REVIEW: Disney Magical World (3DS)

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In “Disney Magical World,” available now for Nintendo 3DS, you get to travel to various Disney movie lands, dress up in Disney costumes, and cook Disney-themed meals in hopes of attracting a Disney celebrity to your café. It’s a second life for any Disney fan, and the simple, kid-friendly package hides a surprising amount of gameplay.

The game begins when you either import your Nintendo Mii or make your own character. Your happy little persona is then dumped into a teeth-grindingly long tutorial. Now, this section is long because the game has a ton of basics to explain to you. Fishing. Ghostbusting. Managing a restaurant. This is your first clue that the game is bigger than you might think.

Naturally, “Disney Magical World” kicks off with Mickey Mouse himself, but it does not take long before the cast extends to include side actors like Uncle Scrooge McDuck and a few deep cuts like Yen Sid (the grumpy sorcerer from “Fantasia.”) You’re invited to hang out in Castleton, which is arranged like a tiny virtual Disneyland with a castle in the middle and themed adventure zones on all sides. Castleton is home not only to Disney characters but also to a selection of Mii-lookalikes who are also, no surprise, big Disney fans.

Disney Magical World,” like the similar “Animal Crossing,” runs on a real world clock – fireworks at night! – and offers up specialized events based on whatever holiday is coming up. Unlike “Animal Crossing,” however, “World” gives you a directed path towards what fun thing you could do next. As you achieve certain milestones, you are awarded stickers that, in turn, unlock more things to do. While the game is happy to let you wander and explore, there’s always some kind of pointer to lead you to your next major accomplishment.

Much of the game’s hook centers on collecting items from all over Castleton and crafting them into furniture or clothing or food. Item drops are random, but they’re easy to find. The crafting recipes also tell you where to locate the more obscure ingredients, so you know if you should go gathering in Aladdin’s city or Winnie-the-Pooh’s forest. This ends up being a compelling reason to keep playing, as you take on quest after quest in hopes of receiving a special item as a reward.

Magical World” is obviously aimed at children, but it is a shame that the game spends all of its time talking down to the player. Every time you walk up to Goofy, for example, he’ll give you a cheesy speech along the lines of “Let’s have fun today!” Every time. It’s an eye-roller for sure, and one would think that kids old enough to navigate the game’s interconnected web of crafting recipes would also be ready for smarter dialogue.

A little bit “Animal Crossing,” a little bit “FarmVille,” “Disney Magical World” turns a Disney character mash-up into an unexpectedly deep exploration game. It is good to see so much Disney love packed into a quality title instead of a cheap children’s cash-in.

This review is based on product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.