight Sparkle to rebuild the town of Ponyville in the one remaining patch of sunlight in Equestria, gradually pushing back the darkness, recovering the Elements of Harmony and eventually defeating Nightmare Moon.
The basic gameplay of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic centers around some fairly conventional citybuilder mechanics. Following a series of quests “hosted” by characters from the show, players must attract ponies to the new Ponyville by building their houses, use the ponies to staff the various business structures to earn money and resources, and work their way through the storyline. It is a very simple game to understand, largely involving waiting for timers to elapse then tapping to collect on the various structures. Wait times can be bypassed by the expenditure of hard currency, and there is no energy system to throttle play, meaning that players can continue for as long as they have something to do and/or money to do it with.
Beyond the basic citybuilder gameplay, there are a number of minigames to play. The opportunity to play these arises at regular intervals according to how many ponies the player has in their Ponyville. A timer on each pony’s house shows how long it is until they can play the next game, though this can again be bypassed with hard currency. When the timer expires, the player gets the opportunity to play one of two minigames — one is a simple ball-bouncing game where the player must flick a ball to a pony on the left of the screen, while the second sees the player controlling a pony running left and right trying to catch falling apples while avoiding rotten ones.
Completing minigames earns the player points towards “stars” for the pony in question. More points can be earned with greater expenditure of currency upon starting the minigame — in most cases, paying 100 units of soft currency (referred to as “Bits”) will simply let the player play the game; 1,000 Bits lets them gain a 2x multiplier on their score; and expending hard currency allows them to earn a 4x multiplier. When a pony earns enough points to attain a new star, a new minigame opens up, in which the pony in question must fly across a horizontally-scrolling level collecting coins, avoiding rainclouds and other obstacles and using clouds to attain speed boosts.
Players can also play a chance-based balloon-popping minigame once per day for free, or play again for higher chances of winning by expending hard currency.
Social features for the game include connectivity with Facebook and Gameloft’s proprietary Gameloft Live service. Facebook connectivity allows users to invite friends and share their achievements, while Gameloft Live allows for achievement tracking and an alternative means of finding friends. There isn’t a great deal for players to do with their in-game friends at this time — they can visit their respective Ponyvilles and drop off a gift for them, but there doesn’t seem to be any sort of “help” mechanic or means of communicating with one another, so there’s relatively little incentive to play together.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, its presentation is excellent, featuring authentic-looking graphics with excellent animation, recognizable music tracks from the show and the actual voice cast contributing a few spoken lines throughout. On the other, its core gameplay is predictable and uninteresting, even with the addition of the minigames, which are all rather shallow and simplistic.
There is also the “brony” question to consider. While the simplicity of the game makes it accessible and easy to understand for young players, a significant proportion of the My Little Pony fanbase is made up of older fans, many of whom will be the ones who actually own the iOS devices necessary to play this game. While the My Little Pony community as a whole is fairly tolerant of non-canonical fan fiction and spin-off stories, the fact that the game takes such extensive liberties with the established story of the TV show may disappoint some. Similarly, the same simplicity and accessibility that makes it suitable for young players may well prove to be a turn-off for the “brony” community — particularly those who have already seen many other similar citybuilder titles that are similarly lacking in imagination.
It’s also questionable as to whether or not the citybuilder genre was the best means of adapting this property. The first two episodes of the show on which the game is based involve exploration, battle, meeting new characters and dealing with obstacles, which would appear to be a better fit for a role-playing game than a citybuilder. It is likely, however, that Gameloft saw the success of similar licensed citybuilder titles such as Smurfs’ Village and Snoopy’s Street Fair and figured that this was the best way to go — probably not a bad decision from a business standpoint, but one which may disappoint fans of the show who were hoping for something a little more interesting.
As a new release, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.
A solid, well-presented and perfectly playable citybuilder, but arguably not the best use of a license beloved by fans young and old across the world.