My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
iPhone (3GS, 4, 4S, 5), iPod touch (3rd, 4th, 5th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or later. This app is optimised for iPhone 5.
Age Rating: 4+
Back when I was younger, I loved My Little Pony – obviously, there’s much for kids to love about these colourful miniature toy horses. Fast-forward from the 1980s to 2013, and the franchise has gone through about four different generations. Its current iteration being Lauren Faust’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show is popular not just with pre-teen girls, but with just about everyone else as well, and for good reason: it’s adorable, witty and well-written.
Now, Hasbro has teamed up with Gameloft to bring us My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for iOS. While pretty ponies might lead you to believe that this free game is designed for young kids, its mechanics say otherwise.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a real-time city-building game, similar to Zynga’s popular Farmville. The purpose of the game is to build up Ponyville and bring back the lost ponies, which are presumably lost in the eternal night that has been brought upon the land by Nightmare Moon.
You start out with a mostly-empty plot of land. Main character Twilight Sparkle’s library is already built, and from there you must build up Ponyville to bring back its citizens. You can bring Ponyville citizens back by building their homes (some ponies live with other ponies, such as the Apple family which lives together in a barn). As each pony comes back to Ponyville, they can work at a shop. Shops range from asparagus stands to mane salons, and have different tasks that require different numbers of ponies.
The game has three types of currency, including bits (primary), gems (secondary) and hearts (social). You earn bits mostly by having your ponies perform time-related tasks, like making pies at the cherry stand or lemonade at the lemon stand. These tasks are like Farmville’s crops: you have to come back and collect the bits at regular intervals, depending on the product. Unlike Farmville, however, the tasks do not expire and you can come collect the bits at any time.
Gems are earned by levelling up, and can also be purchased for real money. Both gems and bits can be earned by completing special goals, which are usually building-related tasks such as ‘building a cherry stand’. Hearts are earned through the game’s social feature: the more friends you have on Facebook or on the Gameloft Live network, the more hearts you can earn.
There’s more to this game than just city building, though. There are three mini-games, which you will play as you level up your individual ponies. Your goal is to earn stars, which you can achieve by playing two mini-games: a ball-bouncing game and an apple-collecting game. When you fill up your star meter enough to get a star, you’ll get to play a flying game (similar to Jetpack Joyride), before you can collect the star. But why do you need these stars? Higher-level ponies can work at higher-level jobs. For example, the first pony at a shop doesn’t need any stars, but the second and third ones usually do. Each pony maxes out at five stars. The games are fun, but can grow a bit tedious.
My Little Pony also uses a sort of ‘fog of war‘ expansion technique. Since Nightmare Moon has bathed the land in night, you must expand your town one square of darkness at a time. While you can’t build in darkened areas, you can see the rough landscape (including trees and rocks), and you can tap the trees to collect any bits that fall out.
Finally, the game has a larger goal: your job is to find the six Elements of Harmony, and activate each element by offering up shards of that element. Shards are collected alongside bits when timed tasks are completed, but can also be earned through challenges and an additional mini game.
Clearly, there’s kind of a lot going on in this game, but it works. Unlike other city-building games, there’s always something to do in Friendship is Magic – you don’t end up sitting around while you wait for your crops to grow or for tasks to be completed. There are always ponies that need upgrading, trees to tap on and mini games to play.
As much as I want to love this game, it has its flaws. It suffers from a bad business model – especially if children, and not ‘Bronies’, play it. After the first few levels, ponies start costing a lot of either gems or hearts, both of which are difficult for children to get, since the former costs money, while the latter costs social networking friends. Assuming young girls aren’t all over Facebook, hearts will be as difficult (if not more difficult) to nab than gems. You need at least 590 gems to grab the main characters, which will cost you about US$50. (That’s right: US$50!)
The other issue this game has is that is crashes. All. The. Time. It also spams your device with push notifications (which mysteriously turn themselves back on, even after you’ve turned them off several times).
Basically, you’re looking at a child-unfriendly app that spams you and crashes often. But an adorable, fun one! When it’s working, at least.
by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, Macworld