For simplicity's sake, call me a Bronie: the only part of the label I won't own is the defensive masculinity implicit in the "bro." I'm also a gender-neutral parent, which just means trucks and dolls, pink and blue, workbenches and kitchen playsets for everyone.

Speaking as both a Bronie and a parent, I have to say that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic [Free] has its charm, but is likely to frustrate and disappoint young fans and Bronies alike.

The game doesn't do anything terribly excessive or unusual for a timer-driven three-currency (regular, control, and social) freemium sim. It has levels, quests, achievements, a random-draw game, and terrible writing.

It's the last one that really got to me. 'Friendship is Magic' (the TV show) has built its audience primarily on the quality of its writing. It would be understandable and probably forgivable if the game had little writing in it, especially as it is a city-building sim, but instead there's a lot of text, and none of it is even remotely clever.

The game borrows, and makes hash of, the plot of the first two episodes of the show. Every single quest has some narrative justification, mostly in terms of getting Twilight Sparkle's friends to return to Ponyville, but none of it makes any sense. We're locked in a desperate struggle to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon, and we need Applejack. Maybe she'll come back if we throw some haystacks down. Really, that's the plan?

I think storytelling matters to Bronies and young fans alike, but for the sake of completeness, let's set the story aside. What's left? Timers, IAP, minigames, and visual style.

There are three minigames: an apple-bucking game (well, apple-catching, there's no actual apple-bucking), a ball-bouncing game, and a coin collection game in the vein of Jetpack Joyride [Free].

It takes a little practice to become competent at these games, but "mastery" caps out at competence, with no possibility of excellence. The only way to get a remarkably high score is to pay for a score multiplier. This truncated difficulty cure means that the minigames are fun at first, but they quickly become tedious: chores, rather than play.

My Little Pony does a good job with the look and feel of the world: Twilight Sparkle and all of her friends wander about Ponyville, stopping to socialize with one another and occasionally forming large chatty circles. They're 3D-rendered, but stylized in a manner that looks a lot like the cartoon, and the animations are simple and charming enough to reward zooming in to watch. The collectable aspect of the game is surely it's strongest appeal: unlocking all of your favorite ponies and watching them play, somewhere between buying the toys and watching the show. Frankly, it seems a terrible oversight that there aren't any options for costume or hairstyle: pehaps Gameloft was afraid of being "too girly"?

On the other hand, the game's weak but persistent plot and aggressive IAP model means you have to play a long time before you even get the option to recruit Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. When you get them, they're actually inferior to ponies like Mrs. Cup Cake and Bon Bon because it takes longer for them to level up (unless you spend gems to skip the timer...). If you can't wait, you have to buy your way through all of the quests that lead up to the option to purchase their homes.

Gameloft is clearly trying to court Bronie whales as well as a children's audience. It just seems to me that they could have done so in an equally profitable but more appealing way if they'd put more effort into the writing and focused the monetization more on bragging rights than on a series of paywalls. In the end, the biggest problem with this game is that it's charmingly vapid: the exact opposite of Lauren Faust's reboot of the franchise.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XH3JRS3FJL4ICKC2Z753ZTOAJU Monkey

    Nice little nod to Jonathan Coulton there, lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003136913750 Tof Eklund

      Thank you. I hoped someone would get that.

      • Guest

        I was coming to post "Welcome to my secrete lair" but Monkey beat me to it!

      • http://www.facebook.com/nothru22 Thomas Moscato

        I was coming to post "Welcome to my secret lair" but Monkey beat me to it. :(

      • http://twitter.com/sstaver Stephen Staver

        Very awesome.

  • Christopher Pragman

    The IAP aspect killed off my 6-year old's enjoyment pretty fast. Within 5 minutes of launching the game, she couldn't find anything left to do inside the app that didn't require dad to cough up some AIP $$.

  • MarkyMarc

    Gameloft and IAP go hand in hand. It's a shame because games like NOVA don't really require it to enjoy the full game, but others are over the top with how much IAP is pushed.

  • MrAlbum

    I agree with this review as a Brony-in-denial; good presentation, but shallow content that pushes IAP, especially when a lot of the more famous "background" ponies from the show can only be unlocked in that "random draw-three" part of the game, which takes FOREVER without gems or hearts.

    With that said, do I hate the game? Well... No.

    I just can't bring myself to hate the game, and I am not quite sure why. Maybe it's because the Add Me thread in the forums exploded overnight, and now I get upwards of ten or fifteen hearts every day, which is quite the personal incentive to keep going. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for games that have a lot of charm, regardless of their substance. Maybe it's because I just like ponies; I got into fan fiction through them, after all... heh heh....

    Or maybe I'm a gullible idiot. That's a distinct possibility, lol ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/zylewicz Maciej Zylewicz

    Very disappointing game. IAP are ridiculous from the start. 2 of 5 protagonists are premium purchases. The mini-games are boring, too difficult for the kid audience and too trivial for bronies. Then you get to the missions where you have to spend 20$ on decorations (statues) to go forward. Did I mention the connectivity issues? One day I have 10 friends, the other day none. Overall, bronies move forward.

  • Gamer_Kev

    I wouldn't really call myself a Brony since I have a passion and love of good animation in general and this is just one of many I enjoy ( I spent years in collage studying art to become an animator, but breathing problems forced me to leave the city,) so when I saw this game, I thought I'd check it out, but the pay walls are just too demanding and the game isn't that good anyway, so I deleted it from my iPad. This game is really nothing more than a quickly thrown together cash in. It's a shame how far Gameloft has fallen, they were once a pretty decent iOS game developer. They've put out some pretty good payware games, but all their freemium titles are everything that has given the form a bad name. When other developers wonder why there is so much hate and distrust for IAPs in games, they can thank developers like Gameloft for it.

  • Nycteris

    I agree; the "wandering around pony AI" is so charming! But the mini games and IAP are tedious. I can't hate it, but I did delete it; even though I liked it, I'd rather grind something else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Darkwolf.1982 Laurens Nash

    Oh ouch. Could you please replace "bronie" with "brony" in your article? That isn't a small mistake, bro! :P

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003136913750 Tof Eklund

      Whoops!

  • Guest

    "I'm also a gender-neutral parent, which just means trucks and dolls,
    pink and blue, workbenches and kitchen playsets for everyone." +2 politically correct points for you.

  • PonyFeathers

    *Brony

    Sorry, it was just bothering me. Anyways, this review is really spot on. It's decent, struggled through it for a few days, and then stopped.

  • http://twitter.com/BamMargera911 Lil'Bam Margera

    Add me bam555666

MY LITTLE PONY - Friendship is Magic Reviewed by Tof Eklund on . Rating: 2.5